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Cityscape’s Top 12 stories in 2021

Published on Dec. 27, 2021 by Steven Vance

Like 2020, 🏘 accessory dwelling units was a dominant story for Chicago Cityscape, but we talked about other trends as well. Last year I wrote, “I’m looking forward to seeing what backyard house designs are built…”

Last year I wrote, “I’m looking forward to seeing what backyard house designs are built…” Unfortunately, no backyard houses were completed but six were permitted and 22 ADUs have been permitted overall.

January 2021

Chicago Cityscape enhanced every relevant feature to identify ADU opportunities for service providers. It’s easy to look up any address to see if ADUs are eligible at that location, and it’s possible to identify every eligible property in an area.

There were no blog posts in February.


We featured Carmin’s future backyard house, which was the first commissioned project that a client or architect shared with us.

Building permits tell a lot of stories, including how there’s been an increase in multi-family buildings constructed out of wood, that weren't allowed prior to the adoption of the 2019 Chicago Building Code.

The largest wood frame building under construction in Chicago right now was getting face brick last week.


Every year, Cook County publishes a very high-resolution aerial photography dataset, and Cityscape users can look at it right inside any Address Snapshot. Since publishing that tutorial we added the 2020 aerial imagery.


The City of Chicago began accepting applications for ADU building permits and at the time we published 110 property owners had expressed intent to build a basement unit or backyard house.


Chicago Cityscape announced that it received a grant to create the “Data Equity Cohort”, a group of real estate professionals and industry-adjacent organization leaders to help us understand what kind of data they need to improve their development efforts and how we could best provide it to them.

Chicago Cityscape hosted its first happy hour for DEC members at Jolly Pumpkin in Hyde Park in November.


The first three permits for buildings at the Obama Presidential Center were issued (the Forum, parking garage, and Chicago Public Library branch). Land clearing work had begun months earlier.


We broke down the newly released demographic data from the 2020 Census, showing a significant decline in Chicago’s black population but a significant increase in population in the south Lakefront community areas.


Chicago Cityscape created the only — still true today — map of the new Affordable Requirements Ordinance areas that took effect the following month. These maps are essential for developers and zoning attorneys.


We wrote a blog post to celebrate the six ADU permits that had been issued, and talked about the additional “applications of intent” that more property owners had filed since writing about those in May.


In collaboration with MAP Strategies, we looked at the new construction hotspots across Chicago, highlighting Portage Park and Jefferson Park, as well as a particularly active street in Bronzeville.

Tres Lotes is a development of three detached houses designed by Via Chicago Architects on Calumet Avenue in Bronzeville. The houses were offered with an optional backyard house.


Reaching 21 ADU permits this year was a milestone. While neither Cityscape nor the City of Chicago had a goal for the number of ADU permits issued in the first seven months of re-legalization, I secretly wanted at least 20 by the end of the year.

Cityscape’s Top 12 stories in 2021 was originally published in Chicago Cityscape’s Blog on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Other posts by Steven Vance

May 2022

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April 2022

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March 2022

12 features for spring 2022

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ADU permits trickling in spring 2022

Chicago’s first two-unit modular house is constructed — more are on the way

February 2022

Apply for this new property tax incentive by March 31

January 2022

Efficiently find and prospect Scavenger Sale properties

The next Scavenger Sale starts in February 2022

Data Equity Cohort at the midpoint: recent progress + future improvements

December 2021

Podcast: Spotting Chicago development trends and opportunities

Cityscape’s Top 12 stories in 2021 [you're reading this one]

Chicago hits 21 ADU permits in 2021

November 2021

This architecture firm is doing the most ADU projects right now

Bickerdike plans to expand service area, to develop more eTOD

Where the new construction hotspots in Chicago are

October 2021

Six ADU permits have been issued since May 2021

September 2021

Where the new state-enacted property tax incentive applies

Cityscape has the maps you need to locate where new ARO rules apply

August 2021

What does the 2020 Census data tell us about Chicago and Chicagoans?

Chicago wants to sell four parking lots it owns on the North Side

Chicago might allow cannabis dispensaries in more zoning districts

July 2021

The first three Obama Presidential Center permits were issued

June 2021

Cityscape receives grant to launch a “Data Equity Cohort”

See if you have a new electoral district in 2022 with adopted redistricted maps

May 2021

110 property owners have told City Hall they intend to build an ADU

April 2021

New maps, data, and filters were added for affordable housing developers and advocates

Find historical imagery for Cook County addresses

March 2021

See Carmin’s future backyard ADU

A new “off-site” ARO townhouse development opens on the West Side

Chicago developers are constructing bigger wood residential buildings due to changes in the code

January 2021

Use new Cityscape tools to grow your ADU business

Cityscape maps updated to reflect new Illinois legislators

Outside the Loop radio shows talks about backyard houses with Chicago Cityscape

December 2020

Cityscape’s Top 12 stories of 2020

Chicago’s ADU ordinance explained in a 4-minute video

Chicago will allow ADUs starting in May — Read our FAQ

City Council to review revised ADU ordinance to apply in pilot areas only

A better ADU rule has the potential to build lower-cost houses on vacant land

Take a tour: Chicago’s first modular house is move-in ready

Chicago prepares a deconversion ban near the 606

November 2020

Chicago readies two North Lawndale sites for sale and redevelopment

Mapping investments in INVEST South/West areas

October 2020

Is COVID-19 affecting Chicago building permits?

September 2020

Commentary: I want an ADU, but the RS-2 exclusion would prevent me from building one

August 2020

Filling a zoned “Pedestrian Street” gap will bring TOD benefits to more blocks

Get a look at new basement ADUs in Bronzeville + 2 other projects

The modular “starter house” in Back of the Yards was assembled

July 2020

Ask Cityscape: Could I build two ADUs at my house?

Here’s what ADU supporters told City Council at the first hearing

Chicago’s ADU ordinance gets a hearing date

May 2020

Chicago’s ADU ordinance was introduced — see what you could build

April 2020

New zoning rules adopted last week

Ordinance would change approval rules for certain industrial uses

Prefab “starter home” is under construction, destined for a vacant lot in Back of the Yards

See what’s in the development pipeline

March 2020

Chicago Cityscape turns 6

New data: How many Airbnbs are in your neighborhood

Ask your alder to support ADUs

Three North Side “Pedestrian Streets” are being combined

Make informed decisions by using your own boundaries

Make informed decisions by mixing your data with Cityscape’s

Chicago’s vacant land problem

February 2020

Metra should add a new station in Humboldt Park

Legalize ADUs across Illinois, lawmaker’s bill says

The one Chicago guidebook you need to read this year

January 2020

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Let’s keep ADUs in the 2020 news

Cityscape Pro is now available for 1, 2, and 3 month terms

December 2019

Downtown land that Chicago owns is up for sale again — this time thru a sustainable design…

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November 2019

Two South Side community hubs are moving forward with investment from Benefit Chicago

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October 2019

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