Every summer the City of Chicago hosts internships in multiple city wards and departments. Last summer, I was granted the opportunity to be a Public Service Intern with the City of Chicago Department of Planning and Development (DPD). The DPD is the largest department in Chicago’s City Hall; it consists of more than two hundred employees and the following bureaus: Housing, Economic Development, and Planning & Zoning. As a Public Service Intern, I worked under DPD Deputy Commissioner, Mike Simmons. My assignments were focused on the City of Chicago Large Lot Program and the DPD’s community engagement tasks.
The City of Chicago’s Large Lot program is a collaborative initiative that allows property owners within Garfield Park to purchase land on the block that they reside on for $1. The reason why the buying price was $1 is because these lots are sold “as is” and the city makes no revenue by owning them. This initiative puts city owned property, back in the hands of Chicagoans, while increasing tax revenue. I reviewed and analyzed Large Lot applications for errors and accurate information, while assisting Mike Simmons and related personnel. This duty taught me how to control sprawl and create taxes, while providing cheap sustainable land at no cost.
During my internship, I was invited to attend multiple Ward Listening Tours. On these tours, an Alderman/Alderwoman and DPD personnel would visit the alderperson’s ward in a City Pool van for a couple hours without external interruptions and political gridlock that involves following the chain of command. These tours created an opportunity for the DPD and Alderperson to openly discuss suggestions and recommendations for future housing and infrastructure developments. It not only allowed for direct communication but also provided a space where all personnel could be upfront (candid) with each other in efforts to continue to Rebuild Chicago.
My Community Engagement Assignment taught me a lot about Urban Planning. I worked with multiple DPD personnel to develop proposals that would allow for community outreach and engagement. They included:
1. A DPD Virtual Facilitation Link that allows Chicagoans to see DPD’s and their own impact within their resided communities. This facilitation link provides a snapshot of a community’s future assuming current trends continue. It forecasts pollution, DPD developments, DPD propaganda, and simulations on how to secure a Chicago Bungalow. Chicagoans will be able to go to DPD’s website to see virtual 3-D approved developments.
2. Annual Block Tour: A DPD Internal Walkthrough of the Community. Each year, selected DPD personnel or interns participate in a DPD Annual Block Tour similar to the DPD Ward Tours. The substantial difference is a push for DPD personnel or interns to participate in a walkthrough of the community with residents instead of driving with an alderman.
3. Architecture Parks: A partnership between the DPD, community members, Chicago Public Schools, Mayor Emanuel, and the Chicago Park District. This unification would result in property within the Chicago Large Lot program being turned into a park that teaches children about national and international landmarks.
4. High School Competition: A Partnership between Local High Schools and the DPD to Increase Peace. This competition will allow the youth who live in violent neighborhoods to broadcast the good that is often never seen. The competition will encourage collaboration between youth from different communities and schools as a way to increase community engagement. This high school competition promotes innovation amongst high school students in Chicagoland and would also allow DPD to raise its voice on the push for an increase in peace in Chicago.
Before this internship I was not aware of the influence that urban planning had within a city and I had never applied urban planning concepts. The City of Chicago Department of Planning and Development showed me how one department and team work could accomplish any goal. I now sit in class listening to my professors mentioning terms that I have actually applied.