Welcome to the Community + Design + Advocacy blog

Advocacy, Community, Design

As an attorney and consultant for over twenty five years in government and business regulation, I’ve represented corporations, nonprofits and local governments at the national, state and local levels, and I currently focuses on community development and urban design issues. It is my sincere belief that quality design, particularly as it relates to community planning, … Read More

Signs of Aging?


  In the eternal balancing between taste and technology, the recent book Signs, Streets and Storefronts provides a valuable historical perspective on local placemaking. In “Signs..” architect Martin Treu convincingly presents a reminder that every decade has its new style and “modernization” for business development purposes.  E.g. with the invention of electricity, main street “white ways” demonstrated … Read More

Community “Branding” as Planning?


“More than just the beauty of the city…it stands for conscientious officials of public spirit…” — C. M. Robinson, 1903 With this quote, Prof. Bob Rotenberg launched a DePaul University study of architectural design review which culminated in his report at a recent American Planning Association/MDRN program.  The study of Chicago suburban communities concluded that … Read More

New Look at Window Signs


“…For now we see through a glass, darkly;…” Corinthians This biblical phrase could also describe the challenging issues with regulating storefront window signage.  Few community appearance concerns reflect so much on the image of local shopping districts — and yet can cause such negative reactions with area businesses.  Many upscale communities have traditionally controlled window … Read More

New Ideas on Main Street


La Grange, like many communities, was faced with tenanting a former Borders/corporate building on a prominent corner – facing both La Grange Road (Mannheim) and the BNSF railroad.  Since it was difficult to find one retailer for such a large two story space, the building was divided into several units with separate tenants for the … Read More

Design Review “Risks”


Presentations at past MDRN programs have dramatically illustrated a recurring suburban downtown development story – the struggle with both height and density — that has played out many times in recent years.  The pictures below show the architectural design trade-offs in a recent development on Central Street in Evanston A five story condominium proposal was … Read More

Green Design Guidelines


Restrictive design standards can sometimes frustrate local efforts with sustainability initiatives. The MDRN has tried to support this balancing and Tom Farace, our new Advisory Committee Chair, has taken a leadership role with his Village. Schaumburg’s “green” efforts surged several years ago when the Village approved a Comprehensive Green Action Plan (C GAP) to focus … Read More