The Department of Planning and Development for the City of Chicago will launch the Committee on Design as a part of the planning and review process for developments in Chicago. This new committee is aimed to establish a platform for standardized, elevated design while expediting the Department of Planning and Development review process.
The goals of this new advisory board is to strengthen design of the built environment and open spaces in Chicago, establish a set of design standards, create transparency of process and improved communication, and to ultimately expedite the Planned Development review process for certain projects by promoting an advisory peer review model.
Planned to begin as a pilot program, eligibility for the committee will be based on projects that would impact the character of the surrounding context. These developments will include any mega planned developments, any projects that use city resources such as Invest South/West and competitions like C40, any projects located in special corridors or that are adjacent to landmarks, and projects that are supertall (984 feet or taller) or mega tall (1,968 feet or taller).
As part of this new initiative, the existing review process will be revised. Currently a feedback loop occurs during the review process between developers and city planners that adds time to the process. With the new version, an early step, called Concept Review, before the typical proposal intake allows for applicants to discuss early proposals with staff to begin the process sooner. After the initial intake, the project review process will introduce the Committee on Design step at the early stages of the timeline to allow for earlier feedback.
On the later end of the process, steps of the process are removed as reviews have begun earlier allowing for changes to be made sooner, working in partnership rather than contention. By in effect streamlining the process, there is a potential to shorten the review and approval process by 75-90 days. This new order will not replace design and development reviews occurring in individual wards or community groups.
The committee will comprise 15 members, with the possibility to include up to 3 Chicago Plan Commission members. Each of the seven regional planning districts will be represented by at least one member. The professional fields of architecture, community development, engineering, fine art, landscape architecture, preservation, public art, urban design, and urban planning will be represented, as diversely as feasible, by one member. Members will be appointed to the panel.
The Department of Planning and Development has spent the months of January through March engaging with stakeholders including aldermen, community groups, and professionals. Applications to the committee will open this month with applications reviewed in April and May 2021. The panel will be appointed in May with the first meeting occurring in May as well. All meetings will be open to the public for comment and engagement.