To Understand the Future of Chicago, Understand Streeterville

Streeterville at night

Streeterville is one of Chicago’s most dynamic neighborhoods.  And by “dynamic” I mean it is one of Chicago’s noisiest, densest, angriest, most tourst-clogged, most interesting, most beautiful neighborhoods.  It’s a place that shouldn’t exist that’s evolved and remade itself several times over the last couple of centuries, and is in the process of remaking itself again.

Part of that remaking process is the Streeterville Neighborhood Plan.  This is an evolving document by the Streeterville Organization of Active Residents that chronicles the area’s past, while providing guidance for the future.  The newest version of the plan is coming out soon, but you can download a draft version by clicking here.

Why would you want to?  Because the future of Streeterville is the future of Chicago.

Everything outlined in the Neighborhood Plan is a reflection of what the city’s planners want to see in the rest of Chicago over the next 20 years, all in one handy PDF.  From placemaking to wayfinding; from streets-for-people to active sidewalks; and from pocket parks to new mass transit ideas, it’s all there.

Most striking is the way the Plan reflects the tectonic shift in the Chicago Department of Transportation’s mission.  CDOT used to be an agency focused on moving cars around Chicago.  Now it is concentrating on moving people around Chicago, and putting an incredible amount of energy into it.  It is becoming a true “transportation” department, and not just the government arm of the auto dealers and asphalt companies, like DOTs in other cities.

If you haven’t been paying attention lately, CDOT has been embracing ideas from all around the world, and innovating on its own here in Chicago.  Sure, Windyville was late to the game when it came to bicycle lanes, but we’ve quickly made up ground.  And when was the last time you saw a “department of transportation” in any American city remove parking spaces in order to make miniature parks, and places for pedestrians to rest their feet?

All this, and more, is in the Streeterville report.  It outlines new transit efforts, design strategies, and other technical information.  How wide is a B.R.T. lane?  It’s in there: 11-13 feet.  What measures are developers taking to make their buildings green?  There’s a list.

What the document doesn’t have is the Holy Grail of skyscraper nerd-dom: News about any new developments in the area.  Every item listed is a project everyone already knows about.  However, there is a great map showing all of the current and potential development locations:

Screen Shot 2014-06-08 at 10.47.06 PMPacific Daylight Time


All of this will be old hat to the thousands of urban development professionals who read this blog on a daily basis.  But for those of us civilians in the audience, it’s a great primer on how those who run Chicago (the ones that actually do stuff, not the politicians) are steering our great metropolis on the edge of Lake Michigan.

Editor’s Note: While the City of Chicago defines the boundaries of Streeterville significantly differently than the authors of the Streeterville Neighborhood Plan, for the purposes of this article, we’ll work with the over-reaching S.O.A.R. definition, since they put so much hard work into the document.

Author: Editor

Editor founded the Chicago Architecture Blog in 2003, after a long career in journalism. He can be reached at

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