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Competition Award Winners Announced!

Click HERE to view the winning 2019 Fill the (Housing) Gap: A Missing Middle Housing Design Competition submissions.



The Missing Middle has many types: The two and four flat. The townhome. The granny flat. The mansion apartment. Together, these development types provide choices for families, homeowners, and local property owners to live and invest in a stable, walkable community. They bridge the gap between the single family home and the large multifamily building.

Yet, this critical link in our region’s housing supply is disappearing in some communities -- and it’s not being developed in others. According to data from the DePaul Institute of Housing Studies, two-to-four flats make up 27 percent of Chicago’s housing stock. These buildings serve as the cornerstone of many Chicago blocks, but the city is losing these types at a rapid pace as they are converted to single family homes. The alternate trend towards transit-oriented development will not replace these more spacious, livable units.

Meanwhile, many suburban communities struggle to attract and maintain a diverse population, particularly young professionals and families. Demographic trends indicate that the majority of Millennials will soon be seeking urban-like social and cultural amenities within walkable suburbs. However, this diverse generation also struggles with student loan debt and a rising cost of living. When a lack of options drives up the cost of housing, walkable communities often move out of reach.

Missing Middle describes a scale of multifamily housing that fits appropriately into single family neighborhoods while providing greater density and affordability near local amenities and transit options. Most of these housing typologies have not been constructed in recent real estate cycles and are often illegal to build under many zoning codes of today - in other words, they have gone “Missing”. But, if we look around, these buildings are in the historic DNA of our communities. The demand for smaller units is huge and these types provide a tremendous amount of value because there is less competition in the marketplace. Most importantly, the concept of Missing Middle is a critical strategy for infill residential development that can help meet the growing shortage of affordable housing. The small scale of these projects make them more feasible and attractive for development.

The Competition

This competition seeks to bring new ideas to real sites within Illinois cities in order to demonstrate how new infill housing can help meet the growing demand for medium scale housing in our urban and suburban neighborhoods. The competition is open to everyone everywhere. Professional licensure or certification is not required for participation. Competition entrants should research “Missing Middle” housing typologies and design a proposed housing solution that would achieve medium-density yields while providing high-quality, cost-effective, marketable options between the scales of single-family homes and mid-rise apartments. Designs should seek to meet the needs of society’s shifting demographics, be priced toward moderate-to-middle income households, and help maintain a diverse neighborhood character.

Entrants may select one of three sites to demonstrate their design solution: one in an urban neighborhood, one in a suburban community near Chicago, and one in a mid-sized city downstate. Each site displays a unique set of economic, demographic, and built parameters that must be considered carefully. These various conditions act as a prototypical subset of Illinois’ varying urban environment.

Proposed design solutions should fit the context of the selected site and follow the principles described in the CNU Charter of the New Urbanism. Designs should be contextually sensitive, reflect a regional vernacular character of residential architecture in Illinois, and utilize regional materials. Designers should consider indoor and outdoor environments that support sustainable initiatives that activate spaces. Considerable emphasis will be placed on construction cost and affordability. The competition seeks to demonstrate how affordable and creative design solutions can spur economic development, enhance local placemaking, encourage sustainability, and improve the quality of life in our existing neighborhoods.

Prizes & Recognition

The intent of the competition is to award a cash prize to the winning entry for each one of the three potential sites. The top first place winning entry across all sites, as determined by the jury, will receive a top cash prize of $2,500. Merit Awards will be given in amounts of $1,000 – the final decision regarding the number and cash amount of additional awards is left wholly to the discretion of the jury panel and may or may not included a winner for each one of the three potential sites.

Competition winners will be publicly announced in February 2019. Winning entries and designers will receive broad public exposure and will be recognized at a Design Symposium in early 2019, dates and locations to be determined. Entries will be on exhibition display at a downtown location in 2019.


SITE 01. E. Sheridan Road | Lake Bluff, IL

SITE 02. West Main Street | Peoria, IL

SITE 03. W. Montrose Avenue | Chicago, IL 


Registration Opens  -   September 10, 2018

Registration Closes   -   November 30, 2018

Submission Deadline   -   January 10, 2019 by 4:00pm Central Time Zone

Jury Deliberates   -   January 2019


Pro Forma Webinar  -  December 5, 2018 at 11:30am Central Time

Hosted by Jim Kumon, Executive Director of Incremental Development Alliance 

(All competition entrants will receive a template of the pro forma after registration closes on November 30th).


To register online, CLICK HERE and complete the process. For each competition entry, designers provide a housing solution for one of the three predetermined sites. You may also register for multiple sites, but each requires separate registration. Multiple entries must be submitted separately with corresponding entry forms and application fees for each.

CNU Members & Partner Organizations Registration by November 1 - $75.00, Late Registration - $100

Students Registration by November 1 - $50, Late Registration - $75

All Others Registration by November 1 - $100, Late Registration - $125


MGLM Architects | Network Sponsor


Opticos Design | City Sponsor

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Help support the Missing Middle Housing Design Competition! 

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To learn more, email for additional sponsorship benefits. 

Submission Requirements

Each entry may include one design only for one selected site. Submittals will only be accepted as two 24” x 36” presentation boards (portrait orientation) as a high resolution PDF. Do not include any identifying markers in the PDF submittal. This will help ensure anonymity during the judgment process. Each entry should be given a unique title but may not contain any description of yourself of any firm or company information.

Submissions shall include as a minimum the following descriptive documents:
  • 150-word Statement of Design Intent

  • Site Plan to scale, oriented north up

  • Floor Plans representing the proposed mix of unit types.

  • Front, Side and Rear Elevations of proposed building(s)

  • Building Section(s) as needed, minimum one transverse section and one longitudinal.

  • One or more 3D views to communicate overall massing and unique features of the design – at a minimum one aerial and one street view is recommended.

  • Calculate income and expenses using a simple pro forma.  A template will be provided after registration is complete. All calculations to be based on local construction costs and housing values.

  • Any other information determined by the entrants to be valuable to an understanding of the proposed design solution.

  • Submittal Deadline: January 10, 2019 by 4:00pm Central Time Zone

  • Use of firm, individual, or company names or logos on competition material or incomplete submissions may result in disqualification.

  • Once the final submissions are uploaded, no additional edits, uploads, or changes can be made.

  • Employees of any of the sponsoring organizations are eligible to participate in the competition. However, no employee or associate of any jury member is allowed to enter the competition.


  • CNU Illinois reserves the right to retain ownership of all competition materials to use in exhibitions or publications without compensation to the entrants. Each competitor will retain full copyright unless state otherwise. No submissions will be returned.

  • Competition entrants may submit questions until date November 30, 2018.  All questions will be answered at one time and posted to the website. Participants must not contact any of the sponsoring organizations or jurors regarding the competition. All contact or questions regarding this competition should be directed by email to:

Jennifer Settle

CNU Illinois Vice Chair of External Affairs

Jury Panel

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Daniel Parolek
Principal and Founder, Opticos Design

Daniel is an urban designer and architect who is a national thought leader on topics related to walkable urban living including Missing Middle Housing and Zoning Reform/Form-Based Coding.

Daniel plays a key role in the application and development of the concept of Missing Middle Housing, which intelligently responds to the dramatic shift in demand for living in walkable urban places, changing household demographics, and affordable housing options. (A recent Next City article referred to Daniel as “that guy” who coined the term.) Missing Middle Housing was chosen as a focus for AARP’s 2018 efforts and as a top trend in real estate by Realtor Magazine. As a frequent speaker and strategic advisor on the topic, he has worked successfully with builders to introduce Missing Middle Housing types into their portfolios, and with cities to create strategies and create policies that remove barriers and incentivize Missing Middle Housing. Dan’s noteworthy Missing Middle projects include the Mews Homes, which were highlighted in Builder Magazine in 2017, and the Prairie Queen Neighborhood in the Omaha metro region, which will be the country’s first Missing Middle neighborhood.

Daniel is also at the forefront of rethinking the way we zone our communities to foster more compact, walkable, and vibrant places. In 2007, he co-authored the book Form-Based Codes, defining a new and more effective way of regulating walkable urban places. He is a founding board member of the Form-Based Codes Institute, through which he teaches courses to professionals on this topic and is frequently approached by cities for advice on zoning. His work in this area includes a city-wide Form-Based Code for Cincinnati, Ohio, which won a CNU Charter Award Grand Prize, and Gabon, Africa’s first development code, which won the APA’s 2016 Pierre L’Enfant International Planning Achievement Award and an FBCI Driehaus Award.

Daniel recently joined the ULI Small Scale Development Product Council, is on a national APA Policy and Design Task Force, and served on the board of Transform, which promotes walkable communities with transportation choices to connect people of all incomes to opportunity. He is a frequent speaker at national events for APA, CNU, New Partners for Smart Growth, and ULI, among others.

Nancy Firfer 
Senior Advisor, Metropolitan Planning Council, CMAP Housing Committee

Nancy joined MPC in 2011, as a senior advisor supporting MPC’s work to encourage balanced housing in local communities across metropolitan Chicago, and deepening its partnerships with elected officials.

Prior to joining MPC, Nancy was a senior advisor with Chicago Metropolis 2020 (now known as Metropolis Strategies), a nonprofit organization created in 1999 by the Commercial Club of Chicago to advocate for better regional planning and smart investments to promote the region’s long-term health. At Metropolis Strategies, Nancy worked with the Metropolitan Mayors Caucus to envision and lead “Homes for a Changing Region.” At MPC, Nancy is continuing to support the evolution of Homes for a Changing Region in partnership with the Mayors Caucus and Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP).

Previously, Nancy spent 24 years as an elected official. A longtime resident of the Village of Glenview, she served two terms as Glenview’s president. During her tenure, she oversaw the redevelopment of the Glenview Naval Air Station into a highly successful mixed-income community that includes a wide range of housing, open space and recreation, and commercial and retail development. She also served on the Northbrook/Glenview Elementary Board of Education and the Northbrook/Glenview High School Board of Education. 

Nancy continues to serve her community as a trustee of the Kohl Children’s Museum Board, member of the honorary land economics society Lambda Alpha International, and member of the Board of the Youth Services of Glenview/Northbrook. She also is a member of Urban Land Institute-Chicago. Nancy has served numerous civic and educational institutions, including to the Illinois State Workforce Investment Board and Executive Committee of the Council of Mayors for the Chicago Area Transportation Study. She has served as president of the Northwest Municipal Conference, and participated in the Metropolitan Mayors Caucus and several of its task forces. She currently co-chairs CMAP’s Housing Committee, and was appointed by the governor to the State Housing Task Force in 2016.

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Chris Dillion 
President, Campbell Coyle

As President of Campbell Coyle, Chris leads sustainable development and district-scale revitalization efforts, producing highly transformative real estate projects in a growing number of urban and micro-urban communities. His past work includes the development of over 2.75 million square feet of retail, residential and mixed-use real estate.

Chris is a leader in green building, having developed, lectured and advocated on the sustainability movement. He is a past appointee to the State of Illinois LEED Task Force, where he advanced policy solutions aimed at creating funding mechanisms to foster sustainability initiatives in public schools. He is past Chair of the Illinois Green Alliance Board of Directors, a USGBC community promoting green buildings and sustainable communities.

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Juan Carlos Linares  
Executive Director, LUCHA

Juan Carlos Linares is the Executive Director of LUCHA, a Chicago-based affordable housing development agency which offers housing counseling, foreclosure prevention and legal assistance to over 8,000 clients annually in the Midwest.  LUCHA is currently building the first multi-family “Passive House” in Illinois to go along with 198 affordable housing units in Chicago’s Humboldt Park, Logan Square and West Town neighborhoods.


Juan Carlos also serves as Chair of the Illinois Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, he has a mayoral appointment to the Chicago Low-Income Housing Trust Fund Board, and serves on the Boards of Urban Theater Company and The Woodstock Institute.  He also serves on Northeastern Illinois University's El Centro Campus Advisory Council and is on the Adjunct Faculty of the University of Chicago Law School.

Elizabeth McNicholas 
Principal, MGLM Architects

How the built environment can foster social interaction and human wellbeing is one of the main drivers in Elizabeth’s design approach, and she brings a broad range of experiences in civic, ecclesiastical, and residential design and master planning—from wide regional to focused neighborhood contexts—to bear on MGLM’s endeavors.


Having spent much of her adulthood learning to cope with chronic illness - and now an exemplar in thriving with Stage IV cancer - Elizabeth’s sensitivities have given her distinct insights into the impact of the built environment on both human wellbeing and its opposite: stress. She and her husband and partner, Matthew, have presented widely on the subject in recent years. Elizabeth holds a B.Arch & Master’s of Architectural Design & Urbanism from the University of Notre Dame, and holds a Certificate in Neuroscience for Architecture from NewSchool of Architecture & Design. She has enjoyed multiple stints studying and working in the finest cities of Europe, though these days most delights in doting on her 2-year-old son at home in Chicago.

Judging Criteria

Design Proposals will be judged on their ability to meet the following goals: 

  • Promote human well being and improve the quality of life in our existing neighborhoods with particular emphasis on buildings that contribute to the enhancement of the public realm. 

  • Respect and compliment the context of the selected site and its surrounding neighborhood, while also being responsive to regional issues, character and materials.

  • Utilize affordable and creative design solutions that spur economic development and bring added value to local placemaking efforts. 

  • Demonstrate how they are able to meet the needs of society’s shifting demographics and contribute to a diverse neighborhood character once developed.  

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