Last Wednesday, March 12, more than 100 community, business and government leaders gathered at the Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) to celebrate our 80th anniversary by reflecting on MPC's past, present and future role helping metropolitan Chicago reinvent.
March 12 marked 80 years to the day that the Metropolitan Housing Council, as we were then known, incorporated as a nonprofit to redevelop Chicago's tenement slums. The story of our founding continues to inspire: During the 1934 World’s Fair, a group of civic leaders moved a ramshackle home to the fairgrounds and renovated it in 24 hours, helping millions of people see it was possible to reinvent the city’s slums.
That spirit of reinvention has permeated our region at pivotal times over the past 80 years. In most cases, it has been forced by crises; but over the long-haul, Chicago’s ability to respond—not with quick fixes but with sustained solutions—is what has kept our region thriving.
And, for eight decades, MPC has played an integral role bringing government, community and business leaders together to hammer out workable solutions to the region's most pressing planning and development challenges. Our work has evolved: We now focus on ensuring our region has quality housing and transportation choices, vibrant neighborhoods, well-managed natural assets and—by making sure all of those critical components are connected—a strong economy.
At the event, MPC President MarySue Barrett shared a few examples of how MPC's approach has helped the region address immediate challenges while preparing for the future. New MPC Board members Chris Conley, founding partner, Gravitytank; Olga Camargo, managing partner, Toroso Investments; and Lerry Knox, CEO, HILCO Innovation Partners, explained why they joined our Board and what they see as MPC’s current and future roles in a Chicagoland undergoing another "Renaissance."
To cap off the program, Lee Mitchell, Thoma Cressey Bravo, and a former Board chair, led a reflection on John Baird, an MPC Board member for 60 years, who passed away in December 2013. Mr. Baird's legacy of "real commitment"—and his love of bow ties—were honored with a special champagne toast.
Learn more about MPC's history—and consider making a donation to support our ongoing work to help Chicagoland reinvent.
MPC President MarySue Barrett
"Our work is rarely about one issue: We understand that all of our region’s assets need to work together effectively so that the Chicago metropolitan area can continuously unlock its potential as an exceptional place to live and work."
MPC Board member Chris Conley
"I believe we are entering a social and economic renaissance that has important implications for how we work with, invest in and engage communities. This renaissance is driven by low cost technology, the most robust communication network in the history of humanity, and non-traditional approaches. ... I can imagine new kinds of economic policies and demonstration projects that enable entrepreneurship, local investment and wealth creation by and for our communities themselves."
MPC Board member Olga Camargo
"I grew up in South Lawndale, or Little Village, in the 80s and 90s, at a time when business was booming. Today, walking down 26th Street, you see storefront vacancies on every block, empty buildings and even a few new pawn shops. It looks unfamiliar to me, it doesn’t resemble the bustling retail strip that I remember, and I am concerned. What we see happening on 26th Street is happening in other neighborhoods as well. Reinvestment is critical to generating job opportunities, increasing tax revenues, supporting city services, supporting families and stabilizing neighborhoods. We need vibrant neighborhoods across the city—north, south and west—to truly fulfill MPC's mission."
MPC Board member Lerry Knox
"From its rebirth from the Great Fire, Chicago was born anew with its eyes on the future. This is Chicago’s legacy. [Today] our elected officials and their staff have some very difficult and tough decisions to make. ... MPC is helping to solve these current challenges faced by Chicago and chart the course for the future. As a city we need to be able to take risks and challenge the status quo, to develop new solutions to set a new path forward. Chicago can be the beacon on the hill that holds the world's aspirations."
MPC Board Executive Committee member Lee M. Mitchell
"What I want you to remember about John Baird is this one thing: real commitment. John Baird’s life epitomized real commitment: commitment to his family through generations; commitment to a family business for more than 60 years; commitment to his college alma mater for more than 60 years; commitment to this organization—MPC—for 60 years. ... let’s raise our glasses in this simple toast: To John Baird, who made a difference. Thank you, John, for your real commitment. You will not be forgotten here."
Browse all the photos from the evening on flickr or in the slideshow below: