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Politics of Place

Politics of Place

A History of Zoning in Chicago

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Joseph P. Schwieterman and Dana M. Caspall


202 pages, 10 x 8, 144 illustrations


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About the Book

Chicago is renowned for its distinctive skyline, its bustling Loop business district, and its diverse neighborhoods. How the face of Chicago came to be is a story of enterprise, ingenuity, opportunity—and zoning. The Politics of Place reviews the interplay among development, planning, and zoning in the growth of the Gold Coast, the central area, and massive planned developments, such as Marina City, Illinois Center, and Dearborn Park. It tells the story of the bold visions compromised by political realities, battles between residents and developers, and occasional misfires from the city council and city hall. What emerges is a fascinating, behind-the-scenes exploration of the evolving character of the city’s landscape.


Joseph P. Schwieterman is a professor in the School of Public Service and the director of the Chaddick Institute for Metropolitan Development at DePaul University. He is the author of several books on urban issues and works closely with DePaul’s Real Estate Center. He holds a Ph.D. in public policy from the University of Chicago.
Dana M. Caspall is an experienced auditor who works for the federal government and has spent much of her professional life investigating business and governmental programs. She earned an M.S. in public service management from DePaul University and has written extensively on zoning, housing, and building-code matters.


“From the nuisance laws of the nineteenth century targeting Chicago’s notorious filth to its cutting-edge new code, this meticulously researched book chronicles the use of zoning as both handmaiden for the just and tool for the self-serving. City planners and urban historians will delight in the colorful tale of how a city’s backbone—and zoning is indeed Chicago’s backbone—supports its broad shoulders.”—Michael Davidson, editor of Zoning Practice, American Planning Association

“Schwieterman and Caspall have given us extraordinary insight into the personality of Chicago’s creative leadership as well as the dynamic growth resulting from [its] efforts. Perhaps of greater significance, zoning is shown to be an important planning tool that is given the attention it deserves for the first time.”—Miles Berger, author of They Built Chicago: Entrepreneurs Who Shaped a Great City’s Architecture

"The Politics of Place: A History of Zoning in Chicago is not just for academics and urban planners. It looks at the city's development from the time of Ft. Dearborn through the aftermath of the Chicago Fire to the time the first limits were placed on building heights and into the 21st century. Lots of great historical photos one shows a nearly unbelievably jam-packed downtown intersection in 1909 are included in this book by Joseph P. Schwieterman and Dana M. Caspall."—Chicago Tribune Books