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Curbed Awards 2011: The Professionals!

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Architect— John Ronan has made a name for himself designing institutions. He began the year with recognition for 2010's Christ the King College Prep School. A little while later we were celebrating his sublime Poetry Foundation, easily on anyone's short list for building of the year. Next up, the new South Shore High with its abstract lighting, colorful corridors, and floor-to-ceiling windows. And, if influence is what counts, it's meant to be a prototype for future CPS schools. With all this going on, Ronan still took time for a conceptual exercise at CAF's Design at the Edge exhibit, forecasting possible futures for transit and neighborhoods.

Agent— At the risk of sounding like a broken record, we're giving our Agent of the Year award to Eric Rojas once again. His Chicago Real Estate Local blog gives good insights on hyper-local market trends, offers context for listings that most agents won't bother with, and even dabbles in architecture. Plus, he continues to engage Curbed and the blogosphere with comments and tips. Oh yeah, and he's perennially a top producing realtor. Well done, Eric.

Developer— John Buck had a big decade. But like many a developer, he somewhat receded into the Great Recession. 2011 marked a triumphant return to making big things happen downtown. The latest buzz Buck's name is attached to is the upcoming conversion of 203 N Wabash into the nation's first Virgin Hotel, expected to open its 250 swanky rooms in the fall of 2013. Virtually around the corner, at 200 N Michigan, Buck is engaged in a plan for another likely conversion of a six-story building into a boutique hotel with retail and residences. On the hotel front, at least, he's pitching strikes but like other developers, he's got proposals facing delays and cancellations (see 222 W Randolph). In October, the Urban Land Institute honored Buck with its Lifetime Achievement Award.

Alternative Developer— There isn't a lot of big money behind what Theaster Gates does, but he's got the confidence of the CHA and the city's artistic community. Far South, at 70th and Harper, Gates has teamed with CHA to bring 36 units of affordable artist's live-work housing to a block of abandoned public housing. The adaptive re-use will include a cultural center and a mix of incomes. Gates will use his channels to recruit as many artists as possible. Working on the small-scale supply of artist resources for years, this is his first sizable project. We wish you luck, Theaster.