One of the most rewarding aspects of our work at the Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) is helping people make informed decisions that improve their communities. From building their visions from the ground up to transforming vacant, unloved public spaces into neighborhood gathering places, 2014 has been a great year for MPC's hands-on community partnerships.
What makes MPC unique is that we bring elected officials and other government leaders to the table with residents and business owners to develop solutions that work for the whole community.
2014 marks our 80th anniversary. We were born in a dilapidated-shack-turned-quaint-cottage at Chicago's 1933-4 Century of Progress World's Fair, and we’ve grown from an affordable housing organization into one that tackles our region’s biggest planning challenges head-on. So without further ado, here is our 2014 “best of,” powerfully told through photo and video:
Our 80th birthday party
We celebrated our 80th burthday with a memorial to John Baird, long-time active MPC Board member.
On March 12, more than 100 community, business and government leaders gathered in MPC's conference center to celebrate our 80th anniversary by reflecting on MPC's past, present and future role helping metropolitan Chicago reinvent itself. March 12 marked 80 years to the day that the Metropolitan Housing Council, as we were then known, incorporated as a nonprofit to advocate for redevelopment of Chicago's tenement slums.
The 2014 Annual Luncheon
In August of this year, MPC hosted a record-smashing Annual Luncheon featuring both major candidates for Illinois governor, Pat Quinn and Bruce Rauner, before a crowd of 1,000 movers and shakers. We blew past our fundraising, sponsorship and media goals, and the day after the election received a call from Bruce Rauner's transition team, asking for our help. I quickly said yes to the invite to co-chair the governor-elect’s infrastructure committee, and it’s been an energizing experience that is certainly shaping and informing our 2015 agenda.
The 2014 Placemaking challenge
Fifteen groups from around Chicago and Blue Island, Ill. got local residents excited about transforming shared neighborhood spaces through our Old Place New Tricks Placemaking challenge. MPC provided a “Placemaking 101” training and then encouraged participants to take their newfound knowledge to their communities’ vacant, unloved spaces. We could never have pulled off that August Placemaking weekend without our sponsors and friends Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois, Groupon Grassroots and Everyblock.
The CREATE initiative
Metropolitan Chicago is a freight powerhouse, but it’s also a freight bottleneck. It serves six of the country’s seven major railroads, but it can take up to 30 hours for a freight train to pass through the region. The Chicago Region Environmental and Transportation Efficiency initiative (known as CREATE) is the solution to growth of the distribution and logistics sector: a bundle of rail infrastructure projects designed to ease the flow of passenger, commuter and freight trains. MPC’s video provides a call to action for finishing the remainder of the initiative’s projects.
The Calumet Stormwater Collaborative
The Calumet Stormwater Collaborative recently paid a visit to the Calumet Water Reclamation Plant.
MPC has worked to coordinate 17 government, nonprofit and community leaders in the greater Calumet region to focus their combined efforts to alleviate flooding and other local stormwater management issues. Individual organizations recognized that they can’t win if they attack these issues on their own—a game-changer that created momentum around a plan to move forward together.
The Regional Housing Initiative
Since 2001, we’ve helped eight public housing authorities in metropolitan Chicago pool their rent vouchers to deliver more housing options for people near jobs, great schools, retail and transportation options. Now, we’re working with the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning to institutionalize the innovative approach here in metropolitan Chicago—and the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development is looking to replicate this collaborative model in places like Baltimore and the Bay Area.
The Corridor Development Initiative
Community members discuss and build their vision for a site in the Logan Square neighborhood.
While public meetings often have trouble attracting their target audience, we had an overflow. MPC held two successful series of three public meetings through the “Corridor Development Initiative;” one in Uptown in May and one in Logan Square in September. At these hands-on meetings, community members discussed and built their visions for development of a specific site right near a transit station in each community. We also reached out with text polling in Logan Square. All told, more than 1,100 people got involved in the two processes.
The People Spots survey
Three summers have passed since Chicago became one of the first U.S. cities to reimagine on-street parking as places to “park” people, instead of cars. In July and August 2014, MPC and Sam Schwartz Engineering surveyed all nine People Spots across the city to learn more about how people are using them and to gauge their economic impact. The results were overwhelmingly positive, with 80 percent of businesses saying they saw increased foot traffic. Our video went viral, attracting more than 2,600 views.
We're proud of what we've accomplished in 2014 with our dedicated volunteers, skillful staff and knowledgeable partners. And we've got even more ambitious plans for 2015. So we need your help. If you haven't already made a 2014 year-end gift, please give generously to keep this work going. Thank you!