Partnership for Building Reuse Helps Support Code Change in Chicago

By Special Contributor posted 06-28-2019 13:54


By Beth Mattson-Teig

Editor's Note: There are almost 500,000 buildings in the city of Chicago. Nearly two-thirds were built before 1945. For years, an outdated city building code made repair of these buildings more expensive and time consuming than new construction projects. That will change later this year, when a new Chicago Building Code goes into effect. As described below in an article from Urban Land, the new code implements recommendations from the Partnership for Building Reuse, a joint effort of the National Trust, ULI Chicago, Landmarks Illinois, Preservation Chicago, and many city agencies and partners. Chicago’s example shows how re-writing the basic rules of development, including building codes as well as zoning codes, can make preservation and building reuse the “new normal” in cities across the country.

The city of Chicago is celebrating the adoption of an extensive overhaul of its building code that has been decades in the making. The new code means some big changes ahead for the city. For ULI Chicago’s Building Reuse Initiative, it also represents a significant step forward in its work to clear a path for more building reuse throughout the city.


From left to right: Swasti Shah, director of community engagement, ULI Chicago; Cynthia Roubik, assistant commissioner, Department of Planning & Development, City of Chicago; Grant Ullrich, deputy commissioner, Department of Buildings, City of Chicago; Judith Frydland, commissioner, Department of Buildings, City of Chicago; Alicia Berg, ULI Chicago committee chair and vice president for campus planning and sustainability, University of Chicago; James Lindberg, vice president, research and policy lab, National Trust for Historic Preservation; Cynthia McSherry, executive director, ULI Chicago, at Chicago’s City Hall. | Courtesy of Urban Land

The April approval of a code modernization ordinance is the first comprehensive revision to significant portions of the Chicago Building Code in nearly 70 years. “This building code was absolutely necessary. So, the change is exciting,” says Judith Frydland, commissioner of Chicago’s Department of Buildings. The new code will be published and available this fall, with implementation that will be phased in between December 1, 2019, and July 31, 2020.

ULI first teamed up with the National Trust for Historic Preservation several years ago to create the Partnership for Building Reuse to make it easier to reuse existing buildings. Chicago is one of five cities participating in this initiative along with Los Angeles, Detroit, Baltimore, and Philadelphia. The Partnership for Building Reuse launched in Chicago in early 2015 with a primary objective to remove obstacles and make it easier to reuse existing, often older buildings....

This post originally appeared in Urban Land on June 7, 2019. Read the full post at



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