What one asset should Chicago "sign" from another city? - Metropolitan Planning Council

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What one asset should Chicago "sign" from another city?

The NFL free agent signing period started last night, and over the next few weeks there will be a lot of players—team assets really—moving from one city to another (with any luck, the Bears will acquire a pass rush and an impact receiver).

That got me to thinking, what's one asset from another city that I'd like to see the Chicago region "sign" away?  If we could literally just pick something up and put it here, what would it be?  Would it be a physical thing, like some sort of transportation innovation, or a policy, or even a person?  I'd love to hear some ideas. 

My choice would the canal system from Dublin, Ireland.  It collects stormwater runoff, which is naturally filtered by aquatic plants growing on the banks, and returns it to the sea instead of the sewer system.  It's also lined by homes, schools, hotels, walking paths, cafes, and yes, a pub or two. 

Mixed-use development and walking paths alongside Dublin's Grand Canal.

Josh Ellis

Like UrbanLab/Archeworks' eco-boulevards concepts, a canal like this in Chicago would create an urban watershed by capturing stormwater runoff from roofs, streets and parking lots, then filtering it and returning it to Lake Michigan.  Not only would that ease strain on our combined sewer system, but it would reduce the stormwater loss from our Lake Michigan diversion (see page 10 of our recent report with Openlands, Before the Wells Run Dry).  Moreover, it would create a green corridor through the city, attracting new infill development and providing recreational opportunities.   

So how about you?  What asset would you like to bring to the Chicago region, and why? Think about it—and feel free to think big—then share your thoughts here or on our Facebook page.  I can't wait to see what people come up with.


  1. 1. Katherine Bucar from Chicago on March 5, 2010

    Can we trade Chicago's pigeons for Tokyo's metro train? The trains in Tokyo are so punctual! It seems like they come every 3-4 minutes, and arrive exactly when the signs say they will arrive.

  2. 2. Mandy Burrell Booth from Chicago on March 7, 2010

    Great question! I really love that Rome makes fresh water available in abundance in all of its piazzas and parks. The water fountains are beautiful and functional, and it makes a tourists' day to find cold, fresh water wherever they go, especially on a hot summer day. It's a small thing, but it really helps!

  3. 3. Annie from Chicago on March 8, 2010

    Ferry service like in Istanbul! What a beautiful way to travel, and a great way to connect neighborhoods along the lake within Chicago, and even suburbs in Wisconsin and Indiana.

  4. 4. Christina Loranz from Oak Park on March 8, 2010

    I'd like to sign the floating markets in Bangkok, could we get some of those in the Chicago river?

  5. 5. Dave from Chicago on March 9, 2010

    Madrid's Metro + Zurich's trams

  6. 6. mig from palmer square on March 9, 2010

    bogota's closure of automobile streets to turn them into pedestrian & bicycle pathways

  7. 7. Cheryl from Chicago on March 9, 2010

    New York's mayor

  8. 8. Amy from Albany Park on March 9, 2010

    New York's Mayor's Wallet

  9. 9. Lee on March 19, 2010

    I'd steal NYC's transportation commissioner, Janette Sadik-Khan. Or maybe I'd settle for every neighborhood having a plaza like every German town's marktplatz.

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