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Top city planning job in Chicago will go to celebrated Detroit development director

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Maurice Cox will lead Chicago’s department of planning in the fall


Maurice Cox, Detroit’s director of the Planning and Development Department, will head to Chicago in the fall and take a similar top city planning job.

The reputable city planner told Detroit News, which first reported Cox’s departure, that he’ll say more about the change in the coming days.

In Detroit, Cox is known for leading the city’s initiative for “20-minute neighborhoods” which means residents have everyday necessities all within a reasonable distance. His focus has largely been on creating neighborhoods that residents want to stay in long term by improving streets, parks, and amenities. That’s right in line with Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s agenda to give neighborhoods the same time and attention as downtown.

The New York-raised Cox is also tough on developers and architects. He isn’t afraid to make them “go back to the drawing board,” Crain’s Detroit said.

A Detroit-based developer told the newspaper:

“I think Maurice was an advocate for the city and the city’s aesthetic long-term in a way that a lot of people don’t see. I think he has taken a long view of what the city should look like. He has also been an advocate for equitable development, ensuring that developers who have historically been ignored or pushed to the sideline have an opportunity and a voice.”

Previously Cox was an associate dean at Tulane University’s School of Architecture and design director at the National Endowment for the Arts in Washington, D.C. He was also director of Tulane City Center, a city-based design resource center for New Orleans.

Cox’s rigorous standards for design and his concern for neighborhoods are two qualities that have the potential to change Chicago in a big way. Especially with so many megadevelopments in the pipeline. So far, it appears his work in other cities aligns with Lightfoot and new Housing Commissioner Marisa Novara’s push for affordable housing, neighborhood equity, and economic development.

The city of Chicago and Acting Commissioner of Department of Planning and Development, Eleanor Gorski, did not immediately respond when asked to comment.