Donna J. Pugh



Donna J. Pugh is a partner and real estate business lawyer with Foley & Lardner LLP where she focuses on obtaining land use and zoning entitlements on behalf of her retail, office, residential, health care and corporate clients. With her approach of bridging the gap between client, civic and municipal needs, Donna has an exceptionally high success rate of securing necessary approvals for land development projects in the Chicago area. She is a member of the firm’s Real Estate Practice.

A consensus builder, Donna works to unite institutional property owners, elected officials and community groups to achieve approvals that maximize flexibility of future land use and benefit all involved stakeholders.

Representative Experience

Donna has extensive experience in securing planned developments, special uses, rezonings, variations, text amendments and other land use approvals for the following project types:

  • Retail – including four regional shopping centers, grocery-anchored centers, numerous fast-food drive-thrus, and retail banks
  • Health care – including hospitals, physician office buildings, outpatient treatment centers, and senior living facilities
  • Mixed-use development – including projects containing office, hotel, retail (vertical malls), condos, and senior housing
  • Public way and signage – including securing approvals for private use of skybridges, tunnels, canopies, signs and others
  • Residential – including downtown and suburban, existing and proposed complexes and buildings
  • Cannabis – including securing zoning approvals for a high-profile cannabis dispensary in Chicago

Donna’s client list is extensive, including many high-profile land development projects, such as obtaining zoning approvals for the 960,000-square-foot United Center, home to Chicago Bulls and Chicago Blackhawks, and new practice facilities for both teams. She obtained approvals for Magnificent Mile shopping centers including Water Tower Place 900 North Michigan, and The Shops at North Bridge. She also obtained all zoning approvals for the original redevelopment (1994) and subsequent redevelopments of the 1.6 million square foot legacy mall Westfield Old Orchard in Skokie, IL.

Geographically, although Donna focuses her land use practice in Chicago, Cook County, DuPage County, and Will County, she has experience handling and advising on national land use matters.


  • Selected for inclusion in numerous Illinois Super Lawyers® lists
  • Selected for the list of Leading Lawyers in the area of land use, zoning & condemnation law
  • Selected by her peers for inclusion in The Best Lawyers in America© since 2011 in the field of Land Use and Zoning Law
  • Recognized by The Legal 500 for her work in real estate
  • In 2016, her client, The Talking Farm, was awarded the 2016 American Planning Association – Illinois Chapter Sustainability Award
  • Peer Review Rated as AV Preeminent®, the highest performance rating in the Martindale-Hubbell® Peer Review Ratings™ system*

Published Works

  • Co-author, “Ezell v. City of Chicago: Resolving the Tension Between Zoning of Shooting Ranges and the Second Amendment,” Illinois State Bar Association’s Section of Local Governmental Law, Vol. 54, No. 1 (September 2017)
  • Co-author, “Intergovernmental conflict: Ambiguity in the codification of Gurba,” Illinois State Bar Association’s Section on Local Government Law, Vol. 53, No. 6 (February 2017)
  • Co-author, “Walking a Tightrope: Navigating Panhandling Regulation in Light of Reed v. Gilbert,” Illinois State Bar Association’s Section on Local Government Law, Vol. 53, No. 2 (August 2016)
  • Co-author, “Intergovernmental Cooperation and Conflict: A Fresh Look,” Illinois State Bar Association’s Section on Local Government Law, Vol. 51, No. 5 (May 2015)
  • Co-author, “Hidden Agendas: How Covert Mobilization Tactics Are Changing Retail Development Petitioning,” Shopping Center Legal Update, Vol. 34, Issue 1 (Spring 2014)
  • Co-author, “Fighting Dirty: The New Frontier of Competitors' Conduct in Zoning Disputes,” Zoning and Planning Law Report, Vol. 35, No. 11 (December, 2012)
  • Co-author, "Beware the Public Way," Real Property, the newsletter of the Illinois State Bar Association’s Section on Real Estate Law, Vol. 55, No. 2 (October 2009)

Leadership Positions

  • Central Division Operations chair, International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC)
  • Past chair, American Bar Association Section of State and Local Government Law
  • Board member, chair of Membership Committee and co-chair of Project Review Committee, Near South Planning Board (2009 - 2010, 9,000 members)
  • Chair of the Board, The Magnificent Mile Association Charitable Foundation
  • Co-chair, Chicago Land Economics Weekend and Burnham Centennial Celebration, hosted by Lambda Alpha International, the Honorary Society for the Advancement of Land Economics (October 2009)
  • Adjunct professor of land use law, The John Marshall Law School
  • Past president, Lambda Alpha Honorary Land Economics Society (Chicago Chapter)
  • Past president, Women in Planning and Development
  • Past chair, Chicago Bar Association, Local Government Committee

Speaking Engagements

  • Presenter and organizer, “Nuts and Bolts of Land Use Law and Zoning,” Land Use Law in Illinois – Illinois Institute for Continuing Legal Education (March 2019)
  • Moderator, “Development and Displacement in Chicago Neighborhoods - Pilsen Case Study,” Foley & Lardner LLP (February 2019)
  • Moderator, “An Inflection Point in Land Development? Private and Public Conditions Considered,” Kratovil Conference on Real Estate Law & Practice, The John Marshall Law School (October 2018)
  • Moderator, “Moving Around the City of the Future: Understanding How Changes to Transportation Patterns Will Affect Land Use,” Foley & Lardner LLP (September 2018)
  • Moderator, “Amazon and Beyond: Business Relocations and Urban Development,” Foley & Lardner LLP (March 2018)
  • Moderator, “Zoning & Land Use 101 – Series: Cross-Fit Training for Business Lawyers,” Financial Poise (February 2018)
  • Moderator, “Exploring the Redevelopment of the North Branch Area,” Foley & Lardner LLP (October 2017)
  • Moderator, “NIMBYism: Understanding and Combatting Objections to Real Estate Developments,” Foley & Lardner LLP (April 2017)
  • Panelist, “Land Use Issues in Real Estate Transactions,” Practicing Law Institute, Chicago (November 16, 2016)
  • Moderator, “The Impacts of Segregation on Our Region,” Foley & Lardner LLP (November 2016)
  • Moderator, “Legal Issues Related to Zoning and Entitlements,” University of Illinois (September 2016)
  • Moderator, “The Future of Planned Manufacturing Districts (PMDs) in Chicago,” Foley & Lardner LLP (July 2016)
  • Moderator, “Regional Planning – Improving Chicagoland Through Long-Term Planning Efforts,” Foley & Lardner LLP (May 2016)

Community Engagement

Donna maintains an ongoing commitment to pro bono legal services, with Foley & Lardner’s constant support, by actively donating time to charitable, educational and not-for-profit organizations. Representative matters are listed below:

  • Hopewell Missionary Baptist Church (new community center in Chicago’s West Englewood neighborhood will serve young mothers and unwed pregnant women in providing them the support and resources they’ll need)
  • Covenant House (community center and transitional residence for homeless youth on Chicago’s West Side)
  • Breakthrough (transitional housing shelter, employment services, a fresh food market, and other homeless intervention services)
  • Grace & Peace Community Church (new charter school, community facility, and a worship center)
  • The Talking Farm (two acre urban farm that grows fresh produce applying sustainable agricultural practices, and offers a variety of education programs)


  • Loyola University of Chicago (J.D., 1983)
  • University of Florida (B.A., 1979)

* The Illinois Supreme Court does not recognize certifications of specialties in the practice of law and no award or recognition is a requirement to practice law in Illinois.