Get a view of planning! Expanded Horizons visited Chicago, IL September 10-14, 2014. This trip brought first year MUP students to the Windy City to learn about urban planning in the professional world through tours and site visits.
The walking tour on Thursday morning was a ton a of fun. Our group was lead by second year MUP students down State St. from Congress Parkway to the Chicago River, then over to Millennium Park. It was a great chance to see some of the amazing architecture, historical buildings, new developments, and placemaking projects (see photos) in the financial district of Chicago. We discussed the decline that happened in the area in the that started 1990s and saw how businesses have returned to the area, making it a booming retail and business area. We finished up by visiting Millennium Park, a great example of public and private sector partnerships to create a unique public space. Pictures included in this post are from the current art installation in the park. This installation by artist Juame Plensa. The large face sculptures are designed to compliment the Crown Fountain which is celebrating it’s 10th anniversary.
The site visits gave everyone the opportunity to visit non-profits and public and private organization to get information on the use of planning in real-life situations. I visited Center for Neighborhood Technology (CNT), Friends of the Parks, and the Active Transportation Alliance (ATA). The visit that I felt was the most beneficial was the ATA. The ATA is an organization that focuses on lobbying for policies changes that will make Chicago a community that is non-motor transportation friendly. They discussed the process they use to develop a policy, generate support for the policy and ways to move it through the City of Chicago to get it passed. We then had the opportunity to visit a bike lane that has been successfully implemented on Dearborn St. in Chicago. This bike is unique and progressive because it has painted lines, barriers between the bike lane and automobile traffic, and dedicated traffic signals. In addition to policy lobbying, the ATA does education for using non-motorized transportation, drivers sharing the roads with bikers, and how to create complete-street programs.
To finish off the weekend, the entire group had the opportunity to give back to the community by volunteering at the Dunning-Read Conservation Area. This 23 acre area was established in 2005 by the State of Illinois and the Friends of the Park organization to protect woodlands and wetlands habitats. We had the opportunity to help clean-up the area, freshen the walking paths with additional mulch, relocate some “alien” species, and organize their supply shed. It was a great opportunity to work together as a large group and make a difference in the community. There were several people from the Friends of the Parks organization that expressed their gratitude for everything that was done and how much energy our group brought to the day.
I would recommend this trip to anyone that is interested in learning about different ways Planners work in communities and getting to talk to people who are passionate about the work they are doing to improve their city. Additionally, it is an amazing opportunity to meet new people and all of the other MUP students with whom you will be spending the next 2 years of your life.