Chicago Park District Planning Director Gia Biagi
This month we highlight the distinguished career of Gia Biagi, who, for the last decade, has worked for the Chicago Park District, currently as the Director of Planning and Development. Her current responsibilities in that significant position include leading development of long-term strategic capital improvement planning and setting priorities for the $350 million park design and construction program, designing and developing 300 discrete projects annually, ranging from new community centers and playgrounds to natural areas and urban horticulture sites, leading successful intergovernmental effort to acquire more than $60 million in tax increment financing for park projects, and acquiring over 100 acres of new park land. No small task -- but this dynamic Italo-American is up to it.
Prior to being the Director of Planning and Development, she was the Deputy Director of Operations with responsibilities that included managing condition assessments for 200 sites in order to prioritize $250 million of building and landscape rehabilitation projects; developing a model for equitable capital project distribution through spatial demographic analysis and community engagement; helping restructure facility and landscape maintenance departments to increase productivity and standardizing service delivery.
For a short period of time, Gia worked for the City of Chicago in the Mayor's Office and Department of Planning. In that capacity she helped compliment the city by collaborating on beautification guidelines for plazas, streetscapes, and public right-of-ways as a catalyst for neighborhood improvement, and establishing urban design benchmarks for aesthetics and scale of big-box retail development.
Gia is on the cusp of completing the coursework towards a master's degree in Urban Planning and Public Policy at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She complimented her education in 2002 by participating in the Intergovernmental Executive Development Program run by the City of Chicago, which is a nationally recognized public sector executive development program. She received her undergraduate degree from the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, where she was the recipient of a Bachelor of Arts degree in English Literature.
A review of just some of the professional and community activities in which she is involved clearly describes Gia Biagi as a leader, a woman who has earned the great respect of her peers, co-workers and the community. They include member of Lambda Alpha International, the United States Green Building Council; board member of NeighborSpace; and former board member of Girls in the Game, and president of the Urban Planning Student Association at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
Her Italian roots are as follows: Her great grandparents, on the paternal (Biagi) side, were all born in the province of Pistoia in Tuscany, in a small town called Calamecca. In the late 1800s, her great-great grandfather went to Brazil to work in the backcountry coal mines. Around 1900, he followed the coal mining industry to western Pennsylvania.
On the maternal side, Gia's great-grandfather, also from Calamecca, arrived at the Pennsylvania coal mines in 1909. He had left behind his girlfriend and, when he was called back to Italy to fight in World War I, they were married. After the war, he returned to America to work in the textile industry in New Jersey. He eventually was able to bring his wife and children to the U.S. by 1936.
Italian culture played a prominent role in Ms. Biagi's childhood household, primarily centered around the dinner table and what was on it. Homemade Italian foods were regular staples in her parents' house and each child learned how to make gravy, pasta, wine, cheese, sausage, biscotti, and more from scratch. She still calls her mom to double-check her take on her manicotti recipe.
Ms. Biagi lives in River North with her husband Travis and two sons, Maxwell and Enzo.
Another example of the best our community has to offer.