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Marisa Novara


Marisa joined MPC in 2011. She directs MPC's housing and community development work, and manages technical assistance and support to communities facing development challenges related to housing, transportation, environment and economic development. Her work directly assists communities to promote revitalization, housing in job-rich areas, sustainable development and conservation, and interjurisdictional and corridor planning.

Prior to MPC, Marisa spent a year in Milan, Italy, completing her master’s degree in urban planning with a focus on international community development. Her studies were informed by years of work on the ground in Chicago, most recently as the senior project manager for Lawndale Christian Development Corporation. There, she directed more than $30 million in affordable rental and for-sale housing development in the North Lawndale neighborhood. She also worked in community development at the Steans Family Foundation and Carole Robertson Center for Learning.

A Michigan native, Marisa has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan in sociology, master’s degree from the University of Chicago’s School of Social Service Administration, certificate in affordable housing finance, development and management from the University of Illinois at Chicago, and master’s in urban planning from the Istituto Politecnico di Milano, where her master’s thesis explored the role that an intermediary could play in advancing the community development field in northern Italy.

Marisa serves on the Community Development Committee of The Resurrection Project, the Public Policy Committee of the Urban Land Institute and was a 2014 Marshall Memorial Fellow. She lives in Little Italy with her husband and two sons.


Avondale mural builds community
Over the past two years, a small team of dedicated individuals helped transform a gloomy underpass at Addison and Avondale into a vibrant and dynamic mural by engaging over 200 individuals and businesses. The project first began because local resident, Joanie Friedman, wanted to make the long walk…
Placemaking Case Study: Albany Park's Multicultural Sculpture Park and Healing Garden
MPC Research Assistant Cristina Silva authored this post. Placemaking Principle #5: Develop a vision For the past year, a pair of large art installations have claimed a home amidst the trees and otherwise bare park space at Argyle and Lawrence in the Albany Park community. ‘‘Happy…
Placemaking, makeovers renewing Miller Beach as a premier destination in Northwest Indiana
I love being surprised by places. Somewhere you’ve been – or been through – countless times but never stopped to really look around, or somewhere you lived near for years but never knew of its charms. photo courtesy of Miller Beach Arts & Creative District Gary’s…
Placemaking Case Study: Oklahoma City
Research Assistant Evan Severs co-authored this report. April 2012 Placemaking Principle: Develop a Vision During the mid-1990s, Oklahoma City was facing a conundrum shared by many cities across the country: Once the workday ceased at 5 p.m., the downtown area would empty with a vigor shared…
Developing vibrant retail in Chicago's Bronzeville neighborhood
When the Bronzeville Alliance, a coalition of local community organizations, invited the Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) to help staff and provide recommendations to its Bronzeville Retail Initiative in 2010, MPC jumped at the opportunity to support coordinated retail planning, retention, and…

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Photo of Marisa Novara


Marisa Novara Director
312 863 6044

Areas of expertise

  • Community development and engagement
  • Affordable housing development
  • Housing policy
  • Housing finance


M.S. in Urban Planning, Istituto Politecnico di Milano
M.A. in Social Service Administration, University of Chicago
B.A. in Sociology, University of Michigan

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