Liz Butler concentrates her practice in the areas of land use, zoning, entitlements, urban planning, public incentives, historic preservation, and economic development, as well as general real estate transactions. She advises owners and developers of institutional, residential, commercial, and industrial property in acquisitions, dispositions, zoning entitlements, and economic development incentives. Liz counsels private sector clients in their interactions with the City of Chicago and suburban municipalities, working to build consensus between neighboring property owners, government representatives, and community stakeholders.
Through trusted relationships with municipal officials and staff and with knowledge of local land use and zoning codes, Liz achieves results for clients navigating complex entitlement processes. Liz has extensive experience in obtaining approvals for planned developments, zoning amendments, special uses, variations, subdivisions, right-of-way vacations, dedications, site plan approvals, and various municipal licenses. Liz has negotiated and implemented economic development and historic preservation incentives, performed general property evaluations and zoning due diligence, and structured and closed numerous real estate acquisitions and dispositions.
Prior to practicing law, Liz served as a municipal city planner in the Dallas metro area where she was responsible for coordinating the city’s development review process and acted as a liaison between the private development community and the city’s public boards and commissions. With her educational and professional background in urban planning, Liz brings a thoughtful, strategic, and holistic perspective to challenging development issues.
Liz is a member of the American Planning Association and is a certifed member of the American Institute of Certifed Planners. She is an active member of the Urban Land Institute.
Honoree, Best Lawyers® “Ones to Watch,” Land Use and Zoning Law, Real Estate Law (2022 – present)
40 Illinois Attorneys Under 40 to Watch Honoree, Chicago Daily Law Bulletin (2021)
Emerging Lawyer Honoree, Leading Lawyers Network, Land Use, Zoning and Commercial Real Estate (2021)
Honoree, Emerging Leader of the Year, Illinois RE Journal Real Estate Awards (2021)
Honoree, Outstanding Young Alumna by Illinois Institute of Technology (2023)
All Service Areas
- Chicago-Kent College of Law (2015)
- Florida State University (2009)
M.S., Urban and Regional Planning
- Florida State University (2007)
B.S., International Affairs
- State - Illinois
- Obtained approval of first City of Chicago “Low Affordability Community” designation for purposes of Cook County Affordable Housing Special Assessment Program eligibility for multi-family residential development in Chicago.
- Obtained special use approval from the Chicago Zoning Board of Appeals for approximately 10,000 square foot cannabis infusing facility in the West Loop.
- Representation of Glenstar in obtaining Chicago City Council approval of planned development amendment for high-profile project authorizing construction of a 297 multi-unit residential, transit-oriented development in the O’Hare Community Area, including 59 affordable units under the City’s amended Affordable Requirements Ordinance.
- Representation of global industrial logistics real estate developer in obtaining planned development and right of way adjustment approvals in connection with 150,000 square foot e-commerce delivery station/distribution center in Bridgeport neighborhood of Chicago.
- Representation of industrial real estate developer to obtain public incentives, subdivision, right of way, and zoning approvals for redevelopment of the former Republic Steel site with an approximately 200-acre master planned industrial logistics park on Chicago’s South Side.
- Obtained planned development approval for development of e-commerce fulfillment center in Chicago’s Pullman Park neighborhood.
- Obtained Cook County Class L certification for $750 million historic rehabilitation of iconic Chicago ballpark.
- Representation of Midwest-based developer for infrastructure, rail, and right of way planning, implementation, and construction to facilitate master planned development of 62-acre site in the South Loop neighborhood of Chicago.
- Representation of Chicago-based community development corporation to obtain land use approvals for Pullman Park, the phased redevelopment of the 180-acre site of the former Ryerson Steel mill on Chicago’s South Side, including planned development approval for commercial urban greenhouse.
- Representation of regional food bank for zoning, right of way and land use issues related to expansion of existing food depository facilities in Chicago.
- Representation of Chicago manufacturer in connection with the redevelopment of former headquarters facility in Chicago’s Bucktown neighborhood, including approval of waterway planned development, special uses, right of way vacation, re-subdivision, and closing on assemblage of land to complete development site.
- Representation of property owner in jury trial to determine just compensation for a taking by the City of Chicago. The case had previously been tried resulting in verdict of $2.5 million. On appeal, the verdict was reversed and remanded for a new trial. The second jury trial resulted in a verdict of $7.1 million.
- Representation of North American transportation company in obtaining public incentives to relocate operations facilities in Chicago.
- Representation of national developer of sports and entertainment venues to obtain land use entitlements to develop and operate a sports and entertainment complex in Chicago.
- Representation of hotel developer to obtain land use entitlements to develop a 310-key hotel in Downtown Chicago.
- Representation of developer to obtain land use entitlements and economic development incentives to redevelop and repurpose an approximately 15-acre suburban shopping center in Oak Lawn, Illinois.
- Obtained Chicago Plan Commission Lakefront Review and special use approval for development of 78-unit multi-family residential project in Chicago.
- Representation of hotel developer to obtain land use entitlements to adaptively reuse an existing historic building as a boutique hotel in the Lincoln Park neighborhood in Chicago.
- Representation of regional not-for-profit health care system to obtain approvals for special use, right of way vacation, and development agreement for development of medical office building in Oak Lawn, Illinois.
- Representation of medical group to obtain land use approvals and entitlements to establish 40,000 square foot medical office in a Chicago suburb.
- Representation of owner and developer to obtain land use approvals to develop luxury multi-unit residential building in Chicago’s Gold Coast neighborhood.
- Representation of industrial manufacturer in connection with acquisition of approximately 176,000 square foot manufacturing and distribution facility and approval of Cook County tax incentives for property reuse and rehabilitation.
- In partnership with the Lawyers’ Committee for Better Housing and Legal Aid Chicago, established the Eviction Brief Advice Desk (“EBAD”). Situated within the Daley Center, the EBAD advises pro se renters on how to best advocate for themselves in court, and helps them resolve their case in a most favorable manner, ideally avoiding an eviction order or getting the record sealed. In its first year, the EBAD served 64 tenant families, providing advice, preparing pro se documents (settlement agreements, continuances, motions to vacate, appearances/jury demand); and negotiating deals with pro se landlords and opposing counsel. Assisted with structuring the EBAD program, training volunteers, and regularly staffed the EBAD help desk.
- Obtained zoning amendment and special use approvals for significant community and economic development program for arts and community center space on south side of Chicago on behalf of Theaster Gates’ Rebuild Foundation, a culture-based, artist-led not-for-profit arts services and community development organization. This work will facilitate the development of an arts and culture-oriented community space, including the construction of a single-story building that will be used as artist workspace, a wood burning kiln for ceramic art creation, and installation of landscaped green space to be used for arts, yoga, dance classes, and meditation.
- Counseled the Baum Family Foundation, the Inspiration Corporation, and development partners in connection with site selection for a development program designed to meet the needs of Chicago’s unsheltered, including a community kitchen and 100 percent affordable housing development project targeted for extremely low-income and formerly homeless individuals.
- Representation of not-for-profit affordable housing developer and religious institution in obtaining rezoning approval for the development of a 100 percent affordable, permanent supportive housing project in the Lakeview neighborhood in Chicago.
- On behalf of a non-profit nursery school, obtained approval of a zoning change, special use, and variations.
- Successfully argued before the Cook County Criminal Court for the grant of a Certificate of Good Conduct on behalf of a client who faced barriers to employment due to past criminal record.
- Represented two federal prisoners in their clemency petitions to the federal Office of the Pardon Attorney. Obtained clemency on behalf of both clients, who were serving life terms of imprisonment for non-violent, low-level drug offenses.
Speeches and Publications
- Panelist, Equitable Transit-Oriented Development: The Facts, Figures and Opportunities, Chicago Central Area Committee Monthly Meeting, July 11, 2023.
- Panelist, Capacity Building Collaborative: Local Incentives, presented by the Urban Land Institute’s Technical Assistance Services and the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP), June 29, 2023
- Speaker, Seeing Green: Proactive Planning and Zoning for Cannabis Businesses to Promote Equitable Economic Development, American Planning Association Illinois Conference, September 29, 2022
- Speaker, New Affordable Housing Incentive Programs, presented by the Women’s Property Tax Association, August 16, 2022
- Panelist, The Past, Present, and Future of Chicagoland’s Zoning Ordinances, presented by the Real Estate Investment Association, May 19, 2022
- Moderator, The Front Stoop: Incentivizing Affordable Housing Through a Newly-Created Property Tax Program, presented by the Urban Land Institute, May 18, 2022
- Speaker, Incentivizing Affordable Housing and Offsetting the ARO: A primer and Update on the Affordable Housing Special Assessment Program, presented by The Realty Club of Chicago, May 13, 2022
- Speaker, Understanding Zoning for Practitioners, presented by the Chicago Association of Realtors, April 20, 2022
- Speaker, Cannabis Zoning Principles – Coffee & Cannabis, presented by Redmond Construction, March 16, 2022
- Presenter, Real Estate Exchange Summer Program: Master Class in Land Use, Zoning, and Social Impact, July 2021
- “Impact Fees,” IICLE Land Use Law: Special Topics, Chapter 3 (2021 Edition)
- “Chicago City Council adopts electric vehicle readiness requirements,” Chicago Land Use News Series, May 4, 2020
- “Processing a Land Use Application from Submission to Administrative or Legislative Decision,” IICLE Land Use Law: Practice and Procedure, Chapter 4 (2021 edition)
- “Second Chances for the Second City’s Vacant Properties”, Chicago-Kent Law Review, 2016
- Urban Land Institute
Local Product Council, Member and Past Vice Chair
Program Committee Member
- Chicago Bar Association
- American Planning Association
- American Institute of Certified Planners
Certified Member, since 2012
- Chicago-Kent Law Review Alumni Board
- Real Estate Finance Forum
- Women in Planning + Development Chicago
- CREW Chicago
- Near South Planning Board
- Lambda Alpha Ely Chapter, Land Economics Honorary Society
- Leadership Greater Chicago
Signature Fellow Program, Class of 2023
- Chicago Housing Trust
- Design Trust Chicago
Advisory Board Member
- Lawyers' Committee for Better Housing
Young Professionals Board, Member
- Navy Pier Associate Board
- Chicago-Kent Law Review Alumni Board
- Near South Planning Board
- The Goldie Initiative
- Chicago-Kent College of Law
Women in Law Mentor
- LINK Unlimited Scholars