Planning Chicago

By D. Bradford Hunt, Jon DeVries, AICP

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Urban planning might have been born in Chicago ("Make no little plans"), but that was more than a century ago, in a very different city. Today's city is not the product of Daniel Burnham, the White City, or Mrs. O'Leary's cow. It's the Rust Belt Metropolis That Could — the one that has not only thrived but shouldered its way onto the list of global cities. But what did planning have to do with it? Where did planning steer the city right, where did it fail, and where was it ignored? Most important, what does planning have to offer the city today?

In Planning Chicago, Hunt and DeVries tell the real stories of the planners, politicians, and everyday people who shaped contemporary Chicago, starting in 1958, early in the Richard J. Daley era. Over the ensuing decades, planning did much to develop the Loop, protect Chicago's famous lakefront, and encourage industrial growth and neighborhood development in the face of national trends that savaged other cities. But planning also failed some of Chicago's communities and did too little for others. The Second City is no longer defined by its past and its myths but by the nature of its emerging postindustrial future.

Planning Chicago looks beyond Burnham's giant shadow to see the sprawl and scramble of a city always on the make. This isn't the way other history books tell the story. But it's the Chicago way.



About the Authors

D. Bradford HuntD. Bradford Hunt is vice president for research and academic programs at the Newberry Library in Chicago. He received his PhD in history from the University of California, Berkeley, in 2000. His history of the Chicago Housing Authority entitled Blueprint for Disaster: The Unraveling of Chicago Public Housing (University of Chicago Press, 2009) won the 2009 Lewis Mumford Prize from the Society of American City and Regional Planning History for the best book in North American Planning History in 2008–2009.

Jon B. DeVries, AICPJon B. DeVries, AICP, has recently retired as the founding director of Marshall Bennett Institute of Real Estate at Chicago's Roosevelt University. He has nearly 40 years of experience in real estate and economic consulting working with URS Corporation, Arthur Andersen LLP, and Goodkin Research Corporation. He worked with the City of Chicago on numerous plans including the Central Area Plan (2003) and the Central Area Action Plan (2009), and has won numerous community planning awards.

In the News

Planning Chicago: An Interview with D. Bradford Hunt and Jon B. DeVries
Planetizen, April 10, 2013

Planning Chicago a/k/a incremental opportunism
YoChicago, November 25, 2013

How to craft a new Chicago plan
Chicago Tribune, November 24, 2013

Planning Chicago: An Interview with Jon DeVries, AICP, and D. Bradford Hunt:

Product Details

Page Count
Date Published
April 1, 2013
APA Planners Press

Table of Contents


Part 1: Introduction
Chapter 1: Planning the "Chicago Way"
Chapter 2: Chicago's Planning Context

Part 2: Chicago's Central Area
Chapter 3: The Origins of Chicago's Postindustrial City: Planning Change, 1955-1958
Chapter 4: The High-water Mark of City-led Planning: The 1966 Comprehensive Plan
Chapter 5: The Growth Coalition Takes the Lead for Planning
Chapter 6: Chicago's Equity Planning Moment
Chapter 7: Planning in the Void: Redevelopment in the North Loop and Near South

Part 3: Neighborhood Change and Planning Response
Chapter 8: Chicago and Community Planning Innovation
Chapter 9: Englewood
Chapter 10: Uptown
Chapter 11: Little Village
Chapter 12: Remaking Public Housing: The Chicago Housing Authority's Plan for Transformation

Part 4: Industrial Policy in Chicago: City Planning for Industrial Retention and Growth
Chapter 13: Defending the Industrial Base: Sector and District Strategies
Chapter 14: A Changing Employment Scene
Chapter 15: The Calumet District: Planning for Brownfields
Chapter 16: Planning for Global Freight in the Chicago Region

Part 5: Chicago in the Current Era
Chapter 17: The Tourist City: Navy Pier, McCormick Place, and Millennium Park
Chapter 18: The Era of Big Plans Is Over
Chapter 19: The Disconnect Between Financing and Planning
Chapter 20: Positive Middle-Range Planning
Chapter 21: The Lost Decade
Chapter 22: Conclusion: Restore Planning to Chicago

Appendix A: Planning Departments and Leadership, City of Chicago, 1958-2013

Appendix B: Selected List of Plans and Reports, 1957-2012

Appendix C: Industrial Employment Tables


Notes on Interviews




"Hunt and DeVries have delivered a candid and unromantic account of how things get planned — or not planned — in a postindustrial Chicago striving for a place on the short list of truly global cities. Their description of competing forces in the planning process (e.g., a downtown growth coalition vs. neighborhood equity planning) is in the best interpretive tradition of Edward Banfield."

—John McCarron, Urban affairs writer

"Hunt and DeVries have pulled off the impossible: they have produced an impartial treatment of postwar planning in a city where every decision to alter the built environment is politicized and contentious. A combination of meticulous research and years of experience with the projects and policies they describe allow them to navigate this high road. Happily, the authors do not just rehash well-trodden narratives of great men and their grandiose visions for the downtown or Lakefront; planning for neighborhoods, industrial districts, and the Chicago River share the stage with the Loop, filling out our understanding of who makes planning decisions and why they ultimately succeed or fail."

—Rachel Weber, University of Illinois–Chicago

"The book celebrates the best of Chicago's planning but doesn't shy away from asking hard questions, concluding with a call for the reassertion of formal city planning in an era where TIFs and other financial policies serve as a problematic substitute for planning. Hunt and DeVries astutely expose a sobering irony about Chicago:  this city, known as a birthplace and showcase of modern American planning, has arguably witnessed the devolution and devaluation of planning in recent decades."

—Scott D. Campbell, Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning, University of Michigan