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Five elements of great planning

MPC Roundtable highlights elements of successful Chicago planning

Mayor Lightfoot’s transition plan highlights a need for—and appetite to pursue—better planning in Chicago. We’re excited that the Mayor has committed to this important issue so fully.

But we all know that some plans are better than others. What are some principles of good planning? What kind of plan will work for Chicago?

Since “planning” is our middle name, on May 21, MPC hosted an event to answer some of these questions. Here are five things our panel identified as characteristics of great planning.

Get over Daniel Burnham

“We still talk about the Daniel Burnham plan as THE plan. But I’ll remind you that it’s 2019. Lots of things have changed since 1909: we have the telephone and women have the vote. My guess is that none of our speakers are going to describe good planning as a musty room with glasses of scotch and a handful of white men writing Chicago’s plan for the next 110 years.

—Josh Ellis, Vice President, MPC

Talk to residents first

“Talk to the residents first. Before we put out any plans or interventions, we talk to the residents first. What they tell us is we want affordable housing… improve health and wellness outcomes through the built environment… and innovate with sustainability and energy equity.”

—Juan Carlos Linares, Executive Director, LUCHA

Pay attention to the forest, not the trees

“How do we start to talk about health and air quality and unemployment before getting to the canoeing and recreating? On the Southeast side, there are outdoor piles of manganese (which is a neurotoxin), and the City is talking about putting a park right next door to them. What is going to happen to the children and the families who are outside recreating, and they’re literally five feet away from manganese that’s blowing on them? We have a responsibility to think about those things. When we don’t think about health, environment, and economics together, we end up being displaced from those communities that we fought to clean up.”

—Kim Wasserman-Nieto, Executive Director, LVEJO

Build relationships among community members

“We may have different viewpoints about what we think are priorities for our community, and we may feel strongly about that. But when I get a chance to work with my neighbor and understand where she’s coming from, she may have different priorities and we may find ways to compromise… The community engagement process is where we learn from each other. What we thought was important, what we thought was a higher priority is maybe not a higher priority.”

—Andre Brumfield, Principal, Design Director and Global Leader of Cities + Urban Design, Gensler

Cultivate a sense of community

“All the great books in planning talk about access and connection, both physical and metaphysical… about wanting to be part of a bigger whole. The Mayor in her inaugural address put it as ‘I am my brother’s keeper’… we need to care for each other, we need to connect with each other, we need to be there for each other. It’s a theme you find in each of the great planning books... [for example], leverage Fulton Market and connect it back to Garfield Park in a way that is sustainable and meaningful.”

—Erin Cabonargi, Managing Director, Hibernian Advisors

 If Chicago can make good on these five principles, we'll be well on our way to the world-class planning our city deserves.





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