Committee on Design FAQ

The Committee on Design (CoD) advises the commissioner of the Department of Planning and Development (DPD) and staff on achieving design excellence for proposed public and private construction projects. The CoD also reviews projects for compliance with formal City of Chicago design guidelines, such as the Neighborhood Design Guidelines, the Design Excellence Guiding Principles, the West Loop Design Guidelines and similar documents. See the below FAQ for additional information.

How often does the CoD meet?
The committee meets on the second Wednesday of each month.

How long are CoD meetings?
The CoD may spend anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours discussing a single project, with one to four projects anticipated for each monthly agenda.

Where does the CoD meet?
At its launch, the meetings will take place virtually. DPD is exploring a hybrid model that would allow for committee members to participate both virtually and in-person.

What types of projects does the CoD review?
Projects for CoD Review are triggered by applications involving City of Chicago zoning or financing, including:

  • Planned Development projects that exceed 10 acres, 2.5 million square feet of space, or 2,500 residential units
  • Planned Development projects that are 80 feet or taller, or those that are not height-compliant with current zoning and policy, or those that vary from the scale and character of the surrounding context
  • Planned Development projects that are adjacent to overlay districts or special street designations, such as landmark districts, pedestrian streets, etc.
  • Projects that use City resources, such as Tax Increment Financing, Neighborhood Opportunity Bonus funds, or support from the INVEST South/West initiative
  • Projects that involve public or cultural institutions that may have a significant impact on the city
  • City-led plans, small-area plans, design guidelines, and similar initiatives

How are projects chosen for CoD review?
DPD staff chooses projects for CoD Review based on the above factors or other unique needs. Should a project meet more than one criteria mentioned above, the more likely the project will be chosen for review. Applicants will be notified if they are recommended for CoD in the early stages of the PD review process.

When in the project review process are projects presented to CoD?
Qualifying projects are presented to the CoD after completing initial Zoning Review and Planning and Design Review.

Is there a fee for project teams to participate in the CoD process?

How do project teams benefit by going through CoD?
The CoD is comprised of highly experienced individuals from a wide array of disciplines involving project development. Members provide their expertise involving design, economic feasibility, social equity, and other issues. After attending a CoD meeting, project teams will be provided with recommendations that enable a more fiscally-conscious, high-quality, well-designed product.

Are multi-phase projects from a single team reviewed at the same time?
Large proposals with multiple sub-areas, such as Master PDs, may be reviewed over time as details become available or change due to market conditions, financing, or other factors.

What happens to a project after it is reviewed by CoD?
Once an applicant receives recommendations as outlined by DPD staff, the applicant may:

  1. Agree to the recommendations, modify as appropriate, and continue toward a Chicago Plan Commission hearing.
  2. Agree to the recommendations but be unable to accommodate them. In this instance, the applicant must justify the reasons for the inability to DPD staff and the DPD project manager and continue toward a Chicago Plan Commission hearing.
  3. Disagree and continue toward a Chicago Plan Commission hearing. In this instance, the applicant will be placed on the Staff Review process that may require additional scrutiny or be advanced to Plan Commission with a negative DPD recommendation.
  4. Disagree to the recommendations and withdraw the proposal.

How will the CoD review impact my project’s timeline?
Once a project has been selected for CoD Review, the project timeline is subject to the four potential outcomes above. The alternative to CoD Review is Staff Review, which may require a project to go through repetitive discussion and review until considered ready to be heard by Plan Commission.

Will my project incur more costs by going through the CoD process?
The CoD does not intend to create undue project cost burdens, but instead help achieve design excellence within a developer’s existing parameters.

What authority does the CoD have?
CoD recommendations are advisory and not legally binding.

Can a developer appeal the CoD recommendations?
No. Because the recommendations are advisory, formal appeals are not part of the process. Development teams that disagree with CoD recommendations without justification may be required to repeat the review process or be placed into the Staff Review process for modified recommendations.

Are the CoD meetings open to the public?
Yes, and live stream information will be posted to

Can the public comment on a project?
Yes, instructions on how to comment will be posted to

Who sits on the CoD?
Highly experienced, well-regarded individuals that have demonstrated experience in the following interrelated disciplines: Architecture, Community Development, Engineering, Fine Art, Landscape Architecture, Urban Design, Preservation, Public Art, Urban Planning.

How can I become a committee member?
Download the application form and submit it to Applications will be considered as current members complete their terms or resign. CoD member terms are two years. CoD members may re-apply to serve a maximum of three consecutive terms.

How are conflicts of interest by CoD members handled?
While this is not a decision-making body, as a matter of best practice, committee members must recuse themselves from projects they or their firms are involved with.

Where can I find the meeting schedule, minutes, agendas?
All these materials and more can be found at

Is there any post-meeting follow up or reporting that will be required?
Each applicant receives a formal response with the recommendations discussed at the CoD meeting from DPD staff. Time is provided for the applicant to discuss recommendation feasibility with their team and to inform DPD of their intentions.

Supporting Information Facts