Planning Chicago

This book looks beyond Burnham's giant shadow to see the sprawl and scramble of a city always on the make.


Urban planning might have been born in Chicago ("Make no little plans"), but that was more than a century ago, in what was 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 planners have to do with it? Where did planning steer the city right, where did it fail, and where was it ignored? More 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 more others.  The Second City is no longer defined by its past and its myths but by the nature of its emerging postindustrial future.

Meet the Authors

D. Bradford HuntisD. Bradford Hunt is an associate professor of social science and history at Roosevelt University in Chicago.He received his Ph.D. 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. He received his Ph.D. in History from the University of California, Berkeley and his B.A. from Williams College.

Jon B. DeVries, AICPJon B. DeVries, AICP, is the director of Marshall Bennett Institute of Real Estate at Chicago's Roosevelt University.  Mr. DeVries has over 35 years of experience in real estate and economic consulting and also serves as Principal in Strategic Development Planning for URS Corporation, the second largest design and engineering firm in the United States.  He has worked with the City of Chicago on numerous plans including the Central Area Plan (2003) and the Central Area Action Plan (2009).


March 21, 2013
5:45 p.m.

Urban History Seminar, Chicago History Museum (Reservations required)
"Stumbling to Global City: Chicago's 1958 Central Area Plan"

April 14, 2013
1-2:15 p.m.

APA National Planning Conference (Registration required)
"Planning Chicago: Where to Now?"

April 24, 2013
12:15-1 p.m.

Chicago Architecture Foundation
"Does Chicago Plan Anymore?"

May 21, 2013
5:30 p.m.
Tuesdays at APA, Chicago
Planning Chicago

Advance Praise

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