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Rachel Weber / University of Illinois at Chicago

Gui Auditorium / Knowlton Hall
March 27, 2019 - 5:30pm

Rachel Weber will present a lecture titled "Autopsy of a Boom: Explaining the Comeback of Chicago’s Loop" in Knowlton Hall’s Gui Auditorium at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday, March 27. Weber is a Professor and Director of Graduate Studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago’s College of Urban Planning and Public Affairs. She is an urban planner, political economist, and economic geographer who researches the relationship between finance and the built environment.

The focus of Weber’s research has been on instruments (tax increment financing, auction rate securities, crowdfunding, mortgage backed securities, tax credits) and infrastructures (school facilities, toll roads, commercial real estate). She is interested in why cities adopt certain instruments and how the use of particular methods of raising capital affects who benefits from and pays for urban infrastructures. In her work she has advanced the concept of “financialization” as shorthand for how these tools bring new politics, kinds of knowledge, and risks to bear on policy and development decisions. Weber is the author of From Boom to Bubble: How Finance Built the New Chicago (University of Chicago Press, 2015).

Weber holds a PhD in City and Regional Planning from Cornell University, a MRP in City and Regional Planning, also from Cornell University, and a BA in Development Studies from Brown University, where she graduated magna cum laude and high honors.

About the lecture

"Autopsy of a Boom: Explaining the Comeback of Chicago’s Loop" 

Rachel Weber will present the main arguments from her recent book on the relationship between financial markets and urban development. Looking at the case of Chicago’s downtown during the 2000s, she will demonstrate how new financial instruments, such as commercial mortgage backed securities, and regulatory changes that boosted liquidity in global capital markets set off a chain reaction of building acquisitions and construction despite anemic job growth. Because financial markets cannot impose new spatial orders on their own, she will highlight the intermediating practices of local real estate brokers, investment advisors, and property appraisers who guided capital toward specific sites and building types. By fueling aspirational consumption, these professionals helped construct occupant and investor demand for assets and shuffled tenants from marginally older buildings into the new green-glass-and-steel towers lining the historic core. They were aided by the policies of the City of Chicago as planners provided tax benefits and regulatory incentives for new building and tenant moves while simultaneously removing the detritus left over from prior waves of expansion.