MPC Launches Reinventing Public Investment Lecture Series - Metropolitan Planning Council

Skip to main content

MPC Launches Reinventing Public Investment Lecture Series

At a June 5 panel discussion, co-hosted with the Chicago Architecture Foundation, MPC featured national and local experts discussing federal investment reforms necessary to create viable infrastructure in the Chicago region.
With the region’s urgent need for job creation and the glut of evidence that our transportation, water and energy infrastructure are in woeful disrepair, this the opportune moment to reform our public spending priorities.  MPC’s summer lecture series, Reinventing Public Investment, a partnership with the Chicago Architecture Foundation, explores that very subject. 

At the first forum of the series on June 5, Robert Puentes, metropolitan policy expert for the Brookings Institution, Dr. Charles Dowding of Northwestern University and ASCE member, and Jacky Grimshaw, vice president at the Center for Neighborhood Technology discussed how federal programs have guided investments in the past and how they need to change to ensure Chicago stays globally competitive, socially equitable, and environmentally sustainable.        

The panelists agreed current spending patterns deplete our natural resources and fail to meet the needs of working families.  Dr. Dowding stated, “during the 1950s, 2.5% of U.S. GDP went into infrastructure, while today such investments make up only 0.5% of GDP.”  This, explained Dowding, is saddling future generations with high maintenance costs and debt.  He also emphasized the undervaluation of water, in particular, and urged local lawmakers to increase federal leadership and address life-cycle costs and ongoing maintenance before deciding to start building anew. 

Ms. Grimshaw elaborated on Dowding’s concerns about water usage in Illinois and expressed support for several policy initiatives she believes ‘hold water’, such as the 20 percent set-aside green initiatives in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act’s water allocation. 

Mr. Puentes noted encouraging signs of change from the federal government, which he believes is prepared to exercise more leadership on transportation and urban growth issues. However, state and local institutions must be equally innovative, Puentes advised, to ensure sustainable, equitable investment in the years to come.        

The launch of the Reinventing Public Investment lecture series coincides with the release of an MPC white paper - Goal-driven, Right-sized and Coordinated: Federal Investment Reform for the 21st Century – which outlines principles for wiser investment policies and highlights five examples of them in action. 

The second event in the series – on the topic of Creating Livable Communities in the Chicago Region- will be July 14, from 12:00p.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the MPC Conference Center. 
Panelists Include:
Don Chen of the Ford Foundation and founder of Smart Growth America
Todd Brown of ShoreBank
Catherine Baker of Landon, Bone, Baker Architects
Doug Farr of Farr Associates

For more information about the lecture series or MPC’s commitment to federal investment reform, please contact Josh Ellis at or (312) 863-6045.  

MPC on Twitter

Follow us on Twitter »

Stay in the loop!

MPC's Regionalist newsletter keeps you up to date with our work and our upcoming events.

Subscribe to Regionalist

Most popular news

Browse by date »

This page can be found online at

Metropolitan Planning Council 140 S. Dearborn St.
Suite 1400
Chicago, Ill. 60603
312 922 5616

Sign up for newsletter and alerts »

Shaping a more equitable, sustainable and prosperous greater Chicago region

For more than 80 years, the Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) has made the Chicago region a better place to live and work by partnering with businesses, communities and governments to address the area's toughest planning and development challenges. MPC works to solve today's urgent problems while consistently thinking ahead to prepare the region for the needs of tomorrow. Read more about our work »

Donate »