Mayor Johnson tackles streamlining of development approvals

Could consolidate review commissions and increase staffing

Chicago Mayor Works to Streamline Development Approvals
Mayor Brandon Johnson (Illustration by The Real Deal with Getty)

Mayor Brandon Johnson’s proposal to raise property transfer taxes on high-end deals has irked much of Chicago’s real estate community, but he’s also pushing for a change that could win some of them over. 

Johnson is working to streamline the city’s arduous development approval process, which has long been a point of contention between real estate figures and local officials, Crain’s reported

The mayor is considering a range of solutions to boost efficiency, accelerating housing and commercial projects. 

In December, the mayor issued an executive order mandating that city departments submit recommendations within 90 days for his forthcoming “signature process improvement initiative.” As the deadline approaches, Johnson is poised to unveil a task force to assess major changes, with potential measures including consolidating development review commissions, increasing staffing, investing in technology, and appointing a dedicated coordinator within the mayor’s office.

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Led by Kenya Merritt, deputy mayor for neighborhood and economic development, the initiative has involved extensive consultation with real estate professionals and city staff. A preliminary list of 65 solutions has been compiled. 

Central to the plan are three overarching strategies: establishing a director of process improvement position, increasing staffing levels, and streamlining internal policies. One proposal is to consolidate the Chicago Plan Commission and the Community Development Commission into a single body, aimed at simplifying decision-making processes.

To bolster these efforts, Johnson is inviting outside professionals with expertise in local development to join a task force charged with devising a multi-year strategic plan. While this comprehensive review is expected to take at least a year, immediate action could be taken on simpler reforms. Applications for the task force are due by Feb. 23, the outlet reported.

Planning commissioner Ciere Boatright has also pledged to address developers’ concerns. Boatwright met with high-profile developers and real estate attorneys in a closed-door session on Jan. 29, where they were invited to workshop ideas.

—Quinn Donoghue 

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