A Conversation With Chicago's 11th Ward Ald. Patrick Daley Thompson

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A unique perspective

Patrick Daley Thompson balances between life as an attorney here at Burke, Warren, MacKay & Serritella and as Alderman representing the 11th Ward in Chicago. The 11th Ward includes Bridgeport, along with Armour Square, Canaryville, Pilsen, University Village and Tri-Taylor neighborhoods. In addition to addressing the ongoing needs of his ward, Thompson maintains a busy commercial real estate practice at Burke, Warren.

Thompson was elected Alderman in 2015. Prior to his election, he served since 2012 as one of nine elected Commissioners of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District (MWRD). Prior to joining the Firm in 2011, Thompson was a partner at DLA Piper. Thompson started his career as a commercial real estate broker at Chicago-based Jupiter Realty.

In the Q&A with Thompson below, we explore the past, present and future of his two-track professional life.

Q: How would you compare your previous role as MWRD Commissioner with Alderman of Chicago’s 11th Ward?
A: I was one of nine MWRD Commissioners, whose constituents included the elected officials of the 125 communities within the District along with the 5 million people who call those communities home. Our work focused on sanitation, stormwater and water treatment. We dealt with the realities of flooding and its impact on communities. We worked to find creative solutions with many elected officials. We passed the Watershed Management Ordinance, setting standards for new development projects relating to sewer construction, erosion control, detention, floodplain management and other related development matters. In contrast, as Alderman I deal with a smaller population and a much broader scope of services. With approximately 57,000 residents, the 11th Ward has a population which is larger than all but a handful of cities in Illinois. On the Ward level, little things make a big difference in people’s lives. Trash needs to be picked up on time and potholes need to be filled. When there’s a problem in my Ward, my constituents expect me to be on top of it. I also serve as unofficial zoning administrator for my Ward. My legal experience and real estate background have been a big help.

Q: You moved your practice from one of the largest firms in the world to mid-sized, Chicago-based Burke, Warren. Why the move — and how has that impacted your practice?
A: DLA Piper is one of the top firms in the world and it was an honor for me to be a partner with that very talented group of people. DLA had the capacity to get things done almost anywhere in the world, but my interests were focused on Chicago and the region. At Burke, Warren, we provide a full-service platform, while maintaining a level of personal connection with clients which is rare today. From my perspective, the talent I have available is as good as it gets for any commercial development project in the greater Chicago area. We have a well conceived business model utilizing a team of experienced partners and talented associates. This firm is very well positioned to succeed in a highly competitive legal market.

Q: Is being a member of a famous political family a blessing or a curse?
A: I have been very blessed to be part of a wonderful family. For as long as I can remember, I have been a witness to my family’s public service, which is why I’m drawn to it. That includes my uncle, John Daley, a Cook County Commissioner; my uncle, Bill Daley, who served as Secretary of Commerce to President Clinton and Chief of Staff to President Obama; my grandfather, Richard J. Daley, and my uncle, Richard M. Daley, who both served as mayors of Chicago. I’ve always been interested in the impact that government can have on communities — I like to focus on building up the communities, bringing people together, and finding creative solutions to problems. I believe public service is an admirable profession. Our family’s public service also extends beyond government; there are many ways to serve the public. My mother and two aunts were public school teachers. My grandfather and three uncles were also lawyers, which had a big influence on me.

Q: Has your public service given you a different perspective in your law practice?
A: It really has. Each real estate development project is unique, but they are all affected by both public and private interests. My experience as both a public servant and a real estate lawyer helps me see both sides of the issues. It’s helped me understand that there is almost always a solution to any difficult development problem — one that serves the community’s needs and provides a reasonable result for the owner or developer.

Q: Bridgeport is becoming an increasingly popular place to live. Why do you think that’s the case?
A: Crain’s did a nice piece on Bridgeport a few months ago, calling it the fastest growing neighborhood in the City. We had over 300 new residential units — both single and multi-family — under construction in 2017. We are a bedroom community with a well-balanced mix of residential options including modest properties and high-end options too. You can find single-family homes and rowhouses. The residential prices in Bridgeport are lower than other areas and our main draw is people who envision living in more of a “community” than some trendier areas. We have excellent schools, both public and Catholic. Bridgeport also has excellent public transportation, with access to the Red and Orange lines and the new 31st Street Bus that connects the two trains. My goal is to attract positive development to the 11th Ward.

The challenge for me is attracting new folks while also providing opportunities for our existing residents and their families. We have a diverse community and we try to accommodate everyone. I grew up in Bridgeport, so it’s important to me to develop the community while also accommodating the people who have always loved living there.

Q: Can you say more about the appeal of Chicago’s 11th Ward and Chicago in general?
A: Chicago’s South Side has a rich culture, which helps explain the increase in development. The Obama Library is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Chicago. Closer to home for me is the beautiful Eleanor Boathouse — a new rowing training center and boat storage facility. The art community and restaurant scene are also thriving. The Bridgeport Art Center and Zhou B Art Center both have world class exhibitions. We also have excellent restaurant options between our local establishments and some great chains that Chicagoans know and love. The neighborhood is constantly evolving, and I think more and more people are catching on.
Chicago had record numbers of visitors last year, surpassing 50 million, including record numbers from overseas at a time when international tourism to the US overall was down. Chicago also led the way among US cities for corporate relocations. People want to be here. And that definitely includes Chicago’s 11th Ward.

Q. Describe how your public sector experience helps make the Burke, Warren real estate team so effective.
A: As I mentioned, my work with the complex issues faced by governmental officials, coupled with my legal and real estate experience, allow me to assist our clients in formulating creative solutions in complex real estate situations. My experience, combined with our outstanding transactional and entitlement team, is part of what makes our Burke, Warren real estate practice uniquely well qualified.

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