Four outstanding places selected as Chicagoland's best in the "What Makes Your Place Great? Your Secret Corner of Chicagoland" contest - Metropolitan Planning Council

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Four outstanding places selected as Chicagoland's best in the "What Makes Your Place Great? Your Secret Corner of Chicagoland" contest

Photo by Sameera L.

Naperville's Millennium Carillon at Moser Tower won the People's Choice award in the MPC-Chicago Architecture Foundation "What Makes Your Place Great? Your Secret Corner of Chicagoland" contest

The votes are in and results tallied for the MPC and Chicago Architecture Foundation (CAF) “What Makes Your Place Great? Your Secret Corner of Chicagoland” photo and video contest. Two dozen public places from across the Chicagoland area – from gardens to arboretums, coffee shops to arts districts – were nominated this summer, and after 4,782 votes and a lively discussion among a panel of Placemaking experts, four locations emerged as the region’s best undiscovered places.

Drumroll, please!

From Aug. 9 through Sept. 10, 2010, 1,273 individual votes were registered online at for Naperville’s Millennium Carillon as the People’s Choice winner:

Millennium Carillon, Naperville, Ill. (Click on link to view full entry.)

Submitted by Sameera L., who wrote:

“At the base of the Naperville Riverwalk’s Rotary Hill stands the majestic Millennium Carillon in Moser Tower, a unique 14-story structure with a 72-bell musical instrument. This gift, given to the Naperville community to commemorate the dawn of the New Millennium, was built through community support and donations and is maintained through a partnership between the Naperville Park District, Millennium Carillon Foundation and the City of Naperville. The Carillon and adjacent Visitor Center are open for tours from May-November. Visitors can climb the 253 steps to the top of the tower and enjoy the spectacular view, where on a clear day the Chicago skyline can be seen. An elevator can take guests to the gallery level viewing deck. ...”

A committee of experts in Placemaking – a people-centered approach to community planning; learn more at – selected the Experimental Station, Glenwood Avenue Arts District, and Japanese Garden in Jackson Park as the remaining three winners:

Experimental Station, Chicago (Click on link to view full entry.)

Submitted by Annie L., who wrote:

“When I took this picture, I had stumbled upon the end of a ‘Bread Bake’ and there were a couple of guys playing soccer in the driveway while the others cleaned up from an afternoon of baking goodies in Experimental Station's brick oven.  You never know what sort of event will happen next at Experimental Station; the farmer's market brings crowds that fill the streets on Saturdays, Backstory Cafe attracts lingerers over coffee or weekend brunch, and Blackstone Bikes is always overflowing with the energy of kids playing and machines springing to life.  I made a point to visit the first day I moved to Chicago, and I sat for hours under the trees in the garden, chatting with the chickens and neighbors who had also come to pass a beautiful afternoon outside.  Almost a year later, it's still where I go to get my hands greasy in the bike shop, to see unusual events, to find a welcoming environment, and to spend time with friends, young and old, from all walks of life. …”

Glenwood Avenue Arts District, Chicago (Click on link to view video and full entry.)

Submitted by Mary B., who wrote:

“Banners on the street poles tell you you’ve arrived. Chances are you walked or came by train or bus to Glenwood Avenue Arts District in Rogers Park, Chicago, a district that exemplifies a successful urban place. The district is compact, making pedestrians feel safe and welcome, and the cobblestone streets, cleaned 5 times per week, are some of the last in the city. Free events are held in the district throughout the year, ranging from Glenwood Avenue Arts Festival to Rogers Park Pooch Party to the free talks and events sponsored by Mess Hall, a loose cooperative of artists and stakeholders. The brand new Glenwood Sunday Market, held every Sunday from June to October, features free outdoor concerts and cooking demonstrations and accepts WIC, making it a farmers’ market for all. …”

Japanese Garden in Jackson Park, Chicago (Click on link to view full entry.)

Submitted by Julia P, who wrote:

“Hyde Park is beautiful with its leafy trees and brick homes, not to mention the University of Chicago campus which is quite great in its own right, however, Jackson Park really caught my attention because of its natural beauty. I had no idea this park existed, with a garden emulating the pristine and tranquil gardens of Japan. I was taken aback especially with the beautiful and lucid winter light as a gorgeous backdrop to the sunset. When I graduated in June, the garden was one of the very first places I brought my family that had come from New York and Europe to see me graduate. My place … is so great because it serves the Hyde Park community year round, and because of its natural setting, it adopts the changes in season into its landscape. …”

An exclusive CAF bus tour will feature some of the winning places, as well as other nominees. The tour will be on Saturday, Oct. 30, 2010, departing from CAF, 224 S. Michigan Ave., at 9:30 a.m., returning at approximately 3:30 p.m. Tickets are $25 for CAF/MPC members and $30 otherwise. Proceeds benefit Placemaking Chicago. Register today at

Contest entries will be featured in a digital presentation at CAF in the Lecture Hall Gallery, on view Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Oct. 14 through Oct. 30.

Photos and videos of the winners and all of the nominees are available on Flickr. also features a Google map showing the location of each great place, a fun resource for families looking for excursions to great places right here in metropolitan Chicago.

The winners were announced on WGN. Watch the video here:


MPC and CAF are grateful for support and funding from the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation, Prince Charitable Trusts, and Perkins+Will.




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