Design Excellence

The Department of Planning and Development (DPD) is engaged in a number of efforts to formalize the City’s commitment to a high-quality built environment that celebrates and enhances Chicago’s unique architectural and urban design legacy. 

To launch this initiative, DPD engaged a Design Excellence Working Group to answer the question:

How do we engender a culture that values design excellence in everyday life?

From this question, several thematic principles emerged that collectively aspire to achieve design excellence for Chicago residents, businesses and other local stakeholders. These include:

  • Equity and Inclusion
    Achieving fair treatment, targeted support, and prosperity for all citizens
  • Innovation
    Implementing creative approaches to design and problem-solving
  • Sense of Place
    Celebrating and strengthening the culture of local communities
  • Sustainability
    Committing to environmental, cultural, and financial longevity
  • Communication
    Fostering design appreciation and responding to community needs

Design Excellence Principles

Design Excellence Guiding Principles

Neighborhood Design Guidelines

Developed under Mayor Lightfoot by DPD, the draft Neighborhood Design Guidelines provide specific recommendations to enhance the planning, review and impact of development along the city’s commercial corridors.

As a complement to other City design resources and regulations, the draft guidelines are adaptable to the unique context of individual neighborhoods, corridors and blocks.

The draft guidelines are organized across six categories:

  • Sustainability
    Features that have long-term environmental, sociocultural and human health impacts
  • Program
    Targeted uses that complement a property’s surrounding context
  • Site Design
    Building orientation, layout, open space, parking, and services
  • Public Realm
    Improvements within and near the public right-of-way adjacent to the site
  • Massing
    Bulk, height, and form of a building
  • Façade
    Architectural expression of a building’s exterior, including entrances and windows



Neighborhood Design Guidelines

Draft Neighborhood Design Guidelines


The draft guidelines are intended to be used for all public and private projects located along Chicago’s commercial corridors. Projects that require the City’s review and oversight should substantially correspond to their parameters, especially Planned Developments, Lakefront Protection Ordinance projects, and projects that receive City grants, funding or other incentives.

DPD is seeking feedback from property owners, developers, designers, and community members to continue to refine the draft guidelines’ scope and content. Comments may be directed to

Ultimately, the guidelines are expected to be presented to the Chicago Plan Commission for formal adoption.