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Chicago planning agency gets first design committee

The 24-member panel will review major development projects before they get the city’s OK, bringing Chicago’s process closer to what applies in several other major cities.

Chicago Department of Planning and Development Commissioner Maurice Cox
Chicago Department of Planning and Development Commissioner Maurice Cox
Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

The city’s planning department is establishing its first design committee of outside experts to weigh in on major developments before they get built.

The Committee on Design, appointed by the Department of Planning and Development, will advise the city and developers about innovative, attractive and cost-effective elements, officials said. The 24 unpaid members include architects, artists, academics and real estate professionals.

The committee will be an extra stop for projects that already must get approval from department staff, the City Council and, in some cases, the Chicago Plan Commission. But officials said the committee will streamline reviews and approvals by clarifying designs early in the process.

Planning Commissioner Maurice Cox called it “truly an all-star cast that will offer invaluable, implementable, and realistic recommendations involving design excellence and related development concerns that will lead to better projects and improved neighborhoods. Its contributions will be vital to long-term neighborhood vitality, resilience and livability, especially as we emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic.”

Members will get two-year terms and are expected to review all planned developments, a special zoning category applied to larger, complex proposals. They also will review plans for super-tall high-rises, developments that involve city money such as tax-increment financing, or plans that are within or near landmark districts.

The group’s public meetings will occur the second Wednesday of every month, starting in August. The city said agendas will be posted a week in advance at chicago.gov/cod.

Officials said the committee will bring Chicago’s design review process closer to those of New York, Toronto, Boston and Seattle.

Members and their affiliations are:

  • Catherine Baker, partner, Landon Bone Baker
  • Sara Beardsley, technical director, Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture
  • Andre Brumfield, principal, Gensler
  • Nick Cave, sculptor and performance artist
  • Bob Clark, executive chairman and founder, Clayco
  • Philip Enquist, partner, SOM
  • Bob Faust, designer and artist
  • Jeanne Gang, founder, Studio Gang
  • Theaster Gates, artist and professor at the Department of Visual Arts, University of Chicago
  • Eleanor Gorski, planning and design director, University of Illinois-Chicago
  • Hana Ishikawa, design principal, Site Design Group
  • Casey Jones, principal, Perkins & Will
  • Jackie Koo, principal, Koo Architecture
  • Reed Kroloff, dean, Illinois Institute of Technology College of Architecture
  • Brian Lee, consulting partner, SOM
  • Renauld Mitchell, partner, Moody Nolan
  • Juan Gabriel Moreno, president and founder, Juan Gabriel Moreno Architects
  • Guacolda Reyes, chief real estate development officer, The Resurrection Project
  • John Ronan, founding principal, John Ronan Architects
  • Lesley Roth, principal, Lamar Johnson Collaborative
  • Ann Thompson, executive vice president for architecture and design, Related Midwest
  • Maria Villalobos, assistant professor, Illinois Institute of Technology College of Architecture
  • Leon Walker, managing partner, DL3 Realty
  • Amanda Williams, visual artist