The months of local workshops and regional planning by the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) gelled this fall into the agency’s final plan. Called Go To 2040, the plan is the heir to Daniel Burnham’s 1909 plan for Chicago.
Recommendations for the plan, which was officially approved and released by the CMAP board Oct. 14, are not binding. The organization primarily coordinates planning efforts within the seven counties in the region.
Evanston officials said they were largely impressed with the scope and ambitions of GO TO 2040. “We support anything that gets the municipalities in the region talking to each other,” said Craig Sklenar, general planner for the City’s Planning Department.
Interactive workshops sponsored by CMAP in 2009 focused on six key planning questions about housing and transportation, with questions on the housing and the environment folded in. In a workshop held in Evanston in late summer of that year, attendees said they preferred development that was moderately dense and transportation that de-emphasized automobile use. Themes for choices made by participants, they were told, should be “equity, transportation and the environment.”
Among the Evanston participants’ preferred characteristics for Chicagoland in 2040 were higher-density building, integrated land use, greater mass transportation not related to automobiles, maximum open land space, alternative modes of transportation, higher density, walkability, and a Chicagoland that is “greener, denser, sustainable and pleasing.”
City officials told the RoundTable they were largely impressed with the scope and ambitions of GO TO 2040. “We support anything that gets the municipalities in the region talking to each other,” said Craig Sklenar, general planner for the City’s Planning Department.
There are about 284 municipalities and close to 1,200 units of local government in the region. Mr. Sklenar said he believes open communication is of paramount importance as they move together into the mid-21st century.
“We know that, for their own reasons, many cities and towns in the region like to operate as their own little fiefdoms,” Mr. Sklenar said. “But in the last several years, the economy has changed. We’ve become a more global economy. In order to be a more global region, we have to be able to work together.”
The GO TO 2040 plan, Mr. Sklenar says, serves as a good blueprint. “If we can live by some basic principles, we can improve the region to accommodate for growth.”
In an August memo that outlined the City’s reactions to and concerns about GO TO 2040, City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz said many aspects of the plan coincided with a number of initiatives Evanston had in place already, including Evanston’s Climate Action Plan, a pilot program utilizing solar panels in the City’s water utility and requirements that new commercial and municipal buildings over 10,000 square feet meet USGBC LEED Silver Certification.
“Evanston’s environment and sustainability priorities already match many of those laid out by GO TO 2040,” Mr. Bobkiewicz wrote.
GO TO 2040 was compiled from surveys and interviews with individuals in the region over the course of the past three years. “We like to think that the region helped to write this plan,” said CMAP spokesman Tom Garritano. “Everyone in the region has a vested interest in the region’s economic competitiveness.”
Mr. Garritano said most respondents placed great emphasis on the region’s transit options. “That’s understandable – the livability of most communities is central to how easy it is to get to from and work, and how easy it is to get around,” he said.
Mr. Bobkiewicz commended GO TO 2040’s emphasis on transit and praised the recommendations that criteria for federal grants be changed to allow for spending on infrastructure upgrades rather new projects alone.
“Without this modification the Purple line will continue to decline, threatening to disrupt commerce and mobility throughout the region. ” Mr. Bobkiewicz wrote.
But the City had some reservations about GO TO 2040, mainly that the plan did not set concrete enough goals. “We thought that it didn’t include enough quantifiable metrics,” Mr. Sklenar said. “If you say that you want to reduce carbon emissions by a certain amount, you have to set target figures so you know if the region is meeting those goals.”
But as it stands, GO TO 2040 will be a good start in helping communities like Evanston work with its neighbors, Mr. Sklenar said.
“We may be able to find cost savings by reaching out over city lines,” he said, citing Howard Street as an example with Evanston on one side and Chicago on the other. “Maybe something like this can inspire us to work together by reaching across that literal border.”
Evanston meanwhile begins work on Evanston PLAN2030. The new plan should take into account economic shifts and changes in development practices and perceptions that have occurred since the City’s last comprehensive plan was released in 2000, Mr. Sklenar said.