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Aug 5
What is Economic Development?

Go to any Village Board or City Council meeting and pose the simple question - "What are the top three things this community needs?"  Along with "more parking in the downtown" chances are one of the top answers will be "economic development". Simple enough - but what is it exactly? More stores and restaurants? Sounds good. More jobs?  That would be nice. How about infrastructure repairs and improved storm-water management? No? The reality is that economic development is a culmination of many different things including issues that are seemingly unrelated. An area that is prone to flooding and sewer backups every time it rains probably will not see the same level of investment as other areas.  A business may leave town if the street and sidewalk outside of their building is in constant disrepair. Even the personalities and demeanor of officials and staff has an impact on economic development.  A surly planner and a micromanaging plan commission can be a deterrent to anyone looking to develop or invest in a community.

The reality is that nobody "does economic development". Economic development isn't a verb or activity. It isn't just in the job description of an Economic Development Director who goes to ICSC or tries to extol the virtues of their town to the site selection people for Applebee's.  It needs to be on the minds of every department head, staff person, and elected and appointed officials. That international firm with five thousand employees may have just chosen your town because the street-sweeper happened to come down the block just before their visit. That's economic development.


Jul 11
Really?! - Sidewalk Rage III

I saw a few more "Ped-Peeves" that I wanted to write about.


Ped-Peeve #07 - The oblivious.

I feel that sidewalks are primarily designed for walking; it seems like a basic concept. That said, if you're in a group and you need to make a decision like review a map or where to eat next, stand off to the side of the sidewalk or "pull over" just like you would if you were driving a car. I feel silly even saying this but so often I see groups just stop in the middle of a sidewalk blocking pedestrian flow only to have a lengthy debate on which café to go to, Rain Forest of Hard Rock. I acknowledge that this is one of my more whiny complaints but it such an inconsiderate act. Most sidewalks aren't that wide, so try to be a little more courteous and move!


Ped-Peeve #08 - Walking tunnel vision.

This is one of the most annoying situations I encounter on the sidewalk. Texting or playing a game on your phone is no excuse to be a complete zombie. It's amazing how many pedestrians, bicyclists, and cars have had to maneuver around someone because they couldn't be bothered to lift their head and take in their surroundings. People even cross intersections with their face buried in their phone! It's basic walking 101, when did we stop looking both ways?

All that said, as annoying as the head-down scenario is, walking tunnel vision is one of the more entertaining situations to battle. I encourage you to try the "Stop, Plant and Crash" method. It is a little childish/petty I know, but it is also a scenario that shouldn't happen to begin with. The expressions I have seen on people's faces as they either crash into me or snap out of their zombie-like state at the last second is priceless. I would say more than half the time people are completely surprised there even is a person in front of them, as if they were the only one on the sidewalk and like a commuting ninja I appeared out of nowhere. Keep your head up people, we're all walkin' here!



Ped-Peeve #09 - Crowd bowling.

Just like vehicles are required to "stack up" before an intersection, before the crosswalk line, pedestrians should "stack up" before the sidewalk intersection. Pedestrians try to get as close to the intersection corner as possible, even though they will just be waiting for their walk signal to change. This creates impenetrable crowds that block the through traffic for the pedestrians that actually have the walk signal.

I am not saying we should paint "stop lines" on sidewalks but pedestrians should be able to anticipate how everyone is moving through an intersection and wait further back from the intersection corner until it is their walk signal. Or maybe it would be easier to paint some "stop lines".

photo-crowd bowling.jpg

May 21
Making the "Big Idea" into a Viable Project

 Many communities brainstorm "big ideas" and then immediately pursue plans, development regulations, incentive tools, etc. to achieve them.  But an all-in approach to development can lead to misplaced resources in projects that lack feasibility.  Planning efforts and due diligence on the front end of "big idea" projects focus resources on recommendations that are more realistic at the outset, avoiding projects that flounder and lose community support.  The workshop will feature a public official, regional planning agency representative, private developer, and planning consultants discussing their past experiences, how things can go wrong in the planning process, and what can be done to avoid missteps and create community inspired, market viable projects.



Dan Gardner, MPA, Principal Associate at Houseal Lavigne Associates, has extensive expertise and experience in planning, development, economic impacts, fiscal impacts, and market analysis in numerous markets throughout the United States and the Midwest in particular.

John P. Zediker, AICP, Partner/Chief Operating Officer (COO) of Ruettiger, Tonelli & Associates, Inc., has a wide range of experience including working in municipal planning and development departments, particularly working for a real estate development company directing the development of several large master planned residential communities, commercial developments and industrial properties.

Chris Aiston, Director of Economic Development for City of St. Charles, is involved with creating and implementing all activities associated with existing business retention and expansion, attracting new businesses to the City and overall advocacy for business-friendly city regulations and practices.

Trevor Dick, AICP, LEED AP, Senior Planner at CMAP, has more than 15 years experience working in both the private and public sector completing a variety of planning projects throughout the country.  As a senior planner with the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, Trevor manages a variety of planning assignments and project teams through the agency's Local Technical Assistance (LTA) program.


WHEN:  Thursday, May 23, 2013, 2:00 pm to 5:00 pm

WHERE:  CMAP, 233 S. Wacker Drive, Suite 800 [DuPage Room], Chicago IL

COST:  $15 paid at the door ($5 for students that RSVP by May 21st); checks payable to APA-CMS

RSVP:  To RSVP, please email cms@ilapa.org by May 21st

QUESTIONS:  For program questions, please contact the CMS Board at cms@ilapa.org

CM CREDITS:  Two (2) AICP CM Credits pending

FEEDBACK:     At the end of the program, please help us better shape our programming by providing feedback. Visit https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/CMS2013MAY to take a quick online survey.

Apr 17
Really?! - Sidewalk Rage II

This entry is a continuation of a previous post I made about the “ped-peeves” I see on my way to work. I plan on keeping them coming as I see them.


Ped-Peeve #04 – Jay-walkers, at least the bad ones.

Jay-walking... I assume at some point we have all done it. By no means am I advocating that people jay-walk whenever they feel like it, but if you are going to do it, at least be reasonable about it. Make sure you are respecting the hierarchy of the street and know the risks. If you’re not going to use the designated crosswalk, where pedestrians have the right-of-way, recognize that you forfeit your right to not being run down by a car, bike, bus, etc. Nothing irritates me more than when someone completely disregards the oncoming traffic, like it is their right to just walk wherever they want, whenever they want. If as a pedestrian you are forcing a vehicle to slow down, or worse yet stop, in the middle of the street, you are definitely in the wrong. At least have the common sense to wait for a lull in traffic or go to the crosswalk that’s probably only 100 feet down the street. To confirm, I’m not advocating jay-walking, I've been told it’s illegal?!



Ped-Peeve #05 – Crosswalk standoff.

Similar to intersection jamming (which I talked about in my previous post), I also see a lot of vehicular crosswalk standoffs that could easily be avoided. The most common is when a vehicle tries to make an aggressive turn, just short of the crosswalk, and creeps forward to beat the pedestrians trying to cross. There’s no better feeling than wondering whether I’m about to get run down or not. It’s maddening! Pedestrians have the right-or-way in the crosswalk, but these “important” drivers seem to think otherwise.  New crosswalk enhancements, like “pedestrian priority signalization”, are starting to pop up around the City. I think they are great, instead of matching the timing of the green light and pedestrian walk sign, pedestrians are given a 3-5 second head start. This allows pedestrians the chance to start walking across the street before a car tries to gun if off the line and beat them on the turn. It may seem like an unnecessary enhancement, but it makes a huge difference in reaffirming the concept that pedestrians have the right-of-way.



Ped-Peeve #06 – Groups-stink.

This one happens quite a bit. Regardless of how large the sidewalk is, a group of people will almost always spread out to take it completely over. I get it, everyone wants to be part of the conversation, no one wants to be left out. But when that group doesn’t make an effort to “tighten up” for oncoming pedestrians heading towards them, it really frustrates me. Why does a single person have to be the one to take to the street to make the pass around an inconsiderate group? I would love to see someone just barrel through a group like bowling pins, but it’s a risky move. The group obviously has the numbers and things could escalate quickly. If you are a part of a large group who has taken over a sidewalk, try to fight the urge of spreading out. Walk in smaller groups, or something, just doesn’t block the entire sidewalk. Some of us are trying to get somewhere without having to resort to jumping into the streets!


Apr 10
2013 APA Conference

This year’s American Planning Association’s National Conference is being held right in our own backyard. To welcome fellow planners from across the country and help Chicago put its best foot forward, we decided to put even more effort than usual into our activities this year. Make sure you catch up with us at our presentations and mobile workshops, our exhibitor booth, or one of the scheduled social events.

HLA Attendees

  • John Houseal - Principal and co-founder
  • Devin Lavigne - Principal and co-founder
  • Dan Gardner - Principal Associate
  • Doug Hammel - Senior Associate
  • Brandon Nolin - Senior Associate
  • Nik Davis - Senior Associate
  • Ira Mabel – Associate
  • Danielle Ross – Marketing Coordinator


New Tools for Zoning and Development Visualization
HLA Presenters: Devin Lavigne and Nik Davis
Date and Time: Sunday April 14, 4:00 pm – 5:15 pm

Plans almost always include figures and photos to explain concepts and recommendations. Now zoning ordinances, design guidelines, and other regulatory tools are starting to follow suit. Learn about specific tools and techniques you can use to introduce graphics into codes and ordinances to make them more comprehensible. And gain a stronger understanding of how the move towards an online, transparent government has changed who is reading (and using) these documents.

Dissecting a Commercial Corridor
HLA Presenters: John Houseal and Devin Lavigne
Date and Time: Monday April 15, 10:30 am – 11:45 am

What are the issues and challenges associated with corridor planning? This session focuses on Ogden Avenue—a commercial corridor that passes through the Chicago region—to answer that question. Learn how this corridor has developed over six decades and how planners are retrofitting it to promote pedestrian access and cultivate a stronger sense of place.

Fast, Funny, and Passionate 2 & 3
HLA Presenter: Doug Hammel; Devin Lavigne
Date and Time: Monday April 15, 4:00 p.m. - 5:15 p.m.; Tuesday April 16, 7:30 a.m. - 8:45 a.m.

These short, timed, 7-minute presentations take up overlooked topics in planning or delve into a passionate perspective on why planning matters. Hear planners open up about what excites them. Presenters discuss case studies, present personal perspectives, or provide an imaginative insight into planning. HLA's Doug Hammel will present “What is it we do again?!?” in session 2, and Devin Lavigne will present "Bad City Logos” in session 3.

AICP Examination Preparation (session registration required)
HLA Presenters: John Houseal, Devin Lavigne, Doug Hammel, and Brandon Nolin
Date and Time: Saturday April 14, 7:45 a.m. - 11:45 a.m.

Prepare for the AICP exam with the help of chapter professional development officers who offer tips and focused training in the exam format, content, and topic areas. Learn about the application process and gain insights for success.

Mobile Workshops

Lasting Legacy of the Columbian Exposition (session registration required)
HLA Presenters: Doug Hammel
Date and Time: Monday April 15, 8:30 am – 12:00 pm

Erik Larson’s The Devil in the White City highlights the tremendous impact of the Columbian Exposition, the event that brought planning to the forefront of urban development. See firsthand how this event defined the long-term growth of Hyde Park and Woodlawn—and how current development in those communities strives to balance contemporary practices with historic character. Stops include the Rookery Building (site of Burnham’s office) and many exposition sites.

Planners’ Day Off (session registration required)
HLA Presenters: Brandon Nolin
Date and Time: Monday April 15, 1:00 pm – 5:00 pm

Follow in the footsteps of the characters in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and tour several of the sites they visited in this 1986 film. Learn about the real planning issues pertaining to iconic Chicago sites like Wacker Drive (sorry, no Ferraris on this trip) and the Chicago Riverwalk, Sears Tower (now Willis tower), Federal Plaza and State Street (route of the movie’s “Von Steuben Day Parade”) and Grant Park (home of the Art Institute and Millennium Park); explore the complex planning challenges a dynamic city like Chicago presents; and gain a deeper understanding of Chicago’s planning landscape.

Planning is a Team Sport (session registration required)
HLA Presenters: Dan Gardner
Date and Time: Tuesday April 16, 11:30 am – 4:00 pm

Explore the environs of three of Chicago’s major sports venues—Wrigley Field, U.S. Cellular Field, and the United Center—and learn how each venue has influenced surrounding development, including transportation enhancements. Discuss the challenges and opportunities planners encounter in balancing the needs of an existing neighborhood with the development potential presented by these venues and see how activity generators can serve as catalysts for neighborhood revitalization.

HLA Exhibitor Booth

Once again, HLA is an active sponsor of the APA, and will be hosting a booth in the exhibit hall. Come by to check out what’s been going on at HLA recently and to challenge us at our official office pastime, bubble hockey.

Jan 15
Evolution of a Corridor: Learning from Past Practices

Over the course of the last 20 years, the Randall Road Corridor has blossomed into a regional commercial center on the west side of the Chicago Region, with almost every national retailer present along the corridor. The City of St. Charles was among the first to develop along Randall Road, in more recent years neighboring communities have followed suit. A review of the different development patterns along the corridor reveals a contrast between the development pattern in St. Charles, which can be characterized as piecemeal and uncoordinated and other communities which are better coordinated and connected.



St. Charles - First to Develop along Randall Road
In St. Charles, interspersed parcels have varying depth (140’ to 1,100’) and width and there appears to be little coordination in its subdivision or long-range vision. With this development pattern it is difficult to establish consistent development typology or circulation patterns between lots. As a result, access to adjacent lots often requires use of Randall Road and cross access is almost non-existent.



Geneva - Second
Bent Tree Drive functions as a parallel route east of Randall Road in Geneva, while Merchants Drive (a dedicate road within the commercial site) provides a parallel route on the west. Parcels in Geneva have a consistent depth with logical connections between lots and blocks.



Batavia - Third
Though parcel depths vary from 225’ to 900’ in Batavia, parcels and sites are linked by continuous streets that provide easy access between developments and to surrounding residential areas. Several contiguous blocks can be accessed without using Randall Road.



South Elgin - Fourth
In South Elgin, development utilizes driving aisles and internal access streets that parallel Randall Road. Building frontage and setbacks are consistent, and there is ease of circulation between sites, despite variable patterns of buildings and parking areas along the corridor.

Jan 2
Really?! - Sidewalk Rage

I typically enjoy my commute to work. I have at a minimum 5 alternative modes of transportation that get me door to door under 45 minutes. I can take multiple CTA lines, a Metra train, a bus, or ride my bicycle. All of these modes of transportation incorporate my favorite and most common form of transportation, walking. Since “road rage” is a well known phenomenon for car travel, I wanted to shed some light on the ridiculous scenarios I see as a pedestrian. I don’t think “sidewalk rage” has gone mainstream yet but it does exist. Some scenarios are funny, some are scary to witness, and some are just plain annoying.This is the first blog entry that is part of a series.

I will continue to add new, even more frustrating, ped-peeves throughout the year.


Ped-Peeve #01 – Failed red-light charge.

Intersections are where pedestrians and vehicles have the most direct conflict. If I sit at an intersection for five minutes, someone will always try to beat a red light, fail, and then block the intersection for vehicles in the travel lanes and pedestrians in the crosswalks. It astounds me how often it happens but I can’t make my three and a half block walk from my train to my office without seeing it at least once. Many communities are making it more and more difficult for vehicles to create these vehicular/pedestrian conflicts by installing red light cameras, crosswalk safety enhancements, and establishing pedestrian awareness programs.

photo-failed red light charge1.jpg


Ped-Peeve #02 – The run of the bicycles and scooters.

This one should go without saying but every once in a while I feel like I’m in the “running of the bulls” as I am surrounded by bicyclist and scooterists who feel they have complete control over their surroundings (they don’t, on a sidewalk you have no idea what a pedestrian will do next). On a sidewalk, pedestrians should feel safe and separate from street traffic. They should not have to contend with fast moving, unpredictable wheeled modes of transportation. This is a reasonable request. In many places, bicyclists are not permitted to ride on the sidewalk. In my neighborhood we have an extensive bike route system, many with designated bike lanes where bicyclists are required to follow the laws of the road. Bicyclists expect pedestrians to stay out of their bike lanes, so they should return the favor and stay off the sidewalks.

photo-run of the bicycles1.jpg


Ped-Peeve #03 – Umbrellas at large.

No one likes walking in the rain on their way to work. Actually, I do but I know I am weird. Sensible people carry umbrellas. They carry those small, collapsible, use me five times umbrellas and I will break umbrellas. Then there’s that guy carrying an umbrella made for the strong winds of Pebble Beach Golf Club. This umbrella can take a class 5 hurricane with ease and it only takes up the entire sidewalk. I guess it’s a small sacrifice to make, but he’s not the one taking jabs to the eye as he carries his umbrella low enough to keep his shoe laces dry. I think the target umbrella diameter max’s out at just keeping your shoulders dry, everything is fair game for the rain.

photo-umbrellas at large1.jpg

Nov 6
Council Bluffs Comp Plan Coverage

The Council Bluffs Comprehensive Plan update, currently underway, was recently featured by the local tv news station. Follow along with the project at http://www.bluffstomorrow2030.com/


Oct 31
APA-IL 2012 Crossword Puzzle

If you missed our crossword puzzle in the APA Illinois Chapter State Conference conference schedule, or if you're dying to find out if you got the right answers, check out the pictures below.

The puzzle...

APA-IL Crossword.jpg

...and the solution.

APA-IL Crossword Solution.jpg


Sep 1
Downers Grove's Comprehensive Plan wins Best Plan

The Comprehensive Plan for the Village of Downers Grove has won the Daniel Burnham Award for a Comprehensive Plan by the American Planning Association's Illinois Chapter. The Village of Downers Grove is a community of over 48,000 located approximately 22 miles southwest of Chicago. Established in the early 1800s, Downers Grove has a rich past with established neighborhoods and a traditional downtown. The Village’s location along the BNSF railroad has been a significant source of growth and prosperity, first for freight and now commuter service. Downers Grove has obtained regional importance in the modern era due to its proximity to I-88 and I-355 and its three Metra stations which provide connections to downtown Chicago and service unparalleled by any neighboring communities.

The previous Comprehensive Plan was adopted in 1965 and, since that time, Downers Grove has emerged as a regional employment center and major shopping and dining destination, having experienced significant population, economic, and physical growth. While past planning efforts focused on outward expansion, the Village is now in need of fresh guidance as a maturing community. The recently adopted Comprehensive Plan focuses recommendations on facilitating redevelopment and reinvestment within the heart of Downers Grove and better leveraging existing infrastructure and community assets.

The Award-Winning 2012 Comprehensive Plan covers a wide range of topics including residential areas, commercial areas, transportation, parks and open space, and community facilities. The recommendations are well-crafted and will help the Village guide Downers Grove toward a better quality of life with a more prosperous economic climate.

In a time of economic uncertainty, growth is no longer a given. Much of the future growth and investment within Downers Grove will have to occur within established commercial areas, employment centers, and neighborhoods. Moreover, many previously booming suburban communities are similar to Downers Grove in that they are now “built out” with a limited amount of land available for development. As such, the Comprehensive Plan’s focus on redevelopment and strategies for repositioning previously developed areas has potential for application in numerous communities throughout Illinois and beyond.

Despite a new focus on infill and redevelopment, the Comprehensive Plan also underscores the need to balance reinvestment with respecting the character of the Village’s existing commercial districts and neighborhoods. To ensure that such a balance can be struck, the Comprehensive Plan includes key focus area plans for five of the Village’s most important districts as economic generators and intensely developed areas of the community. Each focus area plan identifies key planning influences, key concepts and catalyst sites for redevelopment, and land use recommendations.