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2021 CMAP Regional Excellence Award winners

2021 Regional Excellence Award winners

The Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning’s (CMAP) Regional Excellence Awards program offers a unique opportunity for municipal leaders, nonprofits, transit agencies, and advocates to have their exceptional work recognized by peers from across northeastern Illinois. CMAP sought nominations for individuals and projects that prioritize equity, strengthen the resiliency of our 284 communities, and make them more economically competitive. 

Meet the winners of the 2021 CMAP Regional Excellence awards.

Equity with Impact

Austin Forward. Together.

Austin Coming Together

A community organization, Austin Coming Together mobilizes residents, organizations, and financial resources to improve quality of life for people living in Chicago’s west side neighborhood of Austin. The organization recently advanced this goal by developing a quality-of-life plan called Austin Forward. Together. The plan aims to improve education, housing, youth empowerment, economic development, public safety, and civic engagement.

More than 500 community stakeholders contributed to the quality-of-life plan, shaping strategies to address many issues. From growing the Chicago Avenue corridor to redeveloping a closed public school into a workforce development center, the plan outlines a number of opportunities that will benefit the community. It has generated over $14 million in investment since its launch in 2018.

Partners for Progress

Connect2Work

Village of Bedford Park

The Village of Bedford Park partnered with Cook County and the Regional Transportation Authority to develop and launch Connect2Work, a pilot program that helps transit riders navigate Bedford Park.

Through the Connect2Work mobile app, users can find the fastest available public transit route, ride a free shuttle during rush hour, and get discounted rates for late-night and last-mile rides. The late-night rides bridge the gap during times when public transportation is less frequent or when people feel less safe traveling, and the last-mile rides make it more convenient for those further away from stations to get to transit.

This program incentivizes users to choose transit over driving, which reduces congestion and shortens travel times. The village also partnered with Uber, Via, Moovit, Antero Group, and the Shared-Use Mobility Center to operate this program. More than 2,700 rides have been booked through Connect2Work since it launched in December 2020.

Regional Resilience

Buffalo Creek Reservoir Expansion

Lake County Forest Preserve District, Metropolitan Water Reclamation District, Village of Buffalo Grove

The Buffalo Creek reservoir expansion increased the region’s resiliency to flooding, while improving recreation opportunities. The $9.7 million project will help communities rebound more quickly from stronger storms and more frequent flooding expected due to climate change.

The reservoir expansion added 180 acre-feet flood storage and created 2 acres of wetland terrace. The innovative wetland terraces hold storm water longer to increase absorption and evaporation, reducing flooding in downstream communities in northeastern Illinois. The terraces also improve erosion control, supports a more diverse habitat, and removes pollutants more easily.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers estimated the project will reduce future flood damages by more than $26 million. Additionally, the project better serves users by adding 1.3 miles of trails and seven new boardwalks. It relocated existing trails out of flood-prone areas, expanded public parking, and improved public access to the existing Buffalo Creek Forest Preserve.

Visionary Leaders

Dr. Brian Sager

Dr. Brian Sager served as mayor of Woodstock for 16 years, working to make Woodstock more inclusive and economically competitive.

Under his leadership, Woodstock gained state support for the improvement and expansion of Route 47, a major thoroughfare for the McHenry County community. He also helped relocate and expand the landlocked Metra railyard from Crystal Lake to rural Woodstock, doubling the number of trains to the area and creating 100 permanent jobs.

Facing a rise in homelessness in the area, Brian led the conversion of an old firehouse into a homeless assistance center and chaired a regional team to create the county’s first year-round homeless facility.

After nearly 32 years in Woodstock government, Brian retired in 2021. From supporting arts and culture to improving quality of life for senior residents, Brian led efforts big and small to make Woodstock a better community for its residents.

Allison Swisher

As director of public utilities for Joliet, Allison Swisher led the city through the complex undertaking of securing a new water supply.

Faced with a depleting groundwater source that serves the city, Allison inspired Joliet and neighboring communities to take action. Allison gathered representatives from all over western Will County and formed a planning group to better understand the conditions of the aquifers.

At the same time, Allison launched Rethink Joliet Water to explore different water source alternatives, promote water conservation, and provide a regional solution. The city is proceeding with preliminary designs for new infrastructure needed to transport sourced from Lake Michigan. Communities in Will County are set to begin using the system in 2030. Due to Alison’s leadership, residents in Joliet will have reliable and high-quality water for years to come.

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2021 Regional Excellence Award winners

The Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning’s (CMAP) Regional Excellence Awards program offers a unique opportunity for municipal leaders, nonprofits, transit agencies, and advocates to have their exceptional work recognized by peers from across northeastern Illinois. CMAP sought nominations for individuals and projects that prioritize equity, strengthen the resiliency of our 284 communities, and make them more economically competitive. 

Meet the winners of the 2021 CMAP Regional Excellence awards.

Equity with Impact

Austin Forward. Together.

Austin Coming Together

A community organization, Austin Coming Together mobilizes residents, organizations, and financial resources to improve quality of life for people living in Chicago’s west side neighborhood of Austin. The organization recently advanced this goal by developing a quality-of-life plan called Austin Forward. Together. The plan aims to improve education, housing, youth empowerment, economic development, public safety, and civic engagement.

More than 500 community stakeholders contributed to the quality-of-life plan, shaping strategies to address many issues. From growing the Chicago Avenue corridor to redeveloping a closed public school into a workforce development center, the plan outlines a number of opportunities that will benefit the community. It has generated over $14 million in investment since its launch in 2018.

Partners for Progress

Connect2Work

Village of Bedford Park

The Village of Bedford Park partnered with Cook County and the Regional Transportation Authority to develop and launch Connect2Work, a pilot program that helps transit riders navigate Bedford Park.

Through the Connect2Work mobile app, users can find the fastest available public transit route, ride a free shuttle during rush hour, and get discounted rates for late-night and last-mile rides. The late-night rides bridge the gap during times when public transportation is less frequent or when people feel less safe traveling, and the last-mile rides make it more convenient for those further away from stations to get to transit.

This program incentivizes users to choose transit over driving, which reduces congestion and shortens travel times. The village also partnered with Uber, Via, Moovit, Antero Group, and the Shared-Use Mobility Center to operate this program. More than 2,700 rides have been booked through Connect2Work since it launched in December 2020.

Regional Resilience

Buffalo Creek Reservoir Expansion

Lake County Forest Preserve District, Metropolitan Water Reclamation District, Village of Buffalo Grove

The Buffalo Creek reservoir expansion increased the region’s resiliency to flooding, while improving recreation opportunities. The $9.7 million project will help communities rebound more quickly from stronger storms and more frequent flooding expected due to climate change.

The reservoir expansion added 180 acre-feet flood storage and created 2 acres of wetland terrace. The innovative wetland terraces hold storm water longer to increase absorption and evaporation, reducing flooding in downstream communities in northeastern Illinois. The terraces also improve erosion control, supports a more diverse habitat, and removes pollutants more easily.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers estimated the project will reduce future flood damages by more than $26 million. Additionally, the project better serves users by adding 1.3 miles of trails and seven new boardwalks. It relocated existing trails out of flood-prone areas, expanded public parking, and improved public access to the existing Buffalo Creek Forest Preserve.

Visionary Leaders

Dr. Brian Sager

Dr. Brian Sager served as mayor of Woodstock for 16 years, working to make Woodstock more inclusive and economically competitive.

Under his leadership, Woodstock gained state support for the improvement and expansion of Route 47, a major thoroughfare for the McHenry County community. He also helped relocate and expand the landlocked Metra railyard from Crystal Lake to rural Woodstock, doubling the number of trains to the area and creating 100 permanent jobs.

Facing a rise in homelessness in the area, Brian led the conversion of an old firehouse into a homeless assistance center and chaired a regional team to create the county’s first year-round homeless facility.

After nearly 32 years in Woodstock government, Brian retired in 2021. From supporting arts and culture to improving quality of life for senior residents, Brian led efforts big and small to make Woodstock a better community for its residents.

Allison Swisher

As director of public utilities for Joliet, Allison Swisher led the city through the complex undertaking of securing a new water supply.

Faced with a depleting groundwater source that serves the city, Allison inspired Joliet and neighboring communities to take action. Allison gathered representatives from all over western Will County and formed a planning group to better understand the conditions of the aquifers.

At the same time, Allison launched Rethink Joliet Water to explore different water source alternatives, promote water conservation, and provide a regional solution. The city is proceeding with preliminary designs for new infrastructure needed to transport sourced from Lake Michigan. Communities in Will County are set to begin using the system in 2030. Due to Alison’s leadership, residents in Joliet will have reliable and high-quality water for years to come.

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CMAP Regional Excellence Awards

SOTR booklet 2021