By Ron Mallis, Senior Planner
What’s striking about Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel’s March 29 announcement of an ambitious $7 billion overhaul of city infrastructure that relies on unusual financing mechanisms and extensive public-private cooperation is that the plan emerged at all. That is, in a national, not to say global, environment that appears to be about nothing but constraints, here comes Chicago, bringing Daniel Burnham’s dictum “make no little plans” into the 21st century. Sure enough, there are aspects of this proposal—which includes miles of new sewers, 180 acres of new parkland, transit improvements, energy retrofits for municipal buildings, and a fourth runway for O’Hare airport—that may be unique to Chicago, or to Emanuel’s similarly, um, singular personality. And the city’s Millennium Park is emblematic of those unique qualities. Robert Puentes, director of the metropolitan infrastructure initiative at the Brookings Institution, notes that lots of cities have lost patience with congressional inability to agree on spending priorities, which has hobbled federal infrastructure spending. They’ll be watching to see how Emmanuel’s plan works, he told the New York Times. “This is not just a Chicago story.” For my own part, though, I wonder if in fact this is a Chicago story. All answers, speculative or otherwise, greatly appreciated.