Learning Expedition 2019

October 17-19, 2019 8:30 - 17:30 Chicago, USA
Leaders of global business districts, their managing companies, and urban planning authorities will gather for a fast-paced trip focused on Placemaking issues


Placemaking is a vital subject which inspires to reimagine and reinvent public spaces as the heart of every global business district. It refers to a collaborative process by which we can shape the public realms in order to maximize shared value and sense of belonging, strengthening the connection between people and the places they share. Placemaking not only promotes better urban design but facilitates creative patterns of use, paying particular attention to the cultural and social identities that define a place and support its permanent evolution process.

We invite the representatives of the most influential global business districts, business districts managing companies, urban planning authorities to travel in Chicago to:


  • immerse in the latest Placemaking trends,
  • meet the key players of Chicago Loop – from innovative startups to the local authorities – to learn from their practices,
  • visit unique places of innovation,
  • get in touch with the GBD Innovation Club network, exchange and benefit from immersion in the ecosystem.


Day 1: Place to be!

Walking Tour of the Chicago Loop

Over the past 200 years, the Loop has served as Chicago’s official downtown—the go-to spot in the city for business, shopping, and tourism. It is the second largest commercial business district in the U.S. after Midtown Manhattan in New York City, and it is home to about 30 percent of all private-sector jobs in Chicago (despite being only .7 percent of the city’s total land area). Why did this part of Chicago evolve into the global player it is today? The Loop’s access to transportation, its dense and walkable geography, and its setting on Grant Park and Lake Michigan continue to attract workers, shoppers, visitors, and investors from around the world. This one-hour walking tour will give attendees a behind-the-scenes look at how the Loop works (and doesn’t), as well as downtown management strategies along State Street that have proven effective.


Session 1: The Role of Arts & Culture in a Global Business District

The quality of the urban environment plays an increasingly important role in today’s global business district. A rich collection of arts and cultural assets is now a necessity to attract and retain talent from around the world. The Chicago Loop has the most robust offering of arts and culture of any U.S. business district in terms of quality, quantity, and variety—including the Art Institute of Chicago, an acclaimed theater district, renowned public art, and more. According to Chicago Loop Alliance’s Arts in the Loop Economic Impact Study, arts and culture in the Loop have an annual economic impact of $2.25 billion, affecting sectors like retail, hospitality, real estate, and more.

Learn how the arts drive the success of a business district through direct economic impact, community building, and more.

Co-thinking session


Session 2: Residential Living in a Global Business District

Like many global business districts, the Chicago Loop is increasingly attracting the young and wealthy as preferences shift from the suburbs to the urban core. In the last eight years, the Loop has experienced rapid growth in the residential sector, adding some 4,500 housing units. This session will explore the current state of residential development in the Loop, tracking its momentum and offering ideas on how to maintain the forward trajectory.

Experts in residential real estate development will present information on the profile of the global business district resident, and developers will discuss the building trends necessary for a successful project.

Co-thinking session


Innovation: Mapillary

Mapillary is a street-level imagery platform that uses computer vision to fix the world’s maps. Images from any device are combined into a visualization of the world that generates map data for improving maps, developing cities, and progressing the automotive industry. Mapillary’s tools enable anyone to collect, share, and use street-level images.

Today, people and organizations all over the world have contributed more than 500 million images toward Mapillary’s mission of helping people understand the world’s places through images and making this data available, with clients and partners including the World Bank, HERE, and Toyota Research Institute. Mapillary has raised $24.5 million in venture capital from some of the world’s most seasoned investors, including Sequoia Capital, Atomico, and BMWi Ventures.


Session 3: The Increasing Importance of Public Space in Global Business Districts

Significant demographic shifts including the rise of the millennial generation and the return of empty-nesters are resulting in new demands on downtowns. These demands require districts to provide a set of compelling and robust urban experiences in public places that influence personal decisions regarding where to live, whether to accept a job offer, or even where to locate a company. Studies demonstrate that vibrant public places can create measurable economic dividends for downtowns. The increased use of mobile technology and need for more personal collaboration require new places for people to work, including the public realm. Attractive places to meet and more opportunity for chance interactions and serendipity to occur (something cities have always been good at) make for more competitive districts.

The City of Chicago and Chicago Loop Alliance recognized it must activate underperforming public spaces in the Loop. Speakers will detail the history, impact, and meaning of Millennium Park, the Chicago Riverwalk, and the ACTIVATE initiative.

Co-thinking session


Chicago evening experience: Little Goat Kitchen

Day 2: What’s up Chicago?

Walking Tour of the Magnificent Mile

The Magnificent Mile is Chicago’s top shopping destination with more than 460 stores, 275 restaurants, 60 hotels, and unique entertainment and attractions. This 13-block stretch of North Michigan Avenue draws millions of Chicago residents, regional visitors, and national and international travelers year-round. Hear from the Magnificent Mile Association on what makes this retail district tick, what distinguishes it from State Street in the Loop, and how it has remained a strong economic driver in an era of challenges for brick-and-mortar retailers.


Session 1: Chicago Global Tourism Strategy

Since 2012, Choose Chicago and the City of Chicago have increased annual visitors from 49 million to 58 million—an 18 percent change over just six years. Chicago’s strategy has targeted vacationers, business travelers, and, increasingly, the international traveler. This increase in visitation has stimulated a boom in the construction of hotel rooms, the opening of food and beverage establishments, and competition for these travelers’ attention—and their wallets. As visitors become a bigger economic driver than ever, Chicago institutions have to respond. Navy Pier has undergone major renovations. The Art Institute of Chicago is considering how to appeal to visitors in its programming. And hotels in the Loop are opening, renovating, and finding their niche to stand out against some 500,000 Airbnb room nights. Learn what it takes to compete for international and national tourism.

Co-thinking session


Session 2: Culinary Arts and the Local Food Scene

Chicago is a city of big dreams, broad shoulders – and hearty appetites. Home to the James Beard Awards since 2015, Chicago has become an international foodie destination, featuring around 5,000 restaurants throughout our neighborhoods and downtown. From hot dogs and deep-dish pizza, to ethnic foods driven by family traditions, to four-star chefs who continue to push the boundaries of fine dining, Chicago has become a compelling destination for visitors and investors to come and eat.

Learn about the evolution of Chicago’s culinary scene into the number one food and drink city in the world (2017).

Co-thinking session


Session 3: O’Hare International Airport Expansion

Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport is the busiest airport in the world, operating more than 900,000 flights in 2018—about 2,500 flights per day. Convenient, modern, and efficient airports are paramount to the success of a global business district, so the City of Chicago has begun an $8.5 billion expansion, adding 25 percent more gate capacity, modernizing existing terminals, improving the passenger experience, and building a brand new, world-class international terminal designed by Chicago architect Jeanne Gang.

Learn more about the airport’s largest terminal expansion ever, and what made such a massive project possible.

Co-thinking session


Innovation: Vamonde 

Chicago spends millions on an aggressive national and international marketing strategy each year. While there are plenty of world-class events to experience Chicago, like all global business districts, connecting city events and experiences to people is more challenging than ever. Cities and their attractions recognize the need for robust digital and mobile solutions to meet the demands of today’s travelers and residents. Yet, few have the resources to achieve their future ambitions.

Chicago-based VAMONDE is the Smart Tourism network for cities, empowering visitors and residents to learn, experience and navigate any city. VAMONDE is the future of city engagement and placemaking. VAMONDE combines placemaking, wayfinding, storytelling, and analytics to connect the city and all its experiences with digitally savvy visitors through immersive content. 

VAMONDE provides the technology for hundreds of global organizations including Chicago’s DMO (Choose Chicago), Chicago Loop Alliance, dozens of Chicago’s attractions, museums, and hotels, and the GBD conference. Download the VAMONDE app for iOS or Android or go to www.VAMONDE.com so that you can experience Chicago and all its incredible stories and places.  

Chicago evening experience: Chicago Architecture River Cruise

The river cruise tells the stories behind more than 50 buildings along the Chicago River. Hear how Chicago grew from a small settlement into one of the world’s largest cities in less than 100 years. In just 90 minutes, you’ll get the best overview of Chicago’s architecture and its history.

Day 3: Revolution at Work

Session 1: Local and International Business Recruitment

Over the past seven years, more than 70 companies have moved into Chicago Loop. New investments are coming to the city from around the globe. What does it take to compete for international and national companies? As Chicago’s economic development agency, World Business Chicago’s mission is to drive inclusive economic growth and job creation, support business, and promote Chicago as a leading global city. Capitalizing on Chicago’s central location, connectivity, workforce, and talent pool, tech and innovation sector, global reach, and diversified economy, World Business Chicago has led Chicago to be named the No. 1 U.S. city for corporate expansions and relocations and the No. 1 North American city for foreign direct investment. 

This session will focus on how Chicago has leveraged its assets to attract business investment to the Chicago Loop and throughout the city’s neighborhoods.

Co-thinking session


Session 2: Office Trends to Attract and Retain Global Talent

Attracting and retaining talent is more important than ever in the success of a global business district. From 2017 to 2027, it is predicted that the U.S. will face a shortage of 8.2 million workers—the most significant deficit in the past 50 years. The business community must put people first, but how?

Learn about what talent expects from an employer today, including office amenities, a culture of innovation and collaboration, and buy-in to the employer’s brand and mission.

Co-thinking session


Session 3: Attracting Start-Ups to Your Global Business District

Chicago has been evolving into a competitive tech hub for the past decade, as the home to successful start-ups like Grubhub and Groupon, as well as headquarters of leading companies like Google, Facebook, and Salesforce. Lower costs, a strong talent pool, and a spirit of digital innovation all play a part in attracting and retaining start-ups. However, many of these companies in Chicago are locating on the edges of the Chicago Loop.

Learn about the opportunities and challenges facing traditional business districts to attract and grow the companies of tomorrow within their territory.

Co-thinking session


Innovation:  Omni Ecosystem

In order for a business district to thrive, its residents, workers, and visitors must consider it a healthy environment. One way to improve the health of those who spend time in your business district is to integrate nature into the existing built environment in innovative, cost-effective ways. Omni Ecosystems is a vertically-integrated green infrastructure company that develops new technologies, such as innovative soils, and employs a multi-dimensional approach to ecosystem design, implementation, and management.

Learn about Omni’s nature-based solutions and how they are creating meaningful landscapes for people and helping properties adapt to climate change.


Chicago evening experience:

Chicago Architecture Biennial Private Tour

Terms of participation

Participation fees

  • from 1 500 EUR  



  • 3 days of tours and learning sessions
    Welcome-coffee, coffee pauses
    Chicago evening experience


Does not include

  • Flight
    Visa fees


Michael Edwards, President & CEO Chicago Loop Alliance
Kalindi Parikh, Director of Planning Chicago Loop Alliance
Mark Kelly, Commissioner City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events
Hilary Branch, Director of Revenue Strategy Art Institute of Chicago
Judie Green, Chief Development Officer Auditorium Theatre
Ben Creamer, Co-founder Downtown Apartment Company
Kevin Dunphy, Resident Architect at CannonDesign
Ryan Cook, Chicago Project Manager Mapillary
Michael Kelly, General Superintendent & CEO Chicago Park District
Michelle Woods, Assistant Project Director City of Chicago Department of Fleet and Facility Management
Kimberly Bares, President & CEO Magnificent Mile Association
Phil Levin, Planning and Advocacy Director Magnificent Mile Association
David Whitaker, President & CEO Choose Chicago
Michelle T. Boone, Chief Program and Civic Engagement Office Navy Pier
Dean Lane, General Manager The Palmer House and the Hiltons of Chicago
Kevin Boehm, Co-founder Boka Restaurant Group
Bill Nevruz, Executive Partner Lettuce Entertain You
Jamie Rhee, Commissioner City of Chicago Department of Aviation
Margaret Cavanaugh, Director of Interiors Studio Gang
Andrea Zopp, President & CEO World Business Chicago
Bill Testa, Non-Resident Senior Fellow Global Cities, The Chicago Council on Global Affairs
David Broz, Principal Gensler
Ben Wright, CEO Upsuite
Kevin Purcell, President, Asset Managment and Leasing Services MB Real Estate
Elizabeth Zielger, CEO 1871
Chris Kelly, Co-founder and Vice Chairman Convene
Lucas Ward, Co-Founder & CTO Kin Insurance
Molly Meyer, Founder & CEO Omni Ecosystems