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Event Recap: FL APA Conference

This year’s annual Florida chapter of the American Planning Association featured several emerging trends for community planning.
booth

Over the past year, WGI has been on the forefront of examining changes and shaping new approaches to planning and community design. The reasons for embracing change range from getting in front of climate change to unlocking value through adaptable public spaces.

Here are four main trends that came from sessions and one-on-one conversations:

Incorporating Trends and Uncertainty into Planning

There were multiple sessions related to forecasting, vulnerability assessments, and adaptive design.

  • Trend analysis is a shared role, with Metropolitan Planning Organizations and local governments leading the way. MPOs are well versed in traditional scenario planning, though new approaches are underway such as anticipatory and exploratory scenario planning.
  • A first step is understanding and articulating local change drivers, for example, urban heat island related to climate change or emerging mobility technologies such as autonomous shuttles.
  • For technologies, scooter share is most often a community’s first big challenge in balancing the opportunities for “last mile” travel while regulating public rights of way.

Transforming the suburbs to provide for affordability, diversity, and quality of life remains a key challenge and planning point of interest.

banyan
Top takeaways from What’s the Street of the Future? (1) Use scenario planning during a project kick-off meeting to build team consensus on trends likely to impact street design and operations, (2) expect continued evolution in shared-use mobility, autonomous technologies and vehicle design, and (3) adaptable design, such as shared-street, is among the best ways to garner benefits now while preparing for an unpredictable future.

Implementation

Cities/counties are reorganizing and drastically reducing Comprehensive Plans:

  • Even with reduced requirements under the Growth Management framework, Comprehensive Plans must balance setting ambitious, aspirational goals with legally enforceable policies and provisions.
  • Cities and counties are using a new set of “umbrella plans” for implementation that coordinate several elements at once, for example Complete Streets and Form Based Codes.
    • WGI expects growth in these new types of plans such as Mobility Plans and First-Last Mile planning.
    • We also expect to see more “roadmaps,” or 12-18-month action plans to address mobility and sustainability priority projects in a shorter time frame rather than wait for a larger plan update.  Approaches such as “Quick Build” seek lower cost improvements.
  • For faster implementation, cities and counties are also using incremental and small-scale development to catalyze redevelopment that lead to larger master and corridor plans.
Rainey
WGI engaged in a neighborhood-wide transportation planning effort for the Rainey Neighborhood near Downtown Austin, Texas. The neighborhood is transitioning from a single-family neighborhood to a commercial and late-night entertainment district, with more residential condominiums and apartments as well as dense office space. With constrained rights of way, WGI helped the community develop a multi-modal approach for moving people, not vehicles.

Sustainability

Planners are getting very serious about sustainability-related issues, particularly resilient design and adaptation.

  • Several communities are looking at suburban retrofit as a strategy to meet the challenges of rising coastal waters.
  • Climate vulnerability analyses are taking equity into account early in the sustainable planning process.
  • Cities are using GIS mapping and analysis to prioritize coastline restoration.
    • WGI expects more attention to several types of climate action plans. Scenario planning and vulnerability analyses will become commonplace. While current plans tend to focus on reducing a community’s greenhouse gas emissions, future action plans will address local impacts and establish action triggers affecting changes to local regulations.

Stakeholder Engagement

  • There is growing realization that the current focus on public meetings as the prime outreach channel is inequitable.
  • Engagement must also be internal. A speaker in one session told the story of how they used research on attention span cycles to make sure they engaged agency leadership. Attention is highest mid-morning, but drops dramatically late evening (when we hold public meetings)
  • One community used a walk audit for micromobility to identify infrastructure deficiencies and opportunities.
    • WGI: At WGI, we are developing expanded “boots on the ground” efforts to reach people who cannot attend extended, night-time meetings.  Reaching people and educating them outside of the traditional methods is more and more important to the success of a project both for approval and implementation.
opportunity zones
WGI’s strength in delivering actionable solutions is evident in our Master Plan of the City of Lake Worth Beach’s Opportunity Zone. In leveraging our existing relationships with the development community, as well as working alongside city staff to identify established leaders in the community, we facilitated collaborative plan-making charrettes that directly paired the community’s needs with those who could deliver solutions. This inter-disciplinary, inter-sector, and integrative approach led to guiding visions for the community that was created and implemented by the community itself.

The issues raised during this conference underscore WGI’s commitment to planning innovation and new approaches to placemaking and mobility systems.

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