An Urban Artist
Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley’s 21-year legacy of successful community building has earned him the prestigious Urban Land Institute (ULI) J.C. Nichols Prize for Visionaries in Urban Development. Daley, the 2010 laureate, is only the second mayor to receive the prize in its 11-year history. The announcement is being made today at a celebratory luncheon in Chicago.
The ULI J.C. Nichols Prize recognizes an individual whose career demonstrates a commitment to the highest standards of responsible development. The $100,000 prize honors the legacy of Kansas City, Missouri, developer J.C. Nichols, a founding ULI member considered to be one of America’s most creative entrepreneurs in land use during the first half of the 1900s.
Daley, who recently announced he will not seek reelection in 2011, is widely credited with transforming Chicago into a revitalized international metropolis, bringing together the built and natural environments to make the city more sustainable, livable, and dynamic. Unlike other Rustbelt cities in the past 20 years, Chicago has grown – in population, diversity, jobs and income. By virtually any measurement, from decreased crime to improved public schools to new parks, the mayor’s commitment has made Chicago a more accessible and enjoyable city for all its residents.
Lasting success, Daley emphasizes, depends on goals shared and jointly pursued by the public and private sectors. “You have to make sure the amenities are there – the schools, the parks, the open space, the cleanliness…and that the business community and the people in government are working together,” he says.
In selecting Daley, the ULI Nichols Prize jury considered the broad template of changes fostered during his time in office, explains Jury Chairman James M. DeFrancia, president of Lowe Enterprises Community Development Inc., in Aspen, Colorado. “The prize was established to recognize leadership in community development in the broadest sense of the word – the urban fabric, the built environment, and a sense of bettering society. Mayor Daley does this, and nobody does it better,” DeFrancia says.
More than 90 years ago, J.C. Nichols wrote, “an intelligent city plan thinks impartially for all parts of the city at the same time, and does not forget the greater needs of tomorrow in the press of today.” Daley’s approach to Chicago’s growth illustrates that Nichols’s insights still hold true. In his view, the city’s overall progress is perhaps best measured by what is accomplished in its most challenged areas. “Each community is connected to another community. Each block is connected to another block,” Daley says.
“Mayor Daley has such a holistic view of what is important, in terms of a city, and in the neighborhoods that make up a city,” adds Jury Member Judith Rodin, president of the Rockefeller Foundation, based in New York.
Under Mayor Daley, Chicago has become a leader in the environmental movement. The beautification of Chicago stems from Daley’s unrelenting focus on sustainability – a goal he pursued even as other cities scaled back “greening” initiatives during the recession. Every new building in Chicago must strive for the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification for energy efficiency and conservation. By late 2009, 88 Chicago buildings claimed LEED certification, a record high among U.S. cities.
To achieve recognition for Chicago as the nation’s greenest city, Daley has led by example. In 2001, he had a 20,300-square-foot green roof built on top of City Hall to lower energy costs and help mitigate the urban heat-island effect. There are now more than 600 rooftop gardens and green roofs covering more than seven million square feet that have been constructed or underway on top of public or private buildings around Chicago. “If you invest in an environmental manner, it saves money in the long run. It saves your health, the air, everything around you,” Daley says.
On Daley’s watch, since 1998, the city has added 1,300 acres of new open space, plus planted hundreds of thousands of trees along miles of major roadways. However, one green space, Millennium Park has most likely changed the city’s image more than any other amenity. The 24.5-acre park, which opened in 2004, has become the city’s top tourist destination and a model for public-private partnership, drawing more than $200 million in private donations. It is an economic development engine for downtown and has enriched the city’s reputation as the home to major works of public art: the Jay Pritzker Pavilion, featuring architect Frank Gehry’s silver “shell” covering; and Anish Kapoor’s Cloud Gate sculpture.
“We in politics think that what we do has an impact. But an artist, what they do in life – that lives forever,” Daley says. “I think artists can define a city much better than anyone else.”
The contributions Daley has made to Chicago, his tireless efforts to make the city more beautiful and more inspirational to all of the residents, place the mayor in the artist category, says Donna LaPietra, president of Millennium Park Inc. in Chicago. “He is an urban artist. He is today’s most contemporary, most forward-looking artist, in terms of how you envision a livable city, a city for the people.”