Since its founding, Friends of Downtown has been actively involved in advocating for significant improvements for downtown’s workers, residents, students and visitors. Perhaps the most well-known of these improvements was the introduction of outdoor café seating.

Please join us as at The Cliff Dwellers as distinguished former members of the board - including Norm Elkin, Mary Ludgin, Graham C. Grady and Mary Jo Graf - discuss the strategies employed in these political processes over the years. The evening will include  drinks (cash bar) from 5:30 to 6pm, Program from 6 to 7pm.  Program is free but space is limited and reservations are requested.  After the Program the Club will be serving a $25 Buffet Dinner at 7:15 pm (advance reservations required for dinner – credit cards accepted).  Reservations for the panel and for dinner may be made by e-mail to: 

Norm Elkin has had a long and distinguished career as a civic leader and innovator in office, retail, residential and hotel development. He served as Vice President at JMB/Urban Development Co. (and its predecessor companies) from 1971 until his retirement in 1992. He and the late Ed Lawrence were the catalyzers of Friends of Downtown in 1981, and they played a decisive role in many of FoD’s achievements. He also played major roles in the Chicago Loop Alliance (formerly the Greater State Street Council), Lambda Alpha International, Chaddick Institute for Metropolitan Development, among others.

Mary Ludgin is Managing Director, Head of Global Research at Heitman and an equity owner of the firm.  Founded in 1966, Heitman LLC is a global real estate investment management firm with over $33 billion in assets. Heitman invests in commercial real estate directly or in publicly traded real estate securities. She is a member of the firm’s Board of Managers, Management Committee, North American Private Equity Valuation Committee, and Private Equity and Debt Investment Committees.  She is the author of numerous articles and research studies relating to real estate markets, portfolio management and strategy.  She is a member of the boards of the Urban Land Institute and the Metropolitan Planning Council.

Mary Jo Graf has had a long and distinguished career in Chicago as Director of Marketing for three of the city’s major architectural firms, as well as having worked with Turner Construction and as Executive Director of the Chicago Chapter of the American Institute of Architects.  She served on Friends of Downtown’s Board of Directors from 2001 to 2006; on the Programs/Events Committee from 2001to 2012; and as Co-Chair of the Programs/Events Committee from 2001 to 2006.

Graham C. Grady practices land use and zoning law at Taft Stettinius & Hollister LLP.  With a focus on the City of Chicago and Cook County, he has an exceptionally high success rate in securing necessary approvals for land developments in the Chicago metropolitan area. He served as Commissioner for the City of Chicago Department of Buildings; Zoning Administrator of the City of Chicago Department of Zoning and as ex-officio member of the Chicago Plan Commission.