Austin’s cemeteries master plan, bike mapping in Maryland and a community garden in Ontario, California, are among the recipients of the American Planning Association’s latest round of annual National Planning Awards, which are divided into two categories, excellence and achievement. The winners, named today, also included a Pennsylvania ecodistrict, the Bicentennial Plan for Indianapolis, and Guidelines for Senior-Friendly Parks, in Los Angeles. Projects that got the APA nod address challenges ranging from sea level rise to disinvested neighborhoods.
“Good planning is not just preparing the community for the future, but engaging the residents in the discussions and decision-making that will impact their lives,” W. Shedrick Coleman, the 2017 jury chair, said in a press release. “This year’s award recipients advanced the planning profession by more thoroughly engaging all residents in the planning process.”
Lawrence P. Witzling, of Milwaukee, was given the National Planning Excellence Award for Planning Pioneers. As a professor and a practicing planner, Witzling worked on Milwaukee’s lakefront, the removal of a freeway in the city, and dozens of neighborhood and downtown plans in Wisconsin.
An award recognizing the advancement of diversity and social change went to the 2015 Near Northside Quality of Life Agreement 2015. The Near Northside is a Hispanic Houston neighborhood that’s been bracing for the impacts of gentrification. Community engagement was key to the QLA being picked by the APA jury. From the APA: “One of the goals … was to create a rich and vibrant document that reflected the commitment of thousands of people who are working toward building a healthy, thriving and safe community in the Near Northside.” As two Northside residents involved in the process outlined in The Houston Chronicle last year:
In our updated 2015 Quality of Life Agreement, Northside leaders again laid out strategies to improve safety in our neighborhood. We are working to strengthen the relationship between our community and law enforcement. We are working to obtain better lighting and improvements to neighborhood locations perceived to be unsafe. We are implementing initiatives to reduce illegal dumping, littering and other nuisance activities. We are seeking to partner with homeless-services organizations to develop housing and employment programs to reduce our homeless population.
A silver National Planning Achievement Award for a Best Practice went to Plan 2020: The Bicentennial Plan for Indianapolis. The ambitious document covers plans for downtown and parks, land use, regional economic development and more. According to the Plan 2020 website, “each and every component outlined in the Bicentennial Plan has a committed partner capable of fulfilling an action step, and numerous partners who are working to realize the larger vision.” There are 30-plus partners.
Achievement award for environmental planning were given to the state of Colorado’s Resiliency Framework (gold) and an ecodistrict plan for Millvale, Pennsylvania (silver). When Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper formally adopted the resilience plan in 2015, he said, “Communities throughout the state have been impacted by blizzards, wildfires, floods, tornadoes, and even an earthquake in the past decade. Through these disasters, Coloradans have shown great resolve to build back stronger which we want to continue to empower. The Framework is one more example of Colorado developing innovative solutions to build a better future.” Millvale’s work led to green infrastructure and a new food hub.
Austin’s Historic Cemeteries Master Plan took gold in the achievement award for urban design. In Next City’s feature about this effort, “Designing for the Dead: The Perfect City Cemetery,” Steph McDougal of McDoux Preservation, which led the plan’s public engagement process, explained, “I’m not sure anyone has done something of this scope before. … We’ve gotten phone calls from across the country from people who want to know about our planning process and what it is we’re hoping to get out of it.” As Next City’s Anna Clark noted about the need for cities to consider cemetery space:
Within limited urban real estate, historic cemeteries often hold ground in well-trafficked neighborhoods, making their management — or lack thereof — highly visible. As plots fill up, cities face questions of both public health and community relations. In the end, cemetery upkeep cuts at the heart of nearly everything cities hold dear: safety, sustainability, green space, community and economics. For better or worse, a city’s story is told in its cemeteries; they are where the past meets the present. Urban cemetery planning is a way for cities to pay respect to history, while preparing for the future.
For a complete list of winners, see the APA site.
Janine is a Philadelphia-based freelance writer and editor.