2018 APA-IL Chapter Awards

We are proud to announce the 2018 APA-IL Award Winners! These outstanding planning plans and people from across Illinois exemplify the practice of urban planning and each stand as an example of ways our members are “Making Great Communities Happen”. Please scroll down the page for our 2018 Service Awards. Congratulations to all!

2018 Awards Ceremony, recorded by I3 Events 9/26/18

Thank you to the 2018 Awards Jury. It’s no small effort to read and review all the great project nominations we receive.

  • Ricardo Lopez

  • Marya Morris, FAICP

  • Jon Oliphant, AICP

  • Kimberly Morris

  • Tom Dabareiner, AICP

  • Rob Kowalski, FAICP

  • Malika Hainer, AICP

  • Audrey Wennink, and

  • Chris Wallace, AICP

2018 Project Awards

Daniel Burnham Award for a Comprehensive Plan

The Town of Normal is well known for its embrace of smart growth principles in areas like Uptown, and the Normal Comprehensive Plan 2040 calls for complete, connected, and compact development throughout the entire community. Deviating from past approaches where land was divided by individual use, the plan is organized by a new framework of “Neighborhoods, Centers, and Corridors.”

Best Practice

Wishing your community could adopt a progressive parking ordinance? Planners in Champaign share how they successfully eliminated parking requirements in core areas, improving the quality of new development in these neighborhoods.

Community Outreach Award

To create a long-term vision for future priorities and resource allocation, the Elmhurst Park District undertook a comprehensive community outreach process that facilitated over 3,000 community touch points, and included interviews, open houses, online opinion polls, and a statistically validated survey.

Implementation Award

Great Rivers Chicago is the first-ever unifying vision for Chicago’s three rivers – the Chicago, Des Plaines, and Calumet. Of the 26 major goals presented in the plan, 18 are in progress. These include access improvement plans, urban design and infrastructure implementation, and the ongoing engagement of residents in on-water recreational, educational, and stewardship activities.

Implementation Award

The Illinois Tollway SmartRoad & Pace I-90 Market Expansion Program proves that large agencies can embrace new ideas and get implemented results. With added transit-ready flex lanes that allow busses to bypass traffic congestion, new stations, and pedestrian connection improvements, the program is making regional bus commuting an attractive option.

Strategic Plan Award

How would you improve the quality of life in your neighborhood? These inspiring examples of community-driven planning for the Auburn Gresham and Englewood neighborhoods in Chicago centered resident voices and concerns. With a focus on capacity building, residents formed task force groups to develop action plans for priority areas like health, education, youth development, local entrepreneurship, faith-based institutions, and public safety.

Healthy Active Community Award

Healthy Chicago 2.0’s datamining and use of GIS and other mapping tools, combined with illustrations and graphics, result in compelling public health stories that direct attention to place-based issues and opportunities. The plan demonstrates how urban planning and public health practitioners and advocates can work together to make communities healthier and more equitable.

Student Award

UIC students embraced the “make no little plans” mantra. In three plans for their Plan Making Studio class, their ideas for a vacant 77-acre site on the Chicago River embrace equity, urban design, and sustainability.

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2018 Service Awards

Our 2018 Service Award winners were announced at the 2018 APA-IL State Conference during our Awards Program on September 26, 2018. Our Service Awards are nominated by the general membership and selected by the voting members of our APA-IL Executive CommitteeAfter the Awards Program, guests and attendees mingled with award winners and exhibitors at a meet and greet.  


Two of our award winners, Rob and Libby have also been married for over 30 years and were enjoying their recent retirements, and traveling in New Zealand, so could not attend the conference. They were generous enough to send a short message to the Chapter. Please click here to watch the video and taken in some of New Zealand's gorgeous landscape.

Paola Aguirre

Emerging Planner

Paola founded Borderless Studio in 2016, an urban design and research practice based in Chicago. Borderless is focused on cultivating collaborative design agency through interdisciplinary projects. Paola has been trained as an architect and urban designer, and her professional experience includes working with government, universities, and urban design offices– both in Mexico and the United States.


Her career in Chicago started in 2011 at SOM’s City Design Practice, where she had the opportunity to work on numerous master plans around the world. She joined Place Lab in 2015, a multi-disciplinary team assembled by artist and urban planner Theaster Gates based in University of Chicago’s Arts Incubator. 

Paola is extremely passionate about research and collaborative work, and she currently is working on two projects that focus on the importance of cultivating civic agency. The first is called City Open Workshop, a community forum and workshop space for young professionals and community members to come together around civic projects. A second project is called Creative Grounds, which she started in response to the Chicago Public Schools school closings in 2013. The goal of the project calls for a just transition and an equitable approach to the repurposing process of these school sites.

This year, Paola collaborated with artist Tonika Lewis Johnson on the Folded Map Project, which connects residents who live at corresponding addresses in the North and South Side neighborhoods of Chicago. An exhibit about the project, featuring a wall-sized map designed by Paola, is currently on display at the Loyola University Museum of Art.


“Paola has played a significant role in uplifting the planning community in Chicago through her teaching, design collaborations, and volunteer work. She possesses a rare combination of creative design, analytic, collaborative, and communication skills, along with the drive and determination to help communities. She truly exemplifies what it means to be an emerging urban planner in 2018.” -- Adam Rosa, AICP, Camiros

Mark Peterson

Planning Advocate

Mark served as Normal Town Manager for over 20 years, and worked for the Town for over 30, retiring earlier this year. During his time as Town Manager, Mark played a critical role in all aspects of Uptown Normal’s redevelopment, which began almost 20 years ago. Today Uptown demonstrates one of the most dramatic Illinois urban transformation outside of Chicago.


The Uptown plan called for the Town to set the table for private developers, a role Mark embraced. He led the creation of the town’s first-ever TIF district, the adoption of a form-based code, and capital investments in innovative, sustainable urban design and infrastructure. The physical aspects of the plan were built through more than 30 individual transit, infrastructure, and building construction projects. This includes, but is definitely not limited to–  Uptown Station, the Uptown Circle, the Children’s Discovery Museum, two hotels, and a conference center. Uptown also established Normal’s reputation as an early adopter of sustainability. Under his leadership they became the first U.S. municipality to require LEED building certification in 2002, and certified Uptown under LEED-ND in 2008. 


Mark will rightly credit the very hard work of staff members around him, however, he can’t deny the credit for setting the tone and the pace of the Uptown implementation effort. He was the consummate planning advocate. There was no component of the project for which Mark did not demand excellence, whether in the design of an event poster or the wording in a letter to business owners impacted by a street project.


Mark was also relentless in his advocacy for forward momentum. At times, it seemed like the team was unnecessarily pushing everything, but then when a bump hit, the project was fortunate to have accomplished so much. If so much hadn’t been implemented before the economic downturn in 2008, Uptown wouldn’t be what it is today.

The administration of Mark Peterson also centered other planning issues. He demonstrated a commitment to historic preservation with the renovation of the 1938 Art Deco Normal Theater, the preservation of the Camelback Bridge, and other landmarks now on the National Register of Historic Places. Recreational opportunities also grew tremendously under Mark’s leadership with the creation and explosive growth of the Constitution Trail system, among others.


Mark’s combination of congeniality, hard work, teamwork, and humility is the secret sauce of implementing municipal projects.

Rob Olshansky, FAICP

Distinguished Service

Rob is a world-renowned expert on planning for recovery from natural disasters. He is an Emeritus Professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign after serving as a professor in the Department of Urban and Regional Planning there for 28 years. 


Professionally, he conducted groundbreaking research on recovery from earthquakes in California, Japan, China, and India, and co-authored the definitive study of post- Hurricane Katrina recovery planning efforts in New Orleans. His work has promoted international collaboration among researchers and advanced the practice and policy of post-disaster recovery worldwide. He has been an influential educator at the University of Illinois and University of California-Berkeley, teaching generations of planners to create environmentally sensitive plans.


Rob has a history of leadership with the Chapter, including serving on the APA-IL Executive Committee as the UIUC Faculty Representative for over 20 years. He fostered a successful connection between practitioners and academia. When planning students began their time at the University of Illinois, Rob was the first to introduce them to the Student Planning Organization and APA-IL. He was also involved in developing ethics sessions at the State Conference for many years.


Rob was inducted as a Fellow of the American Institute of Certified Planners in 2012. Some of Rob's many national APA contributions include: serving on the Editorial Board and as Co-Book Review Editor for the Journal of the American Planning Association, published work in Planning Magazine and through the APA Planners Press, as well as serving on the National Planning Awards jury for several years. He is a member of APA Hazard Mitigation and Disaster Recovery Planning Division.

Elizabeth "Libby" Tyler, FAICP

Distinguished Service

Libby is a consulting planner with over 35 years of experience in community, land use, and environmental planning at the local, regional, and federal levels. She recently retired as the Community Development Services Director for the City of Urbana, where she served for over 17 years, overseeing programs in planning and zoning, economic development, affordable housing, and building safety. She currently is a visiting adjunct lecturer in the Department of Urban and Regional Planning at the University of Illinois


She holds degrees from the University of Colorado, the University of California at Berkeley, and a Ph.D. in Regional Planning from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Her planning research and professional interests include neighborhood planning, community development, planning for healthy communities, downtown revitalization, and public involvement. 


Libby’s service to APA and our chapter goes back to the very beginning. She was a Charter Member of the American Planning Association in 1978. She was the first female planner in Illinois to be recognized as a Fellow of the American Institute of Certified Planners when she was inducted in 2008. She is a member of APA’s Diversity Committee– and served previously on the APA Divisions Council and as past chair of the Women & Planning Division. For the Illinois Chapter, Libby was involved early as an officer in the what was then called the Greater Illinois Section and helped work to grow it into the Illinois State Section we know today. She also helped plan some of the first APA-IL State Conferences at Starved Rock State Park and served as the Chapter Newsletter Editor. She has been a consummate presence at APA-IL conferences over the years, presenting on both timely planning topics, but also participating in several mentoring FAICP panels.

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2017 APA-IL Chapter Awards

We are proud to announce the 2017 APA-IL Award Winners! These outstanding planning plans and people from across Illinois exemplify the practice of urban planning and each stand as an example of ways our members are “Making Great Communities Happen”. Please scroll down the page for our 2017 Service Awards. Congratulations to all!

Watch our 2017 Awards Ceremony

Recorded LIVE, September 13, 2017 by i3 Events

2017 Awards Program, September 13, 2017 

2017 Project Awards

Daniel Burnham Award

A comprehensive plan that utilized scenario planning to right-size a city that never grew to meet optimistic population projections.

Best Practice

Check out Downtown Rockford’s “TLC: Tactical, Lean, Climax” approach for action when your community has years of past plans but hasn’t been able to kickstart implementation.

While the strategies in the Strategic Action Plan were customized for application in Downtown Rockford, the overarching “TLC” principles can be applied in any neighborhood. Check out the companion toolkit which uses the Downtown Strategic Action Plan as a case study and provides step-by-step guidance on how to apply the “TLC” principles in other neighborhoods in Rockford, and elsewhere.

Community Outreach Award

Envision Oak Park provided meaningful opportunities for residents to contribute directly to the plan. For example, groups of resident experts developed implementation metrics on topics uniquely relevant to the community.

Community Outreach Award

A best practice in how to conduct a master plan update packed with great ideas for outside-the-box engagement.

Implementation Award