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July 26, 2018

Students help plan for Chicago region's future during tenth Future Leaders in Planning program

Jul 26, 2018

Students help plan for Chicago region's future during tenth Future Leaders in Planning program

This summer marked the tenth year of CMAP’s Future Leaders in Planning (FLIP), a leadership development opportunity for northeastern Illinois high school students to learn about urban planning and contribute to a better future for the Chicago region. In July 2018, 40 students from Cook, DuPage, Kane, Kendall, Lake, McHenry, and Will counties participated in FLIP, including 10 students through a new partnership with the Chicago Architecture Foundation’s Teen Fellows program. The weeklong FLIP program was capped off by an open house where students had the opportunity to show their family what they learned during the week. Each day of the 2018 FLIP program included multiple opportunities for the students to see planning and community engagement in action.

Day One

FLIP’s Monday session began with icebreakers to help students from across the region get to know one another. In the morning, CMAP’s Drew Williams-Clark spoke about the principles of urban planning, as well as CMAP’s role in Chicago’s regional planning and the ON TO 2050 comprehensive plan. Students then participated in a scavenger hunt in Chicago’s Loop, where they tried to find such features as CTA stops, LEED-certified buildings, and public art.

Afterwards, students became stakeholders in FLIPville, a mock community facing the challenge of negotiating a development project. In groups such as city council, developers, residents, and environmentalists, students attempted to reach an agreement that would take into account the many sides and issues that accompany development. Ultimately, the project was passed by the FLIPville city council and they were reelected to much fanfare.

Day Two

On Tuesday, students began the day with a trip to Jackson Park, the future location of the Obama Presidential Center. A representative from Site Design Group, the landscape architecture firm for the project, was on site to speak about the history of the area and the considerations of the project, which will change the landscape and economy of the neighboring Woodlawn community.


Students then traveled to the next location, Experimental Station, which serves as a mechanical and bike training program, an advocacy organization, a farmer’s market, a home for the South Side Weekly publication, and a business incubator. Students had a chance to hear from a representative from the Obama Foundation and then design their own plan for the future center’s plaza. Plans included features such as bike racks, fountains, green spaces, and public forum spaces.


Back at CMAP, students began work on their final project, a series of canvasses in which students could visualize the three principles of ON TO 2050 – Resilience, Inclusive Growth, and Prioritized Investment -- and across different scales of urban planning – site, community, and regional.

Day Three

Wednesday’s session focused on the reuse of spaces. Students spent the morning at Plant Chicago, a non-profit organization in Chicago’s Back of the Yards community, where they learned about sustainability and The Plant’s circular economy (Waste output is repurposed as input for other functions in a closed loop of material reuse).

Students then had a lunch and learn with Teresa Fraga from the Pilsen Neighbors Community Council and Gerardo Garcia from the City of Chicago Department of Planning and Development at La Villita Park. Built on a previously contaminated area of barren land, La Villita fulfills a need in the neighborhood for a park and community space. Learning about shared spaces continued in El Paseo Community Garden.

Day Four

On Thursday, FLIP students traveled on the CTA’s Blue Line to mHUB, a collaborative co-working space that provides members with resources, accommodations, and community to work on projects, create businesses, and develop innovative ideas. During lunch, representatives from SparkShop, Fair Trade Chicago, and the CMAP regional economy team discussed the changing nature of work and the skills needed to succeed in our changing economy.


Afterwards, students continued to Metropolis Coffee’s roasterie, where they toured the processes of coffee processing, learned about ethical production, and discussed the challenges of growing a business from a small to large enterprise.

Day Five

Students began the final day of FLIP week with a Wendella Boats Chicago river architecture tour, exploring the city by water and hearing about Chicago’s historic and current cityscape, thanks to support from the Metropolitan Planning Council.


Back at the CMAP office, they had roundtable conversations with planning professionals from University of Illinois-Chicago, Creative Grounds, the Quad Cities Development Corporation, the Chicago Department of Planning and Development, and CMAP. Afterwards, students competed in one final round of FLIP trivia and finished their final projects.

Final Event

At the FLIP Final Event, FLIP students showcased their work from throughout the week to their family and guests. Students expressed the need to think about the three principles of ON TO 2050 in combination, and spoke about ways they plan to use what they learned during FLIP to enact change in their communities.

Thank you to all of our partners for their support during the 2018 FLIP program. Check the CMAP webpage in spring 2019 for applications for the next FLIP class.

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