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June 2019 Member Spotlight: Zach Borders

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...

Zach Borders

Civic ArtWorks, Co-founder / Director of Planning & Design

Tell us a little about yourself.

I grew up in Washington, Illinois and was inspired at an early age by the historic square and the mixed-use buildings that frame it. After flirting with the idea of becoming a Disney animator, I went to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign where I graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Architectural Studies, Master of Architecture, and Master of Urban Planning degrees. I started my professional career practicing architecture at Sullivan Goulette Wilson in Chicago and then worked at HOK where I joined their new Chicago planning studio. In 2012 I co-founded my own company, Civic ArtWorks, a neighborhood-building company that provides innovative civic engagement (Municipal digital platform) and educational tools (Regenerate Neighborhoods curriculum which won the 2016 APA-IL Award for Best Practices) so more people can play an active and equal role in making positive change in their community.

After early success, Civic ArtWorks was one of 8 selected from an international pool of 300+ social impact companies to participate in the Impact Engine business accelerator program located at 1871 (hub for the city’s thriving technology ecosystem) in Chicago’s Merchandise Mart. From there we have worked alongside communities on a wide range of projects including: a transportation plan for the Museum Campus, the “Transforming Wabash,” corridor plan, creating a sub-urban retrofit “Vision for Division” in Plainfield, IL, (which won the 2013 APA-IL Award for Best Community Outreach), a “Vision for Downtown Peoria and the Riverfront” master plan, and developing a civics and service learning curriculum for Chicago high school students that empowers them to be positive changemakers in their neighborhoods.

What are some of your current or notable projects?

Right now we are helping the Village of Antioch engage the public as they revise their zoning ordinance and develop new Traditional Neighborhood Design standards; working with the City of Peoria to generate a new budget alongside their citizens with the hope that we might connect past plan initiatives; and we are looking forward to working on the Village of Buffalo Grove’s new comprehensive plan alongside a talented consultant team of fellow planners.

Personally, I am using Municipal to build a campaign to make a street adjacent to my home in Oak Park safer for bicyclists and pedestrians. We just received support from Active Transportation Alliance and hope to partner with the nearby elementary school and engage students in a tactical urbanism effort this fall.

How have you been involved with the APA-IL?

I have not yet held any leadership roles with APA Illinois, although I look forward to the opportunity to do so in the future. However, I served as a board member for the Congress for the New Urbanism (2003-11) and helped start, and then led, the local chapter, CNU Illinois (2006-12). I took a break from leadership roles when my three children came along, but I am eager to get back into the mix.

What advice would you give to a new hire entering the field?​

Apply the design thinking process to any and all challenges that you face. For more information, check out IDEO’s introduction.


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