Chicago forms committee on design for largest construction projects


The design review and approval process for Chicago’s largest construction projects will be enhanced and streamlined through a volunteer committee on design consisting of the city’s top urban design professionals, according to Department of Planning and Development (DPD) Commissioner Maurice Cox.

Largely-comprised of globally recognized architects, artists, academics, and real estate professionals, the 24-member committee will advise DPD and developers on innovative and cost-effective design considerations that will help large construction projects to be expediently processed through internal, plan commission, and City Council-related project reviews.

Committee members represent each of Chicago’s seven planning regions and a wide range of interrelated disciplines, including affordable housing, architecture, art, community development, public engagement, landscape architecture and historic preservation. Each was either recruited or selected through an open application process that DPD launched this spring.

Twelve committee members will review major development projects on the second Wednesday of every month, based on project size, height, geography, and potential city subsidies.

Basic triggers for project review include the below criteria:

  • Planned Developments that exceed 10 acres, 2.5 million square feet of space, or 2,500 residential units
  • High rises that are 80 feet or taller, any projects that are not height-compliant with current zoning and policy, and any projects that vary from the scale and character of the surrounding context
  • Projects that use city resources, such as Tax Increment Financing, Neighborhood Opportunity Bonus funds, or support from the INVEST South/West initiative
  • Projects that are adjacent to overlay districts or special street designations, such as landmark districts, pedestrian streets, etc.

Because the committee’s recommendations will occur early in the development process, prior to a developer submitting a formal application to the city for zoning or other entitlements, its work is expected to result in faster, more productive review and approval procedures. The process currently takes approximately six months or more from a project’s application date, internal review, a plan commission hearing, and City Council approval.

The committee’s recommendations, where appropriate, will be formalized by DPD staff through written and verbal discussions with individual developers prior to the submission of formal development applications. DPD staff, along with representatives from other city departments, will continue to review projects that are not selected for review by the committee on design.

The committee on design’s first meeting will take place virtually at 1 p.m. on Aug. 11, 2021.


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