No-go zones: A few dos and don'ts - Metropolitan Planning Council

Skip to main content

No-go zones: A few dos and don'ts

Real estate developers beware: Armed with a new zoning code, Chicago and its famously picky mayor are out to ban building styles seen as a blight on the city.

The new zoning codes, which take effect Nov. 1, update rules that were last rewritten when Eisenhower was president.

The city is conferring endangered-species status on many features of the urban landscape that planners have come to hate, like street-facing garages in residential neighborhoods. Or billboards, which will be tougher to put up in some areas. More green space, more windows. Less concrete, less visual clutter.

"There were a lot of people who said you'll never get (the zoning rewrite) done because of Chicago politics," says Edward J. Kus, former executive director of the mayor's Zoning Reform Commission. "I guess the biggest surprise is that we actually accomplished it."

Yet what's already been done can't be undone. Here's a sampling of some design "features" that become don'ts under the new zoning rules.

No more blank walls

It could pass for a medium-security prison, but this building is actually part of the Dearborn Park residential development in the South Loop. Too much brick and not enough windows, say planning experts. "As a pedestrian, you have a great sense of isolation," says Peter Skosey , vice-president for external relations of the Chicago-based regional advisory group Metropolitan Planning Council . He cites studies showing that many pedestrians won't walk along blank walls of 100 feet or more. Under the new code, windows or doors must cover a minimum of 17.5% of a building's walls that face a sidewalk

More posts by Mandy

All posts by Mandy »

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 better, bolder, more equitable future for everyone

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 »

Donate »