Ciere Boatright ’05
Ciere Boatright ’05, Chicago’s new commissioner of the Department of Planning & Development, calls herself a “firecracker.” Born on the Fourth of July, she says, “I have a fiery personality ... I have this desire to light up spaces in a positive way.”

Unanimously approved by the city council, she had made a name for herself at the nonprofit Chicago Neighborhood Initiatives. She helped oversee $400 million in economic development projects in underserved areas that created 1,800 jobs in the food, housing, and retail sectors.

“For many people, real estate development is the bricks and the sticks. It’s the housing, the industrial, the retail. For me, it’s a transformation of lives. It’s job creation, bringing amenities, and supporting small businesses and affordable homeownership,” says Boatright, who grew up in a rough neighborhood on the city’s South Side.

She remembers as a child that her mother routinely shopped for groceries and took her to play elsewhere. “That’s what you in 2020 when it named her one of the city’s “40 Under 40” people to watch. “It fueled my passion for this type of work. I didn’t want to run from my neighborhood. Instead, I wanted to go back and help uplift neighborhoods.”

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Today the city’s commercial real estate vacancy rate has spiked to record highs — nearly 25 percent, according to Crain’s. Weak demand has forced major foreclosures and left once bustling retail areas like Michigan Avenue hurting. Boatright welcomes the challenge. “This is a hard job. It’s a tough job because it’s a very tough real estate market. I’m going to leverage every single financial and economic toolbox to spur development,” she says.

Real estate developer Doug Doig saw the results she achieved turning around Chicago’s languishing Pullman neighborhood. He believes she has the “Ciere magic” to speed up projects.

Boatright says that, so far, she has been “pleasantly surprised” by Mayor Brandon Johnson’s willingness to cut red tape. Wizardry has nothing to do with it, according to her. “It’s not magic,” she says. “It’s grit.”

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