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Rachel Weber, Professor

Rachel Weber is a Professor in the Urban Planning and Policy Department and a Faculty Fellow at the Great Cities Institute. Her research and teaching are situated at the intersection of urban economic development, public finance, and real estate.

Rachel has been interested in the impact of capital markets on urban economies and the built environment since she was a graduate student. Her doctoral dissertation, subsequently published as Swords into Dow Shares: Governing the Decline of the Military Industrial Complex (Westview, 2000) questioned the shareholder orientation of the defense drawdown following the end of the Cold War. She subsequently focused on the mechanisms through which municipal governments construct a nexus between global financial circuits and local assets, in the process debunking the notion that economic development is a strictly local activity. For example, she treats Tax Increment Financing (or TIF) not just as an incentive used by cities to promote growth in specific locations. For her, TIF is also a means of speculating on the future, converting the tax base into new financial instruments to be transacted in public debt markets, and bringing new forms of expertise into urban policy decisions (see articles on this topic in Antipode and Economic Geography). Similarly, assets such as toll roads and parking meters are repurposed from local infrastructure and public goods into streams of future revenues that are sold off to global investment consortia (see articles co-authored with Phil Ashton and Marc Doussard in Urban Studies and the Journal of the American Planning Association). Rachel’s book, From Boom to Bubble: How Finance Built the New Chicago (University of Chicago Press, forthcoming 2015), explores how speculation in capital markets in conjunction with routine professional practices led to commercial overbuilding in Chicago’s Loop during the “Millennial Boom” (roughly 1998-2008). The local state was called in to absorb the surplus left in the wake of this finance-led boom, helping to subsidize and reposition office buildings and submarkets “blighted” by tenant losses (mainly to the new towers) and overleverage.

Rachel has also written on school finance, the effect of e-commerce on bricks-and-mortar retailers, the design of incentive contracts, and participatory budgeting. She is the co-editor of the Oxford Handbook of Urban Planning (with Randy Crane, UCLA), a compilation of 40 essays by leading urban scholars. Rachel sits on numerous editorial boards for peer-reviewed journals and regularly consults with community organizations, local governments, and journalists. She has a Bachelor of Arts in Development Studies from Brown University and a Masters and PhD in City and Regional Planning from Cornell University.

Research Interests

Urban and regional economic development; development finance; municipal government law; planning theory; industrial restructuring; public finance.


UPP 500 History and Theory of Urban Planning
UPP 533 Development Financial Analysis
UPP 535 Studio: Revitalizing Urban Business Districts
UPP 583 Advanced Planning Theory

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Recognition / Awards

UIC Award for Excellence in Teaching, 2009

Pre-doctoral Fellow, Center for International Security and
Arms Control, Stanford University (1996-7)

Visiting Scholar, School of Design and Law School,
Harvard University (1996)

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Recent Publications

Phil Ashton, Marc Doussard, and Rachel Weber, “Reconstituting the State: City Powers and Exposures in Chicago’s Infrastructure Leases.” Urban Studies, May 2014

Brenda Parker and Rachel Weber. “Second-Hand Spaces: Restructuring Retail Geographies in an Era of eCommerce.” Urban Geography 34 (8):1096-1118, 2013.

Rachel Weber and Sara O’Neill-Kohl, “The Historical Roots of Tax Increment Financing, or How Real Estate Consultants Kept Urban Renewal Alive” Economic Development Quarterly 27(4), 2013.

Phil Ashton, Marc Doussard, and Rachel Weber, “The Financial Engineering of Infrastructure Privatization: What Are Public Assets Worth to Private Investors?” Journal of the American Planning Association78 (3): 300-312, 2012.

Rachel Weber, “Selling City Futures: The Financialization of Urban Redevelopment Policy” Economic Geography 86 (3): 251-274, 2010.

Rachel Weber and Daniel McMillen, “Ask and Ye Shall Receive? Predicting the Successful Appeal of Property Tax Assessments” Public Finance Review 38 (1): 74-101, 2010.

Room 236

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