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Why greater metropolitan Chicago needs great places

A recent global survey showed residents of Chicago are some of the most satisfied and optimistic people in the world. With a population that is expected to grow by 2.8 million over the next 20 years, it is clear this optimism is spreading.

As the Chicago region grows, it is essential to remember what makes Chicagoland truly special. With 552 parks, 33 beaches, one of the world's largest conservatories, an 18-mile linear park along Lake Michigan, and more than 40 community gardens, it is easy to argue public spaces are a big part of what makes Chicago, well, Chicago.

Elderly man sitting by the lake

Many of the region's public spaces are officially maintained by the Chicago Park District or Cook County Forest Preserves. Unofficially, the people who live here are the reason these places work. They are the ones who dip their feet in the fountains on a hot summer day and connect with their neighbors at a community dog park. They spend their afternoons reading on a bench, playing pick-up softball games, and hosting impromptu barbecues. Without people, the great public places of Chicago—and thus the region itself—would not thrive.

For nearly 75 years, the Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) has partnered with everyone from block club presidents to mayors to maintain and enhance the quality of life in the Chicago region. Through our work, we are continually impressed by how much Chicagoans love their city—and by the variety of projects, large and small, residents tackle in an effort to make their neighborhoods and region even better.

Crowd of people at a Chicago park

MPC's partnership with Project for Public Spaces represents an exciting opportunity and challenge. For more than 30 years, PPS has been a recognized leader in community-based public space planning. Its expertise has been honed by projects in more than 2,000 communities in 26 countries around the world. By partnering with MPC to create a Chicago-specific Placemaking guide book and Web site, PPS recognizes the tremendous vitality of the Chicago region—and encourages us to do more.

The goal of this Web site is to do just that: help Chicagoans recognize the region's amazing public places and inspire action to preserve, improve and create new public spaces. We have identified the necessary tools and resources, and told the stories of people in the region who have brought positive change to their neighborhoods. Now, we ask you, the reader: What can you do to contribute to Chicago's bright future? What vision do you have for Chicago…your neighborhood…or even your own block?

A century ago, Chicago's visionary planner Daniel Burnham encouraged people to, "Make no little plans." Let's expand our imagination beyond Burnham's call to action and instead make lots of little plans! Even the smallest improvement or change can foster community life and beautify neighborhoods. Whether you are new to the area or have lived here your entire life, you can start making great places today!