For those of you who don't visit the skyscraper forums, I am a regular there but I have quite an interest in urban planning issues as well. I would like to discuss one of my favorite cities--Chicago.
I know that a lot of cities are undergoing a rebirth, but I have to admit that what is going on in Chicago is quite extraordinary. Cities on the coasts tend to get a lot of attention, but right now Chicago is going nuts--believe you me. Not only is the north side beginning to saturate and become a completely built-out urban environment, but whole parts of town that have been forgotten for decades are seeing a massive amount of new development, either in the form of renovation, infill, or just new neighborhoods built from scratch.
Honestly, I can't think of another older, rustbelt city that is coming alive so much as Chicago is.
I also think Chicago deserves some attention because it is being innovative. Some rightfully criticize what Chicago is doing with public housing, but I think it is a great idea to tear down those isolated towers and replace them with mixed-income pedestrian-oriented communities that reestablish the kind of streetgrids and neighborhoods that define what Chicago is.
If you go to newcommunities.org (sorry, can't post the URL yet ) you will see that there are a good 10-12 "poor" communities with which, after a lot of time, effort, and community meetings, the city has created individual neighborhood redevelopment plans that emphasize affordability, job creation, walkability, transit-oriented development, parking, etc etc. Chicago also recently rewrote its 53 year old zoning ordinance to make newer developments "fit in" more with their surroundings and to promote mixed-use development.
Finally, a lot of Chicago's new infill is well-planned and addresses the streetwall quite well. And we all know about Mayor Daley's acclaimed green initiative.
Where is Chicago screwing up? It is still accommodating the car too much, if you ask me. Although with its newer zoning and strip center ordinance Chicago mostly places parking behind, below, above, or to the side of buildings, it still has off-street parking requirements. Also, it still doesn't do enough to place higher densities near rail stations. Plus, I think the city could do a HELL of a lot more to create affordable housing. And finally, the city is still not taking a strong enough stance in preserving older structures, and despite some success in this area, structures that contribute to character are still being demolished.
That being said, I really would like to discuss Chicago because I think it is quite fascinating what sweeping changes are transforming this city. Chicago is creating whole new neighborhoods out of scratch and so far I am impressed with what I'm seeing, although there is always room for improvement.
What do you guys think?