A History of Community Building and Placemaking - Metropolitan Planning Council

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A History of Community Building and Placemaking

At MPC, we’re known as skillfull conveners. We’re recognized for bringing diverse interests to the same table. As we unite leaders across business, government, social enterprise, and community, we also invest in people throughout the Chicago region—wherever they are. From the redevelopment of a historic anchor, to community building along our rivers, to collaboration on stormwater and equitable transit-oriented development, we bring people together to unlock the potential of our Chicago region and our nation.

When the Cook County Land Bank Authority acquired Woodlawn’s beautiful, historic, long-vacant Washington Park National Bank Building through a scavenger sale, neighbors had powerful ideas about the building’s redevelopment. In early 2018, we solicited and amplified locals’ voices through three Corridor Development Initiative meetings which convened community membersand developers, aided by expert architects. We analyzed data and produced an informative report, complete with architects’ renderings, that guide the Cook County Land Bank Authority in reviving this vital asset. In the autumn of 2018, around a future orchard in Garfield Park, we conducted a similar process in partnership with the Chicago Department of Planning & Development, Elevated Chicago, and the Garfield Park Community Council.

We offer assistance, collaboration, and connection to pro-bono specialists in design, architecture, engineering, and finance.

As an outgrowth of the Great Rivers Chicago initiative, MPC has catalyzed new visions, partnerships, technical assistance, and financial resources for our region’s Chicago, Calumet, and Des Plaines rivers. The Chicago Community Trust, inspired MPC’s vision for continuous public access to our riverfronts.That’s why the Trust created the Our Great Rivers fund, seeding 15 placemaking projects led by community organizations and other partners over two years. One example? Building Beaubien, a team working on a 10-year plan to better connect a Forest Preserves of Cook County property along the Little Calumet River to its nearby residential communities, including Altgeld Gardens. Facilitating a cohort of grant recipients, we offer assistance, collaboration, and connection to pro-bono specialists in design, architecture, engineering, and finance. The model yields accessible, active, and aesthetically beautiful spaces, and helps connect formerly disparate stretches of river.

Stormwater doesn’t abide by municipal boundaries, and neither should solutions to address it. That’s the theory behind our globally-recognized Calumet Stormwater Collaborative, a diverse group of stakeholders coordinating efforts in south Chicago and suburban Cook County to solve chronic urban flooding. In 2018, MPC facilitated the dialogue and consensus around the group’s first long-range, three-year work plan to reduce basement back-ups, increase the maintenance of green and grey infrastructure, heighten coordination, and use more and better data. It’s a guiding vision—for a Collaborative with vision. In March 2018, MPC partnered with two members, the Delta Institute and the South Suburban Mayors and Managers Association, to host over 40 suburban municipal stakeholders at a one-day, solutions-based, on-the-ground training in the Calumet. Attendees were inspired by new tools and best practices developed by the Calumet Stormwater Collaborative for practical approaches to complex stormwater problems.

MPC is a member of Elevated Chicago, a collaborative that unlocks the potential of transit stations to serve as hubs connecting people and creating vibrant and equitable centers for climate resilience, health, and culture. Generously funded by a national network of foundations called SPARCC, and locally by the Chicago Community Trust, Elevated Chicago is part of a six-city, $90 million initiative. In 2018, MPC staff participated in community education and engagement meetings, or “Community Tables,” across the city. We answered questions about equitable transit-oriented development and led dialogue in which community members articulated their needs and potential solutions.


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Chicago, Ill. 60603
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Shaping a better, bolder, more equitable future for everyone

For more than 85 years, the Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) has partnered with communities, businesses, and governments to unleash the greatness of the Chicago region. We believe that every neighborhood has promise, every community should be heard, and every person can thrive. To tackle the toughest urban planning and development challenges, we create collaborations that change perceptions, conversations—and the status quo. Read more about our work »

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