Tom A. Cokins kept a low profile in his hometown of Riverside. In Chicago, it was a different matter. While his name may not have garnered headlines, his vision helped shape contemporary Chicago.

As an urban planner and executive director of the Chicago Central Area Committee, a think tank that included some of the city’s most powerful business people, Mr. Cokins had a central role in the development of the museum campus and Millennium Park.

He summed up his role in helping shape the city in a 2005 interview with Crain’s Chicago Business.

“I was taught that we make plans for the next generation, and for our grandchildren,” Mr. Cokins said.

Mr. Cokins participated in the writing of the committee’s Chicago Central Area Plan in 1983, two years before he became the group’s executive director. Under his direction, the Central Area Committee mapped plans for bringing people back downtown by advocating residential development in the South and West Loop, revitalizing River North and reinventing Navy Pier as a major attraction.

Tom A. Cokins, 63, died Aug. 10, 2010 at Northwestern University Hospital.

Born Feb. 12, 1947 to Steven and Angeline (nee Tulupan) Cokins, Mr. Cokins studied urban planning at Southern Illinois University under R. Buckminster Fuller in the 1960s and began a career in public service in 1970 in the Chicago Department of Human Services.

He later moved to the Chicago/Cook County Criminal Justice Commission and in 1978 to the Chicago Department of Planning to oversee community service and security programs.

According to a 1985 Chicago Tribune article announcing Mr. Cokins’ hiring as executive director of the Chicago Central Area Committee, he also served on Mayor Harold Washington’s advisory committee to investigate the feasibility of a downtown heliport and was a member of the State Street Mall Commission. The one-time pedestrian mall was reopened to traffic in 1996.

Mr. Cokins was preceded in death by his wife, Connie Cokins (nee Amberg), and is survived by his fiancée, Francine Sheehan.

He is also survived by his children, Michael Cokins and Sydney Cokins, and his brother, Gary (Pam) Cokins. He was a role model for Patrick, Katie and Connor Sheehan.

A memorial service was held Aug. 15 at Kuratko-Nosek Funeral Home, North Riverside.

Donations are appreciated to the Tom A. Cokins Memorial Fund, c/o Riverside Bank, 17 E. Burlington St., Riverside, Ill. 60546. All donations will go toward Chicago Gateway Green for planting trees in Tom’s name within the city of Chicago.