How can we advance the Great Lakes region over the next 100 years? Five experts weigh in

By Rachel Carnahan, videos by Ryan Griffin-Stegink

In 100 years—2113—the Chicago region is sure to be a dramatically different place. People, technology and even our changing climate will reinvent our city and region, perhaps several times over. Lake Michigan will be among the few constants. Yet even “our” Great Lake will undergo shifts.

Skidmore, Owings & Merrill’s (SOM) Great Lakes Century initiative calls for a comprehensive 100-year vision for the Great Lakes region. Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) jumped at the opportunity to contribute by submitting our own ideas for what Chicago and the Great Lakes should look like in 100 years to SOM’s Great Lakes, Great People series. We were so inspired by the series that we decided to dedicate this edition of What Our Water’s Worth—our own effort to raise awareness of the value of water in Chicagoland—to feature five video interviews we conducted with MPC Associate Abby Crisostomo and several of our partners about their grand visions for the next century of the Great Lakes region.

Abby emphasized the need to connect natural, built and social assets by improving coordination between local, regional, state and federal governments; as well as the public and private sectors in order for the city to reach its full potential.

Abby Crisostomo, Metropolitan Planning Council

Both Katie Larson from the Alliance for the Great Lakes and Bill Schleizer from the Delta Institute want to see a vibrant Chicago that values all of our resources, including clean water. Water is vital to countless industries and manufactures, without which the entire economy of Chicago would crumble. Preserving our resources requires not just work on our water systems, but ensuring that we are using the cleanest technologies possible to reduce pollution in transportation and manufacturing.

Katie Larson, Alliance for the Great Lakes

Bill Schleizer, Delta Institute

Kindy Kruller from the Forest Preserve District of Cook County wants to see a Chicago with active waterways being used for recreation including swimming, paddling and fishing. This will require good access and public transportation to the waterways, as well as preserving the water so it is clean enough to use.

Kindy Kruller, Forest Preserve District of Cook County

Matt Tirrell from the Institute for Molecular Engineering at the University of Chicago is working on improving water purification techniques to preserve our drinking water from man-made contaminants. This will involve the help of engineers, scientists and planners to find the techniques that are best for the city.

Matt Tirrell, the Institute for Molecular Engineering at the University of Chicago

These interviews give a short snapshot of what Chicago could look like in 100 years if we start preserving our resources in every sector today. What is your vision for the Great Lakes and the Chicago region in 100 years? Visit the Great Lakes Century blog to see what other members of the community have said and to make your own contribution to the project!

WOWW Factors


The five lakes together cover about 95,000 square miles of surface area, roughly the equivalent to the area of New York.


Over 42 million people rely on the Great Lakes for drinking water.


If the Great Lakes region was a nation, its GDP would be the fourth largest in the world.

90% and 58%

90% of the U.S. iron ore is produced in the Great Lakes region and 58% of automobiles in the U.S. and Canada are produced in the region.

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2 Responses to How can we advance the Great Lakes region over the next 100 years? Five experts weigh in

  1. Grace Bazylewski says:

    Preserve as much of the lakefronts as possible. Remove the defunct industry, especially at the south end of Lake Michigan from Chicago to Michigan City and restore the natural shoreline open to the public. Do not allow the proposed Solo site go to residential.

  2. Pingback: The Great Lakes | Unkrur Blogs

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