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How to Make Neighborhoods Better and Stronger? Attend CNDA and Find Out

Panelists and participants at the 22nd Annual CNDA Forum are, from left, Peter Levavi, Jack Markowski, Amisha Patel, Brandis Friedman, Asiaha Butler, Berto Aguayo and Raul Raymundo.

Gordon Walek

The people honored at the Chicago Neighborhood Development Awards (CNDA) – and those in the audience who support their work – are a disparate group, representing many interests, disciplines and responsibilities.

In fact, the awards ceremony, typically attended by about 1,500 people, may be the only time during the year that the community organizers, real estate developers, foundation and corporate heads, architects, elected officials and everybody else who has a hand in community development are at the same place at the same time. And while they all share the purpose of making neighborhoods better and stronger, there’s hardly a consensus about exactly how to do that.

In that spirit, the theme of the 22nd Annual Chicago Neighborhood Development Awards is a question: What’s Your Perspective?

Kicking off the Awards ceremony, at 3 p.m. Thursday, February 18, at the Chicago Hilton & Towers, 720 S. Michigan Ave., is a panel discussion that will address that question. Answering it will be three people who’ve been around the community development block more than a few times: Jack Markowski, the former city housing commissioner who is president of Community Investment Corporation; Amisha Patel, executive director of The Grassroots Collaborative, which with the affiliated Grassroots Illinois Action is among the leaders of Take Back Chicago, a broad coalition of unions and community groups pushing for progressive policies at the state and local level; and Raul Raymundo, executive director of The Resurrection Project (TRP), the effective and influential Pilsen-based community development corporation.

Those three will be prodded by another trio representing vastly different community development constituencies: Peter Levavi, senior vice president of Brinshore Development; Berto Aguayo, a former gang member in Back of the Yards who is now embarking on a career in politics; and Asiaha Butler, a strong community advocate who founded the Resident Association of Greater Englewood (R.A.G.E.) to engage residents in making the neighborhood more cohesive.

Questions and observations from the audience will also drive the conversation. Moderating will be Brandis Friedman, the WTTW Channel 11 Chicago Tonight correspondent whose insightful reports ranging from the budget crises at Chicago Public Schools to a community’s effort to revitalize the tiny-but-troubled neighborhood of Fuller Park have established her as a first-rate urban affairs reporter.

And that’s just the Forum. Julia Stasch, president of the MacArthur Foundation, will be the keynote speaker during the formal ceremony, which begins at 4:30 p.m. The Awards ceremony then recognizes the very best achievements in community development and architecture during 2015, with each winner featured in a video produced by P3 Media.

CNDA categories include the Chicago Community Trust Outstanding Community Plan Award; the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation Award for Outstanding Non-Profit Neighborhood Real Estate Project; the Polk Bros. Foundation Affordable Rental Housing Preservation Award; the Outstanding For-Profit Neighborhood Real Estate; The Woods Fund Chicago Power of Community Award and the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois Healthy Community Award.

Three architectural teams also will receive 1st, 2nd and 3rd place honors in the annual Richard H. Driehaus Foundation Awards for Architectural Excellence in Community Design.

And, The PrivateBank Norman Bobins Leadership Award and The Richard M. Daley Friend of the Neighborhoods Award will be given to two individuals – one for lifetime achievement in community leadership and service and the other recognizing an emerging leader.

Following the awards is what’s widely regarded as the year’s finest networking reception.

Chaired this year by Melissa Bean, Chairman of the Midwest at JPMorgan Chase, and sponsored by dozens of businesses, foundations and community partners, CNDA advance tickets are $65 ($75 at the door). Tables of 10 are $650.

If you haven’t already registered, there’s still time.

Posted in Placemaking


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Local Initiatives Support Corporation Chicago connects neighborhoods to the resources they need to become stronger and healthier.

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