The Creative City: Keeping Chicago Vibrant and Viable - Metropolitan Planning Council

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The Creative City: Keeping Chicago Vibrant and Viable

Bob McNulty of the Partners for Livable Communities spoke to a sold-out crowd at MPC’s first 2009 roundtable, “The Creative City: Keeping Chicago Vibrant and Viable.”

A museum in New York adopting a plaza and providing health insurance to nearby residents, a parks district in California settling tenant and landlord disputes, and installation art in Texas transforming a dangerous part of town into the hot spot.  These are just some of the unlikely, but true, stories discussed at the sold-out MPC Roundtable, “The Creative City: Keeping Chicago Vibrant and Viable,” on June 3.   

Keynote speaker Bob McNulty, president and founder of the Partners for Livable Communities, encouraged institutions and organizations to step outside their traditional four walls and reach into the community.  Doing so can expand their services and reach new segments of the population – all while helping to create and maintain quality public spaces that provide ongoing benefits to residents and the sponsoring organization.   

According to Mr. McNulty, this type of collaboration is needed now more than ever.  Working with residents on the creation and maintenance of their neighborhood public spaces addresses many of the challenges we currently face.  Well-used public spaces can improve the health of residents by encouraging them to walk or play outside; bring people – and money – to neighborhood businesses; help new immigrants assimilate by giving them places to interact; and provide aging residents with safe ways to remain engaged in their communities.  

Chris Gent, deputy director of planning at the Chicago Park District, and Jamie Simone, WPB program manager, responded to Mr. McNulty’s speech by discussing the work of their organizations in engaging the community here in Chicago.  Mr. Gent described how the Park District works with residents in the planning of new parks, and some of the exciting ways they activate parks, including movies in the park and mobile art and craft workshops.  Ms. Simone highlighted the innovative ways WPB has encouraged public input in their master planning process in the Wicker Park and Bucktown neighborhoods, as well as their collaboration with MPC on the Polish Triangle

Creative collaboration may start with individuals and organizations, but it has fans in very high places.  President Obama, Mr. McNulty said, believes in the value of combining people with places to create livable communities. 

Also at the event, MPC launched its “What Makes Your Place Great?” photo and video contest.  From June 3 to July 27, visit to enter the contest and tell the Chicago region about your favorite public space. You will have the chance to win bragging rights to the best public space in Chicagoland, not to mention a prize package that includes tickets to the Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago Architecture Foundation walking tour tickets, membership to the Active Transportation Alliance, restaurant gift certificates, "CO-OP Hotsauce" from NeighborSpace, and more!  

The roundtable and contest are part of MPC’s Placemaking Chicago initiative, aimed at creating and enhancing public spaces around the region by tapping into the innate knowledge residents have about their neighborhoods. To learn more about Placemaking Chicago and join in the fun, please visit the Placemaking Chicago Web site or become a member of the Placemaking Chicago group on the Placemaking Movement, an international online Placemaking network site. 

A full recording of the event is available on Chicago Amplified at  CAN TV will broadcast the event on July 24

For more information on MPC’s Placemaking initiative, please contact Karin Sommer at or 312-863-6044.


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For more than 85 years, the Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) has partnered with communities, businesses, and governments to unleash the greatness of the Chicago region. We believe that every neighborhood has promise, every community should be heard, and every person can thrive. To tackle the toughest urban planning and development challenges, we create collaborations that change perceptions, conversations—and the status quo. Read more about our work »

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