Erin Aleman doesn’t have a crystal ball, but she has a pretty good idea of what Chicago and the surrounding area will look like 30 years from now.
In June, Aleman was appointed executive director of the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, becoming the first professional planner and the first woman to lead the agency, which plans for future shifts in population, transportation, economic growth, housing and more in northeastern Illinois.
After three years of research and development, the agency recently published its “On To 2050” report, which found myriad challenges in the future facing the area’s seven counties (Cook, DuPage, Kane, Kendall, Lake, McHenry and Will) and 284 municipalities.
Among the most pressing issues: radical climate change with more hot days and increased flooding, economic challenges, shrinking population and shifting demographics. (A “National Population Projections” study by the University of Virginia Weldon Cooper Center Demographics Research Group studied census data and found that in 20 years, half the U.S. population will live in eight states. More broadly, 70% of America will live in 16 states.)
“Our [region’s] progress has stalled for reasons that are complex but by no means irreversible,” reads the executive summary of the report. “By systematically investing in our residents, infrastructure, and communities, as a region we can make tangible progress toward broad, lasting prosperity and quality of life. Most important, while we possess the assets necessary to succeed, we are strongest when we coordinate our efforts regionally.”
This is Aleman’s second stint at the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning where she started her planning career right out of graduate school in 2007. She also served as the Illinois Department of Transportation’s director of planning and programming.