Biagi returns to Studio Gang Architects after Chicago administration resignation

Former Chicago Department of Transportation commissioner Gia Biagi has returned to her previous position as principal at Studio Gang Architects following her resignation from Mayor Brandon Johnson’s administration. 

Biagi’s new role will emphasize civic engagement, equity, and ecology, focusing on projects that positively impact residents’ lives, Crain’s reported.  Studio Gang’s Founding Principal, Jeanne Gang, commended Biagi’s talent for collaborative and impactful design that centers on communities.

Biagi’s career includes stints with various public-sector positions, including roles in the Chicago Park District and the city’s Department of Planning & Development. 

Her return to Studio Gang, where she worked before joining former Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s administration in 2019, coincides with the unveiling of Tom Lee Park in Memphis, Tennessee, a project she was involved in back in 2017.

Her resignation from the Johnson administration marked a series of departures, including former city Housing Commissioner Marisa Novara and Department of Planning & Development Commissioner Maurice Cox. The city’s Chief of Staff also fired Dr. Allison Arwady, commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health

Biagi’s shift back to Studio Gang signals her reconnection with her passion for design and community-focused projects.

Biagi isn’t the only person to step down from Johnson’s administration.

Earlier this month, Maurice Cox, commissioner of the department of planning and development, resigned, Crain’s reported. 

Cox began his tenure as commissioner in 2019, joining former mayor Lori Lightfoot’s administration. 

Cox’s resignation follows that of former Housing Commissioner Marisa Novara and Biagi’s. Johnson had requested commissioners to stay on for about 90 days after his inauguration on May 15 to ensure continuity and evaluate their compatibility.

Cox was hailed as an important get for Lightfoot, who lured him away from the top city planning position in Detroit. He helped facilitate Lightfoot initiatives such as Invest South/West and LaSalle Street Reimagined, with the goal of transforming old and vacancy-ridden Loop office buildings into mixed-income residential areas. These programs still need some more backing from Johnson and Chicago City Council in order to be carried out, though.

Cox also worked to better coordinate development efforts with the council and other departments by appointing city planners to oversee geographic sections of the city.

However, some local developers have criticized him, largely because of a sluggish design-review process that’s hindered several large-scale projects.

— Ted Glanzer

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