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Each year, the Illinois Chapter recognizes the best in planning across Illinois with our annual awards program. These plans exemplify the tremendous planning efforts across the State of Illinois. 

Awards News

Awards News


2023 APA-IL Project Awards

The Illinois Chapter of the American Planning Association (APA-IL) is pleased to announce the 2023 project award recipients. The Chapter received a total of 21 nominations for outstanding examples of planning in Illinois. Congratulations to all who are recognized for their hard work, which seeks to advance the profession of planning in Illinois and nationwide!

Service Award winners will be announced on September 11, 2023 at the 2023 APA-IL State Conference. Scroll down to view the winners.

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Daniel Burnham Award for a Comprehensive Plan

We Will Chicago: A framework plan for the city's future


Submitted by City of Chicago Department of Planning and Development


We Will Chicago, the first citywide plan for Chicago since 1966, was created, reviewed and refined by thousands of Chicagoans through a community-driven, data-informed process centered on equity and resiliency. The We Will Chicago citywide plan is a visionary, 10-year framework plan to advance neighborhood growth and vibrancy, and ensure that all residents can live in healthy, safe communities and feel a sense of belonging and ownership of their neighborhood and our beloved city. This plan reflects the insights of hundreds of residents, artists, community organizers, nonprofits, business and civic leaders and over 100 city and sister agency staff who collaborated for nearly three years to establish the plan’s overall structure, goals and objectives to address the City’s most fundamental needs. Support for this plan’s vision is clear: Nearly 90% of over 10,000 Chicagoans who reviewed the draft We Will Chicago plan in the summer of 2022 agreed with its goals and objectives. Implementing this vision for a more equitable and resilient city will require tapping into the strength, creativity and passion of residents in all 77 communities, and deep collaboration with our network of community organizations, faith-based partners, businesses, and civic and philanthropic leaders.

Click here to view the plan!

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Strategic Plan Award

Soul City Corridor, Chicago Avenue Development Framework Plan


Submitted by Perkins and Will

The Soul City Corridor—Chicago Avenue in the Austin Neighborhood of Chicago focuses on reversing inequity in neighborhood development by guiding revitalization of underutilized land to address neighborhood needs and aspirations. Catalyzing equitable, transit-oriented development is the central focus of this project. Under the City of Chicago’s Invest SouthWest Initiative, the plan guides public and private investment; a roadmap for stakeholders, residents, City officials, and developers to follow. It identifies sites of interest that are susceptible to redevelopment, and it applies both real estate market research and neighborhood input to form highest-and-best use recommendations. Quality of life is at the forefront as it includes access to fresh foods, health care, provision of community services, pedestrian improvements, affordable and market-rate housing, and improving ‘eyes-on-the-street’ safety.

Click here to view the plan website.

Click here to view the plan.

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Strategic Plan Award

Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) Red Line Extension (RLE)

Transit-Supportive Development (TSD) Plan

Submitted by Solomon Cordwell Buenz (SCB)

The CTA's Red Line Extension (RLE) Transit-Supportive Development (TSD) Plan represents a vision for transformational community impact, realizing the City of Chicago’s commitment to investing in the Far South Side and spur the development of more livable, transit-supportive communities and help reverse decades of disinvestment in local business districts. The Plan’s vision, focused on transit equity, prioritizes equity through opportunities for economic development, quality of life, and community around four new stations. It provides a detailed vision for significant catalytic projects, strategic neighborhood infill development, open space connectivity, and multimodal improvements for pedestrian, bike, and bus access. The implementation plan includes detailed development proformas; a toolkit of policies; incentives to implement transit-supportive development and increase the number of people living near transit; and incentives to expand housing choice options, support business development, and spur employment growth.

Click here to view the plan.

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Best Practice Award

Chicago Recovery Plan: Operationalizing Equitable Grant-Making


Submitted by the City of Chicago Department of Planning and Development

The Chicago Recovery Plan (CRP) is the City of Chicago Department of Planning and Development’s strategy to amplify once-in-a-generation federal funding and create equity-based investment to catalyze sustainable economic recovery from the COVID pandemic. Funding from both the American Rescue Plan Act and over $600M in Social Impact Bonds were allocated through 2024. The integrated plan designed to drive transformational change invests along two main themes: Thriving and Safe Communities (the well-being of people and communities; and improving community safety) and Equitable Economic Recovery (creating impartial economic recovery for communities hardest hit by the COVID pandemic). The success of the CRP was secured by targeting interventions to enhance communities most in need. CRP created online user-friendly applications and established a unique scorecard for each program which prioritized an inclusive review process by an Advisory Committee. CRP’s standout work in operationalizing equity within the grant-making process transformed public funding and ensured fairness. CRP has processed 4,000 applications and disbursed $150M to 250 grantees. 

Click here to view the website!


Advancing Diversity and Social Change Award

POP! Heights Park


Submitted by Lamar Johnson Collaborative


POP! Heights Park transforms three empty parcels into a large bright, welcoming public open space for the Rosedale neighborhood. The focus was on creating a multi-functional space where each use supports movement and the health of residents and welcomes people in from the community. This project benefits residents by providing inspiring, beautiful, and culturally relevant programmed community spaces. While Roseland is grounded in rich history and family values, it lacks engaging, dedicated public spaces that encourage residents of all ages to connect. This project presents new opportunities to unite community members in accessible, creative, and exciting ways. Activating these vacant parcels increase residents’ access to arts, culture, and nature.

Click here to visit the project website.


Advancing Diversity and Social Change Award

Logan Square Blue Line TOD Development Action Plan


Submitted by the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP)

The Logan Square Blue Line Action Plan used public transit as a community asset to drive neighborhood vitality in a way that was reflective of residents’ needs and wants. It put community residents and people of color at the center –– challenging the systems that have traditionally excluded them from decision-making –– and finding ways to engage and empower people with lived experiences in the very conversations that determine what gets built in their community. The action plan built upon solutions that address neighborhood displacement and inequities. The strategies outlined in the plan consider a variety of intents, including boosting transit ridership, encouraging more walking and biking, preserving legacy and small businesses, protecting the immigrant community, providing safe and welcoming spaces for the existing community, and making the built environment more accessible and safer for all users regardless of age or ability. The plan’s strategies advance principles of equitable transit-oriented development and preserve spaces that enable longstanding residents and businesses to stay in Logan Square.

Click here to view the plan website!

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Historic Exploration Award

Adventures in Stockton: Placemaking Initiative

Submitted by: All Together

Adventures in Stockton brought together a team of artists, writers, and fabricators to program a digital walking tour that was so much more than a walking tour. They worked closely with the Stockton Heritage Museum to immerse themselves in the history of the area and wove together a narrative that positions Stockton, IL, as a place for trailblazers, wonder seekers, and curious dreamers—past and present. At a time when the history of small towns across America is slowly being lost, connecting this history to the next generation through immersive public art and digital exploration is key to ensure we do not forget where we came from. The residents and elected officials in Stockton needed this reminder that their story is worth celebrating, that their town is worth visiting, and that their downtown is worth investing in.

Click here to view the Adventures in Stockton website.

Click here to view the project.

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Student Project Award

Chicago’s New Nature: An Ecological Override Plan

Project Completed By: Abdullah Chaudhry, Aayush Patel, Alek Jaunzemis, Dinesh Prasad, Grace Hebert, Mikaela Uddfolk, Molly Delaney, Neha Thunga, Janhavi Manjrekar, Wen Po Hsu, Punya Vats, Ravi Thakker, Sara Zandi, Shashwat Arya. Studio instructors: Sevin Yildiz and Phil Enquist.

Programs: Masters of City Design and Master of Urban Planning and Policy at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC)

The Spring 2023 Studio focused on how a history of natural abundance and recent legal precedents could give way to a rights of nature movement in the Chicago region. The Plan investigates how factors of influence have degraded and fragmented the region’s natural systems and over time disconnected its communities from nature and each other. In effect, the plan challenges individuals to reconsider the suite of possibilities for the built environment and natural systems woven throughout the Chicago region. 

Chicago’s New Nature focuses on the ‘C’ - the shape created by the Des Plaines River, the Chicago River, and the Calumet Sag Channel confluence - and the resulting inner island of land that defines the south and southeast sides of Chicago. The Plan provides a pathway for a new kind of built environment, one which embraces the City in a Garden’s rich and diverse ecotones. As a result, new networks of connectivity better situate the Chicago region to adapt to the effects of climate change and improve living conditions for local ecosystems and communities. Adaptation strategies explored included a green roof network, railways as natural corridors, waterways as safe havens and community focal points, and other place-based solutions.

Click here to view the plan!

Service Awards

2023 Service Award Winners


Emerging Planner Award

Reema Abi-Akar

Reema has been an invaluable member of the APA-IL Membership Committee since 2020, consistently offering thoughtful insights and an infectious can-do attitude. She spearheaded an innovative careers session at the APA-IL's state conference, creating an engaging Jeopardy-style game that received high praise. Reema has also actively supported planners across the state through virtual networking sessions and speaking engagements. Her dedication to the profession, region, and content creation on social media make her a deserving candidate for this award, setting a high standard for future nominees.


Distinguished Service Award

Brandon Nolin, FAICP


Brandon Nolin's distinguished service to APA-IL for over a decade is commendable. Starting in 2009, he co-chaired the Emerging Planners Group (now the Emerging Professional Planners Group), addressing the need for networking among young professionals. Brandon then served as APA-IL Chicago Metro Section's Treasurer and Director, leading inclusive and thought-provoking programming. He prioritized engaging the next generation of planners, fostering student opportunities. Additionally, his work securing sponsorships greatly benefited APA-IL. Brandon's mentorship and resourcefulness continue to be invaluable to the organization's future success.

Awards Archives

APA-IL Chapter Awards Archives

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