CNT made significant strides in 2013. We contributed groundbreaking research on urban flooding, on the value of housing near public transit, and on ways homeowners can recoup energy-efficiency investments. We helped build online tools that promote location efficiency and location affordability. We influenced federal, state, and local policy on transportation, green infrastructure, and regional planning. And we had our ideas, opinions, and actions featured in several books, in newspapers, and on NPR.

The full list of accomplishments may be too long to count, but here are 35 from our 35th year:

Key Achievements

  1. Location Affordability: Helped the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the US Department of Transportation (USDOT) develop the new Location Affordability Portal.
  2. Housing + Transportation: Applied H+T analysis to initiatives throughout the country, including a transit study in Madison, WI; a compilation of development scenarios in Knoxville, TN; a foreclosure analysis in the Twin Cities; and an examination of household cost of living in Memphis.
  3. RSP ScreenshotLocation Efficiency: Collaborated with King County Metro Transit to develop the Right Size Parking Calculator, an online tool that allows decision makers to estimate the true need for parking in multi-family residential buildings and reduce overbuilding of parking in location-efficient areas.
  4. Car Sharing: Accelerated expansion in Chicago via the sale of IGO CarSharing to Enterprise.
  5. Mobile Apps: Hosted our second Reinventing Chicago Urban Sustainability Apps Competition. The winning team, BuildIt! Bronzeville, uses gaming technology to help fight retail leakage. An exclusive story about the winning team ran in the Sun-Times.
  6. NPR: Landed feature story on NPR’s Morning Edition, including an interview with Scott Bernstein, about the long commutes faced by America’s low-wage workers.
  7. Books: Featured in several books on urban sustainability and economic development.
  8. Engagement: Shared our ideas at conferences and workshops across the country, from New York to Los Angeles, from Austin to Baltimore, and from Phoenix to Fargo.


  1. Urban Flooding: Prevalence and Cost of Urban FloodingPublished The Prevalence and Cost of Urban Flooding, a revolutionary analysis of insurance claims data from flood damage in an urban environment. Press coverage locally in a front-page story in Chicago Tribune, nationally by Atlantic Cities and others.
  2. Leaky Pipes: Released The Case for Fixing the Leaks, a report on America’s aging water supply infrastructure and the need for leadership in Great Lakes states to find and fix the leaks, which waste trillions of gallons annually. Press coverage locally by NBC5 (forthcoming), nationally by Next City and others.
  3. Thought Leadership: Held the first-ever National Urban Flooding Forum as part of the Water Environment Federation’s Stormwater Congress.
  4. (photo by Jamie Manley)

    (photo by Jamie Manley)

    Community Organizing: Hosted three Gross Gathering events throughout Chicago, and created a corresponding online forum, to give urban flooding victims the opportunity to share their stories and connect with resources that can help keep their basements and backyards dry.

  5. Pilot Project: Launched ‘Wetrofit’ service to help property owners install green infrastructure.
  6. Homeowner Education: Increased the capacity and impact of the Chicago Sustainable Backyards Program by launching the Sustainable Backyards Ambassadors Program, hosting composting and rain garden workshops throughout the city, and offering over $7,000 in instant rebates to support the purchase of trees, compost bins, rain barrels, and native plants.

Transportation + Community Development

  1. RTA TOD CoverTransit-Oriented Development: Published Transit-Oriented Development in the Chicago Region, which evaluated the Chicago region’s Metra and CTA rail station areas between 2000 and 2010 and found that Chicago lags behind peer cities in successfully developing transit zones. The Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) and the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) cite this report as justification for their increased focus on implementation programs. Press coverage in the Chicago Tribune, Metro Magazine, and Planetizen.
  2. Housing Near Transit: Released The New Real Estate Mantra: Location Near Public Transportation, written by CNT and commissioned by the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) and the National Association of Realtors® (NAR), found that residential real estate sales prices for properties located near transit are healthier and more resilient than in the broader metropolitan region. Press coverage locally on WBEZ and in cities nationwide.
  3. Regional Planning: Proposed establishment of Priority Development Areas (PDAs) in Chicago region to align investments in transportation, housing, and economic development. CMAP announced in May 2013 that it will research and implement a PDA framework as regional policy.
  4. Transportation Standards: Collaborated with Transportation for America to develop metrics from H+T Affordability Index for advocates to use in advocating for effective performance measures in state and regional transportation plans.
  5. Intro to CODFreight Efficiency: Generated substantial national interest in cargo-oriented development (COD), including forthcoming work with USDOT to define high-performance COD metrics.
  6. Affordable Housing: Provided leadership in the effort to get the Federal Transit Administration to increase the priority of affordable housing in the New Starts program.
  7. Coalition Building: Established a discussion group on transportation policy with environmental, transit, and city interests that is enabling us to develop a platform for reauthorization of the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP 21) this year that encompasses recommendations and strategies that reflect our urban sustainability mission.

Policy + Public Service

  1. Transit Leadership: Lent our voice to improve the governance of Chicago’s regional transit system through CEO Kathryn Tholin’s appointment to the Northeastern Illinois Public Transit Task Force.
  2. Brownfield Intermodel Zone MunicipalitiesBrownfield Redevelopment: Researched, drafted, and promoted the Brownfields Remediation and Intermodal Promotion Act (BRIMPA), signed into law by Governor Quinn, establishing a fund as large as $21 million for cargo-oriented development in twelve of Chicago’s southern suburbs.
  3. Land Banks: Contributed to the establishment of the South Suburban Land Bank and Development Authority and the Cook County Land Bank Authority.
  4. Stormwater: Learned from Inside EPA’s article entitled “Novel Urban Flood Study May Help EPA Assess Stormwater Rule’s Benefits” that CNT’s The Prevalence and Cost of Urban Flooding: A Case Study of Cook County, IL may be a possible source of evidence supporting EPA’s upcoming stormwater rule.
  5. Green Infrastructure: Helped set statewide stormwater regulations, passed by the General Assembly and signed into law by Governor Quinn, making it easier for municipalities to implement green infrastructure for stormwater management.
  6. Policy Discussion: Hosted USEPA and Mayors Innovation Project to discuss USEPA’s new stormwater regulations and potential local-level impacts.
  7. CMAP Illiana map ISmart Land Use: Advocated against the inclusion of the Illiana Expressway in GO TO 2040, northeastern Illinois’ comprehensive regional plan, in our blog post Looking Beyond: What the Illiana Expressway Says About Sprawl and Inequity.
  8. Student Engagement: Partnered with Design for America, a network of student-led design studios on college campuses across the country, to help facilitate this year’s Leadership Studio, the theme of which was combating urban flooding through design.
  9. Photo Exhibition: Housed Reframing Ruin: A Prelude to the Bloomingdale Trail, a photography exhibition documenting the transformation of the abandoned rail line that is currently being converted into an elevated park.
  10. IMG_8952International Exchange: Hosted Nasrullah Thahim, founder and Executive Director of Pakistan’s Sustainable Environmental Development Foundation, to learn about CNT’s sustainable development work and exchange international approaches to shared issues of globalization, unchecked sprawl, and climate change.

CNT Energy

  1. 10,000 Retrofits: Celebrated the 10,000th multifamily unit retrofit by the Energy Savers program.
  2. Recouping Investment: Blueprinted steps the energy efficiency sector can take to ensure that home energy efficiency investments are accurately valued at the time of a home sale.

Alternative Transportation for Chicagoland

  1. Solar-powered Vehicles: Harnessed the energy of the sun to power electric vehicles through construction of four solar canopy charging stations in Chicago and near suburbs.

Celebrating 35 Years

  1. Little History of Big Ideas: Reflected on 35 years of community innovations in our retrospective People, Places + Progress, released at our Reinventing Chicago anniversary celebration.

2012 Accomplishments

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