Coordinated reinvestment in Pullman earns 2016 Burnham Award for Excellence in Planning - Metropolitan Planning Council

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Coordinated reinvestment in Pullman earns 2016 Burnham Award for Excellence in Planning

Metropolitan Planning Council’s annual award honors visionary planning efforts, focusing in 2016 on a collaborative initiative that has improved equity and economic opportunity on Chicago’s South Side

(Chicago) … Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) is pleased to announce that the transforming community of Pullman, a historic neighborhood on Chicago’s South Side, is the recipient of MPC’s 2016 Burnham Award for Excellence in Planning. 

Since 1988, the Burnham Award for Excellence in Planning—named in honor of Daniel H. Burnham, creator of the 1909 Plan of Chicago—has encouraged sensible growth by honoring innovative and visionary planning efforts in the Chicago metropolitan region. 

Pullman’s ongoing revitalization—including, but not limited to notable new community and commercial development, planned infrastructure investments and, after a half-century of historic preservation efforts,  President Barack Obama’s 2015 designation of Pullman as a National Monument—will be recognized with the Burnham Award on Friday, Nov. 4, 2016, at MPC’s Annual Luncheon, “Challenging Inequality, Driving Growth: The Economic Implications of Segregation,” at the Sheraton Grand Hotel in Chicago. 

“Metropolitan Planning Council is thrilled to bestow the 2016 Burnham Award on this remarkable collective effort to increase equity and attract new jobs and investment to Pullman,” said MarySue Barrett, president, MPC. “The community’s story is an incredible reminder that the Chicago region thrives by continually remaking itself for the better. Pullman proves just how much can be accomplished when residents, government agencies, business leaders, the civic sector and philanthropists join forces to create and achieve a shared vision.” 

Located 12 miles south of the Loop, just east of the Metra tracks between 103rd and 115th streets, Pullman is a historic community built in the 1880s by the Pullman’s Palace Car Company as a model planned industrial town. Similar to the passenger railway cars the company produced and operated, the town’s innovations, design and construction became internationally famous.   

The great economic recession of 1893 to 1897 greatly affected the company and town. By 1894, George Pullman had slashed the wages of his 4,000 workers, but not their rents. This ignited a violent nationwide strike and boycott, ultimately ushering in a new era of federal laws to protect laborers and the establishment of Labor Day. In 1925, another group of Pullman’s employees, led by A. Philip Randolph and Milton Webster, organized the Brotherhood of the Sleeping Car Porters, many of whom were recently freed slaves hired by the company to serve travelers on the railway. The porters eventually made American history by establishing the first black union to secure collective bargaining rights. 

“Pullman’s workers laid the groundwork for the labor rights movement, and the Pullman Porters laid the groundwork for the modern day civil rights movement. They were the same men who would organize the March on Washington in 1941 and 1963,” said David A. Peterson, Jr., president, National A. Philip Randolph Pullman Porter Museum, the only black labor history museum of its kind worldwide. “These stories are important for the next generation; they intersect not only with labor rights and civil rights, but human rights.” 

A 1959 city plan slated the Pullman neighborhood for demolition, but the community rallied to protect the historic 900 rowhouses and public buildings built by Pullman. By 1972, the Pullman Historic District had obtained National, State and City landmark status for the community. 

However, the effects of deindustrialization, including joblessness, disinvestment and depopulation, began to be felt acutely on Chicago’s South Side, including Pullman. Residents and stakeholders committed to Pullman have worked tirelessly for decades to preserve and improve the community—evident in a thriving civic community active today. 

“Preserving the architecture and heritage through local activism has been part of Pullman’s spirit for a half-century,” said Mike Shymanski, president and founder of the Historic Pullman Foundation. “Residents have long set a high bar for community engagement in local planning and development. We show up and do the work needed to make this community the kind of place where we all want to work and live.”  

Following a tragic fire in 1998 at the Pullman State Historic Site, the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency restored the exterior of the Pullman Clock Tower and Administration Building; in 2014, the building was transferred to the National Park Service. In February 2015, President Barack Obama traveled to Chicago to designate Pullman a National Monument. 

“Pullman’s stories will now be remembered and recounted for the hundreds of millions of people that visit America’s national parks each year,” said Lynn McClure, senior regional director, National Parks Conversation Association. “And because Pullman is in Chicago and accessible by public transit, it ensures that urban residents can experience one of our most treasured places.” 

That spring, with support from The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation, The Chicago Community Trust and Alphawood Foundation, the National Parks Conservation Association teamed with Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture and additional firms through AIA Chicago to organize “Positioning Pullman.” During this three-day collaborative ideas workshop, hundreds of community members and designers from across the city worked side by side to develop an achievable vision for enhancing the neighborhood and region for national park visitors and community members alike. The 33 discrete projects in “Positioning Pullman” are already progressing. 

Coordinated public and private investments also have advanced the communities’ vision. In 2013, Mayor Rahm Emanuel directed new investments in economic development, housing and quality of life improvements to Pullman. In 2013, Chicago Neighborhood Initiatives (CNI), a nonprofit development organization focused on high-impact investments in revitalizing Chicago’s underserved, low- to moderate- income communities, broke ground on Pullman Park, a 180-acre, $125 million mixed-use site at 111th Street and I-94 that has created 800 new jobs, including a 150,000 sq. ft. Walmart featuring a full-service grocery store. Since then, companies such as Method, Gotham Greens and a new Whole Foods distribution center, which is under construction, have located in Pullman. To ensure the site was competitive with the existing facility in Indiana, Chicago City Council approved up to $8.4 million in TIF assistance to help pay for the Whole Foods site preparation costs.  

“With major projects like the Whole Foods distribution center, Method, Gotham Greens and others on the way, Pullman is reclaiming its history as a thriving hub for manufacturing and innovation,” Ald. Anthony Beale (9th Ward). 

Today, CNI is developing a 135,000 sq. ft. community and recreational center with state-of-the-art sports facilities that will offer year-round programs and services for people of all ages and employ as many as 100 full-, part-time, and seasonal employees.   

“From the start we’ve listened to what Pullman’s residents want and identified the community’s needs to create development opportunities built on community assets,” said David Doig, president, CNI. “I’m proud of the impact that CNI’s investments have had in helping the community and Ald. Beale to build a strong, sustainable community that everyone wants and deserves.” 

Background on the Burnham Award

Since 1988, MPC’s Burnham Award for Excellence in Planning—named in honor of Daniel H. Burnham, creator of the 1909 Plan of Chicago—has encouraged sensible growth by honoring innovative and visionary planning efforts in the Chicago metropolitan region. The winner of the Burnham Award demonstrates results in one or all of the following categories: 

  • Creating more livable communitiesthrough better integration of land use and housing; management of water and energy resources; improvement of parks and open space; and promotion of local food.
  • Addressing human capitalwith improvements to education and workforce development; and supporting economic innovation.
  • Improving regional mobilityby investing strategically in transportation; increasing commitment to public transit; and creating a more efficient freight network.
  • Making government more efficientby reforming state and local tax policy; improving access to information; and pursuing coordinated investments. 

Recent winners include the City of Chicago, Chicago Park District, Trust for Public Land and Friends of the Bloomingdale Trail for The 606 in 2015; Forest Preserves of Cook County for the “Next Century Conservation Plan” in 2014; City of Chicago Dept. of Cultural Affairs and Special Events for the “Chicago Cultural Plan” in 2013; and Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning for the GO TO 2040 comprehensive regional plan in 2012. 

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. 

For more information, contact MPC Communications Director Mandy Burrell Booth, at 312-863-6018 or 773-640-1206 or; and Brian Berg, MK Communications, 312-822-0505,


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