top of page

Urban Planning Excellence: A Recap of the 2023 APA-IL State Conference #APAIL23

Updated: Nov 6, 2023

A Campus of Knowledge, A Playground of Ideas

The echoes of laughter and the hum of excitement have faded as the 2023 APA-IL State Conference, held in the vibrant city of Naperville on the campus of North Central College, has come to an end. Just like the first day of school, this conference was an adventure waiting to unfold, promising a blend of fun and learning.

Imagine stepping into a classroom that isn't just about textbooks and lectures but about active participation and hearty laughter. That's exactly what the 2023 APA-IL State Conference offered. One thing that sets APA-IL's conferences apart is its unique blend of fun and education. It was a campus of knowledge where every attendee was not just a student but a participant, engaged from start to finish. Our speakers know that a little fun can go a long way in making learning more effective.

From the moment attendees arrived, the conference was a bustling campus of urban planning excellence. The "Registration Desk Open" sign hung proudly in the Wentz Concert Hall Lobby, welcoming planners and allied professionals from across the country (that's right - our furthest attendee was from California! Hi, Bob!).

The Classroom Experience: Breakout Sessions

The heart of any educational institution is its classrooms, and this conference offered an impressive array of "Breakout Sessions." While laughter was abundant, serious topics were not forgotten. The conference featured a wide array of sessions that delved into critical urban planning issues. From discussions on housing discrimination to strategies for green infrastructure in the Midwest, there was no shortage of valuable insights to be gained.

Monday's topics ranged from "Is it Time to Evolve the Comp Plan?" to "Improving Truck Movement Near You." It was an opportunity for planners to delve deep into critical urban planning subjects, just like students engrossed in their favorite subjects. Day two topics included "Ethics Cases of the Year" and "Navigating Renewable Energy for Host Communities." The conference closed on day three with a final set of "Breakout Sessions." Topics included "Jumping Hurdles: Getting Green Infrastructure Built in the Midwest" and "Tomorrowland: Sharing Small-Town History for the Future."

No school day is complete without lunch and a chance to unwind however, the learning didn't stop at the conference. Organized lunches provided attendees with nourishment for both body and mind. On Monday and Tuesday there were 3-4 opportunities for attendees to enjoy the restaurants in Downtown Naperville while listening to presentations (and earning a little CM too).

Two plenary sessions (images below) allowed attendees to gather together and reflect on two different issues. On Monday, APA-IL's mystery plenary speaker was APA-IL President Nina Idemudia, AICP who was recently named the CEO of the Center for Neighborhood Technology. The plenary session on Tuesday was regarding Illinois’ EV initiatives with Elizabeth Irvin, Deputy Director in IDOT.

Extracurriculars: Mobile Workshops (images below)

Just like exciting field trips, the conference offered "Mobile Workshops." Attendees explored topics like historic preservation challenges and downtown revitalization through immersive experiences.

After-School Activities: Awards, Murder, and Networking (images below)

As each "school day" ended, the fun continued.

On Monday, the annual Awards Ceremony was akin to a school assembly celebrating star students and outstanding projects. It was a glittering affair where outstanding planners and planning projects were celebrated. It's a reminder that the work done in the field of urban planning is making a tangible impact on communities. 2023 Project and Service Award winners took the stage at Wentz Concert Hall and were recognized for their accomplishments. Clapping and cheers abounded as many photos were taken and hugs given. After the Ceremony, Tier I Sponsor Houseal Lavigne sponsored the Awards Reception with delicious food and drink. That you to Houseal Lavigne!

Monday evening also include receptions from both the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign's Department of Urban and Regional Planning and the University of Illinois at Chicago's Department of Urban Planning and Public Policy.

On Tuesday, some attendees chose to attend the first-ever urban planning themed "Murder Mystery Dinner" where planners put on their detective hats for an evening of death and intrigue. Created by Phil Green, AICP, the plot thicken which each round of clues as teams of planners were desperately trying to figure out who killed Fabian Lotsodough Sr. At the end of the evening, all attendees were absolutely a gasp at the amazing storytelling experience along with finding out the identity of the perpetrator. Thank you Tier I Sponsor The Lakota Group for sponsoring such a great event!

Wednesday's social event did not disappoint as the Congress for New Urbanism - Illinois hosted a happy hour at nearby Hizeman's where attendees relished in the incredible three days they spent learning and laughing with peers.

Networking and Camaraderie (images above)

Beyond the sessions, the conference was a hub of networking and camaraderie. Planners, professionals, and urban enthusiasts mingled, shared ideas, and built connections. It was a reminder that the strength of this community lies not just in its knowledge but also in its bonds.

Graduation Day: Farewell and Looking Ahead

As the conference came to an end, attendees left with heads brimming with ideas, hearts full of inspiration, and contacts aplenty. LinkedIn posts sharing photos and lessons learned were in abundance. It was more than just a conference; it was a return to school - a place of growth, both professionally and personally.

The 2023 APA-IL State Conference was a resounding success that left everyone excited about the future of urban planning in Illinois. It was a reminder that this field is not just about plans and policies; it's about people, communities, and the future we all share.

2 people standing next to a poster of the alma mater from the University of Illinois
2024 Conference Co-Chairs Lily Wilcock & Lacey Rains Lowe will see you in Champaign-Urbana!

We can't wait to see everyone again in 2024! The 2024 APA-IL State Conference will be held in the Champaign-Urbana region at the iHotel and Illinois Conference Center, September 25-27, 2023.

The Call for Sessions is already open, the 2024 Sponsorship Prospectus is already available, hotel and registration rates are posted.

Stay inspired, stay informed, and keep planning for a better Illinois!


Thank You 2023-24 APA-IL Sponsors!

Visit the APA-IL Sponsor Directory for more information.


bottom of page