Updated: Jan 1
Every month, the APA-IL will turn the spotlight on members who are making an impact in Illinois urban planning and with the APA-IL. These members exemplify the APA-IL's determination to Make Great Communities in Illinois!
This month, we talk with...
Christina Bader, AICP
Chicago Transit Authority, Project Manger, External Programs
Tell us a little about yourself.
I grew up in Alton, Illinois, a historic Mississippi River town 25 miles north of St. Louis. At an early age, I became aware of how yearly river flooding impacted our community, so I definitely internalized elements of environmental planning and hazard mitigation planning without realizing it. It’s an incredibly powerful thing to see your community’s downtown underwater and to understand it is a continual threat. Alton also has several historic districts and beautiful historic buildings, some dating back to before the Civil War, which I always loved. I initially became interested in planning through historic preservation, but soon realized I was interested in all aspects of it.
I studied Architectural Studies at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, followed by a Masters of Urban Planning & Policy at University of Illinois-Chicago. I started my career at Farr Associates in Chicago where I worked as a planner on really innovative sustainability-focused master plans, TOD plans, and form-based codes. I also worked on some of Illinois’ first LEED for Neighborhood Development projects and became a LEED-ND accredited professional. I work now at the Chicago Transit Authority as an External Programs Project Manager, working to grow our ridership through employer connections and programs like Transit Benefits. (Readers, if your employer doesn’t offer transit benefits, lets talk!)
What are some of your current or notable projects?
I’ve had the great experience of working on many types of planning projects close to home and all over the country, all with a focus on sustainability and creating complete, walkable neighborhoods.
I worked on TOD form-based codes for several Chicago suburbs who were supported by RTA to implement their existing station area plans. I worked on the teams that LEED-ND certified the South Chicago SouthWorks brownfield and the Whistler Crossing affordable residential development in Riverdale, Illinois.
I had the opportunity to host a week-long community design charrette in Traverse City, Michigan, as part of the Envision 8th Street Master Plan. The charrette created a vision for a corridor where the street’s many users had conflicting ideas about its future. As a result of that project, the City will open their region’s first off-street cycle track in October this year with strong community support.
How have you been involved with the APA-IL?
I became active in the Chapter early in my career by attending events, the State Conference, and helping plan monthly programs for the APA-CMS section. In 2015, I became the APA-IL Mentoring Chair where I served for three years.
You also may have seen me on stage as the Awards Program Chair since 2017. From working with the planners on our great juries every year to developing the awards ceremony for the conference, I’ve loved chairing our Awards Program. My notification phone calls to the winning teams each year have definitely been a highlight. If you haven't submitted a 2019 Awards Nomination, it's not too late - we've extended our nomination deadline to June 28th!
What advice would you give to a new hire entering the field?
As the APA-IL Mentoring Program Chair, I always got a lot of questions about networking and putting yourself out there.
My advice is that networking doesn’t have to be stereotypical schmoozing at events if that’s not your thing. It’s really just about cultivating relationships with the people you know. When you’re first starting out, you may not know that many people, and that’s ok! Start by getting coffee or lunch with former classmates and co-workers. Go to events with someone you know to make it more comfortable (and to keep you from canceling!) Join a committee or board where you want to donate your time and get to know those new colleagues. Plan a community or professional event relating to your work. Join an APA Division and meet planners in your field of interest from across the country. Everyone you meet along the way becomes your network, and hopefully maintaining those authentically developed relationships won’t seem so hard.