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November 2022 Member Spotlight: Colleen Malec, AICP

Updated: Nov 11, 2022

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 for All in Illinois!

This month, we talk with...

Colleen Malec, AICP

Senior Planner, Village of Mundelein

Reema Abi-Akar headshot
Colleen Malec, AICP

Tell us a little about yourself.

I grew up in the west Chicago suburbs in Woodridge, Illinois. Before developing an awareness of planning as a career option, I used to think I wanted to be an engineer (ultimately landing at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign). One urban planning elective later, I was completely captivated by the topic and switched majors. Urban planning had the complex problem-solving I enjoyed in engineering, but what really hooked me was the human element of planning that touches every decision and plan that crosses our desk. Municipal planning is a very fulfilling field in the way that you impact people and the built form of your community, and exciting in that every day is different and unpredictable.

  • University of Illinois - Bachelor of Arts in Urban Planning (2009-2013)

  • Champaign County Regional Planning Commission - Intern (2012-2013)

  • Houseal Lavigne Associates - Intern (2013)

  • Village of Mundelein (2013 - Present)

What are some of your current or notable projects?

Park Street, in the Village of Mundelein, is an ongoing passion project. In 2020, Mundelein closed off a block in our Downtown to vehicular traffic to support outdoor dining for restaurants during COVID-19. The "pop-up" space was immediately embraced by the community, drawing an unprecedented number of visitors to the area, and we have since pursued several placemaking and long-term planning initiatives in the area to keep the momentum going.

I'm our Staff Liaison to our Arts Commission, so I handle the behind-the-scenes logistics for our public art initiatives - some of our recent initiatives were our Stars on Parade (homage to Cows on Parade), a Mundelein "postcard" mural, and a sculptural installation called "Susurro" by Bruce Niemi. There is a lot of support for the arts in Mundelein, and we expect more to come in the next few years.

One of the bigger projects on our plate right now is Morris Station. Sterling Hall LLC recently broke ground on a redevelopment project (Morris Station) at a critical site in Downtown Mundelein that's key in reviving and transitioning our historically industrial downtown. Morris Station involves 139 townhomes on a site that formerly housed a lumber yard and recycling plant in the heart of Mundelein's Downtown, which took many years of collaboration between the Village, Sterling Hall, and private land owners to overcome the site's hurdles.

How have you been involved with the APA-IL?

I've been attending APA-IL events for about a decade, ever since my first conference in Evanston as an undergraduate. Last year, I finally took the step to get more involved by volunteering on the Professional Development committee, which hosts educational programming to build APA-IL planners' skills and toolsets. The APA-IL has helped shaped me into the planner I am today, so this experience has been very rewarding and I'm excited to continue growing into the role!

What is your favorite activity outside of the office?

I became a rather avid Dungeons and Dragons player in the midst of the pandemic, which is one hobby that translates well to a virtual format. I recommend it to anyone who's keen on gaming, fantasy, or sci-fi. It's scheduled social time, but also develops your improvisation, creativity, and problem-solving skills. There are also a lot of rules, and a LOT of group interpretation of said rules, which really appeals to people like me that nerd out over codes and regulations.


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