PLANNING CHICAGO – A summary of Chicago Planning effort beginning in the 1950’s

PlanningChicagoFor us Chicago trained planners, Burnham’s Chicago Plan and the Chicago School of government planning never seems to escape interest.

The more years in the profession the more we tend to look back into history for guidance for the future.

Planning Chicago, by D. Bradford Hunt and Jon B. DeVries adds something to the base knowledge and historical understandings.

Chicago planning and real estate development has been, and always will be, I suspect, driven by a unique relationship between government, business and organized community interests.

It’s inbred into the political structure of city ward government, historical neighborhood enclaves that began with immigrant migration in the early 1900’s and the strong commercial real estate needs of growing businesses.

While some can argue that Chicago planning works, or doesn’t work, historical facts demonstrate that governmental and civic planning does work, maybe not the precise way of the planning text books, but, none the less, “the Chicago way”.

Planning Chicago adds much-needed information and insight to “the Chicago way” of planning, highlighting Chicago’s downtown, neighborhoods, and business strategic initiatives all-together shaping the Chicago’s growth into the next century.

Especially interesting to the reader will be the last chapter.

The writers challenge the concept of “the Chicago way” opining the era of “big plans” – another Burnham plan – cannot be produced to guide the future growth of the greater Chicago region.

It’s implied that traditional text-book planning approaches are passé, due to disconnect between traditional planning and the financing of projects that comprise these “big plans”.

With this in mind, the authors call for restoring “planning” of the more traditional kind built upon grass root community activism conjoined with business and government interests. It’s believed that Chicago’s future must rely upon “a comprehensive plan that examines all aspects of the city, creates a shared purpose, raises consciousness about important challenges and summons the resources so they can be allocated effectively for future needs.

All that needed is the political will to do this”.

The authors have contributed a valuable resource to the history and contextual understanding of planning theory, especially planning activities influencing the greater Chicago Region.

This is a must read for all Chicago trained and Chicago interested planners.

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