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A Citywide Plan in Chicago

An inclusive, equitable approach to urban planning


Chicago, like most cities, does not have a long and successful track record of including residents within past planning processes. Many of Chicago’s plans were created by government officials or the business community, with very little public input. Along the way to implementation, many plans faced significant opposition from community members. This history has sowed distrust within the city on what planning can and should be.


Collective planning is a tool for residents and stakeholders to co-create a vision for their city, a plan for funding projects, and solutions to implement the shared vision. It’s a trust-building exercise between government and residents as they set the future together.

That’s why in autumn 2020, the City of Chicago launched a three-year, citywide planning process, “We Will Chicago.” As part of the pre-planning process, MPC—in partnership with the Department of Planning and Development—hosted a workshop series to create recommendations to ensure that community input is baked into every step of this city planning process, even step one. Process is important: it’s not a citywide vision if the Chicago’s residents don’t build the vision together.


Creating a city that works for everyone is possible when we engage community residents, civic institutions, and the private sector to coalesce around shared priorities and new opportunities.

We Will Chicago: Citywide Planning Initiative

We Will Chicago is a three-year, citywide planning initiative under Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot. If done well, this plan can create an inclusive vision for Chicago, encouraging neighborhood growth and vibrancy, while addressing long-standing social and economic inequities.

The Value of Inclusive Planning

The value of good planning cannot be understated. Engaging with different stakeholders and residents to craft a vision and framework that can set priorities, coalesce around shared goals, and identify new opportunities is vital to creating a city that is stable, equitable and sustainable.

Planning is a tool to allow for residents and stakeholders to collectively create a vision for what they want their city to be and then determine how to fund projects and solutions to implement that vision. It is a trust building exercise that allows governments and residents to set the future together.

A New Citywide Plan for Chicago

Chicago is famous for its history of urban planning—from Burnham’s 1909 Plan of Chicago, to its boulevard system, to its “forever open, clear, and free” Lake Michigan. But even with a long history of planning, and a number of recent plans developed for specific neighborhoods and topics, the City has not embarked on a comprehensive citywide plan since 1966. This is an opportunity to focus on topics like land use, housing, transportation, natural resources and economic development to align resources, define outcomes and achieve ambitious goals.

Co-Creating a Planning Process

Many major cities have a history of creating and implementing citywide plans, We Will Chicago is an opportunity to learn from their challenges and best practices in citywide planning to create a process that improves on their models and is wholly unique to Chicago.

MPC envisioned a preplanning process around a series of virtual learning exchanges where a diverse group of participants from Chicago could hear from other cities about their experiences developing citywide plans. The participants would then suggest principles and recommendations for creating a planning process in Chicago.

The learning exchanges resulted in the articulation of shared visions and co-created recommendations and action steps that can be used to shape the how the planning process is structured and how and what it ultimately achieves. Find out more about the exchanges and the recommendations by reading the Executive Summary and reviewing the Appendix.

What’s Next

MPC hopes that these key themes and recommendations will set the stage for an inclusive citywide plan. Keep up to date about We Will Chicago and learn more about how you can be involved by visiting the City of Chicago’s official website for the plan.