FY 2015




What is "placemaking" and why is Chicago doing it?
Pro Bono Partners:

Chicago has a new outlet for placemaking - the art of creating attractive spaces in underutilized public space - through Activate!, a partnership between the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) and Latent Design Corporation. The concept involves transforming dormant public land such as plazas, malls, and traffic triangles into gathering places in communities across the city.

When CDOT recognized the potential to use private investment to transform small public spaces into hubs of community activity, they approached Civic Consulting, who surveyed the city's available spaces and found more than 150 potential sites for placemaking.

Several pro bono partners jumped at the opportunity to participate: JLL developed a public-private partnership model for the spaces, Baker & McKenzie crafted a request for proposals (RFP), and Perkins+Will designed branding guidelines to ensure each space maintained a cohesive brand identity. When Latent Design won the RFP earlier this year, a new public-private partnership was born.


Residents are already enjoying several plazas that have opened around the city, accented with art installations, performances, and tailored local programming. The plaza at Mautene Court also includes the first Boombox - a prefabricated micro retail kiosk that blends features of pop-up stores and festival booths to offer transitional retail space at affordable prices to local entrepreneurs.

"It's rewarding to be part of a project that improves the fabric of Chicago's neighborhoods in such a tangible way," said Connie Kresge, a former Civic Consulting associate principal. "By connecting partners to create safe, vibrant spaces in communities throughout Chicago, CDOT is enhancing the quality of life and economic vitality of the city's neighborhoods."

The program is being rolled out citywide over the next three years, with 10 plazas planned for activation by year end. 

...and where in the world is Connie Kresge?
Connie Kresge
Managing Director

I first discovered Civic Consulting Alliance in 2009 while an MBA student at the University of Michigan. I attended an event to find an internship opportunity and was impressed by Gillian Darlow's talk on Civic Consulting; I liked that it was collaborative and applied consulting principles to the public sector.

As both a summer intern and an associate principal, I am proud to have served the city, county, and state through my work on several impactful projects, including the People Plazas Project, the development of the City's 2015 sustainability plan, and the first overhaul of the city's ethics laws since 1984.

After leaving Civic Consulting, I became president of Ale Syndicate Brewers, a craft brewery in Chicago's Logan Square neighborhood. I recently left the brewery to work at Dignitas, an investment bank in Chicago, where I focus on family- and founder-run businesses. In my current job, I get to assist these businesses with governance issues and preparing for growth.

Civic Consulting Alliance was a great career move for me. CCA provided hands-on training in the full gamut of business skills: client and business development, consulting, rigorous strategic thinking, and marketing. Moreover, Civic Consulting didn't just think about the problem; they stayed to help make sure the job got done.

Of course, once you're bitten, the civic bug never really goes away. I stay involved in Chicago's civic scene through my work with the New Leaders Council, a volunteer-based, national nonprofit that recruits, trains, and develops the next generation of progressive leaders.

On the ground floor with the Cook County Public Defender's office
Pro Bono Partners:

The Cook County Public Defender's office - a law firm of 500 attorneys charged with representing those who cannot afford private counsel - handles more than 135,000 cases a year and represents a critical voice in Illinois' criminal justice system. When Amy Campanelli took the top post earlier this year, she articulated a vision of public safety reform: reduce the number of people incarcerated and the length of incarceration. But how to get there?

To start, Amy turned to Civic Consulting Alliance to address several organizational challenges. Along with pro bono partner DLA Piper, the team created a plan to address four objectives: continue bond court reform, expand specialty courts, enhance communications and community engagement, and improve staff development and morale.

For each initiative, Civic Consulting developed a road map to address a variety of internal challenges, including reporting lines, staff training, and governance. Meanwhile, DLA Piper provided legal guidance, coaching the development team on best practices gleaned from their own experience as well as that of other public defender offices around the country.

"The work of Civic Consulting Alliance and DLA Piper laid the groundwork to advance our priorities, which will lead to a fairer criminal justice system and safer communities," said Campanelli.

Indeed, by addressing enterprise-wide challenges up front, Campanelli will be well-positioned to make progress on her ultimate goal: reducing Cook County's jail population.

To learn more about this project, contact Mark Van Grinsven.

In other news...
  • Civic Consulting Alliance recently published a case study showcasing how eight private-sector partners helped the city and county realize $70 million in cost savings and revenue enhancements through the Joint Committee for City-County Collaboration. Read more about how these partners uncovered areas for cooperation, service enhancements, and cost savings that will benefit the region for years to come.

Questions? Comments? Interested in writing a guest article? Please email Stuart Henige with any newsletter feedback.

Civic Consulting Alliance is an affiliate of the Civic Committee of the Commercial Club of Chicago.