Building Upon the Past to Plan the Future

Next City isn’t just a news website, we are a nonprofit organization with a mission to inspire social, economic and environmental change in cities. Part of how we do that is by connecting our readers to urban changemakers and holding an annual Vanguard conference bringing together 40 top young urban leaders. Adam Rosa is a member of the 2013 Vanguard class.

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Next City isn’t just a news website, we are a nonprofit organization with a mission to inspire social, economic and environmental change in cities. Part of how we do that is by connecting our readers to urban changemakers and holding an annual Vanguard conference bringing together 40 top young urban leaders. Adam Rosa is a member of the 2013 Vanguard class.

Name: Adam Rosa

Current Occupation: Senior Associate with Camiros Ltd, a Chicago-based urban planning and design firm.

Hometown: Buffalo, New York

Current City: Chicago, Illinois

I drink: tea, all the way

I am: naturally an Introvert, except when I’m making a presentation in front of a community, then it’s the opposite. It can be quite the performance.

I get to work by: the world-famous Chicago L (Red Line).

The area I grew up is: older suburb on the balmy shores of Lake Erie.

What was your first job? My first job involved washing dishes at a Ponderosa buffet. You have no idea how many dishes people use at a buffet until you have to wash them all! Shortly thereafter I found myself employed by Hardees to wear a Chicken suit and wave to cars by the side of a highway. (No joke.) My first planning jobs were co-ops with various public and private sector entities in Kentucky, Indianapolis, Chicago and the Bay Area.

What do you do when you are not working? I paddle the urban waterways of Chicago in my inflatable kayak, or stow it on an airplane and paddle wherever life (or work) takes me. I’m also becoming pretty involved in my local community and was recently elected president of my neighborhood association. On top of that, I spend a lot of time drawing maps with my 7-year-old and building Lego creations with my 4-year-old, both future Next City Vanguards.

Did you always want to be an urban planner/designer? Yes. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been fascinated by cities. Drawing them, memorizing population statistics, reading about them in encyclopedias and whatever other books I could get my hands on. My mind would have been completely blown if we had the Internet and Google maps back in the day. My mom had a lot to do with this as she would take me on visits to NYC often at an early age. We would spend days just walking the streets. This was the early/mid eighties so it also coincided with the rise of hip-hop culture — I soaked up the graffiti on trains, the b-boys performing on street corners and all the rest. I also have always had a very strong distaste for strip malls and other trappings of auto-oriented suburbia. I remember corresponding with “The Geography of Nowhere” author, James Howard Kunstler when I was back in high school at the dawn of email!

What do you like most about your current job? Working with people. I’m at my best when I can collaborate with coworkers, clients and community members to establish a plan or strategy to achieve a series of goals. I also love exploring new neighborhoods and learning from residents about the culture and values of their places, and then attempting to build upon these elements to position communities for future growth.

What is the coolest project you worked on? Probably a series of Neighborhood TOD Plans that I led for Honolulu city and county. It was very interesting in attempting to bring “mainland” notions of walkability, transit and mixed-use development to a place like western Oahu. We had to do our best to connect these ideas to key touchstones of the local culture, such as the historic plantation communities. The elevated rail lines are now under construction and I hope to bring my family to Hawaii someday soon for a test-ride. I also gained a closet full of Aloha shirts as a result of these efforts!

What are the hard parts about your job? As a consultant at a small firm, there is a substantial amount of time and energy required for marketing efforts. On top of billable work, constantly pursuing job leads, writing proposals, structuring presentations and performing in interviews can be exhausting, especially when you hit a dry spell and come in second on several proposals in a row. You just have to pick yourself up, recalibrate your approach and move onto the next opportunity.

What do you look for when hiring someone? Someone who has both hard and soft skills and is a jack of all trades. In our industry, you have to essentially know how to morph between being a designer, businessman, politician, community organizer, artist, marketer, manager, web developer, researcher, writer, photographer and statistician, often within the same day! I came out of college with a few skills and have worked hard to acquire many of the others.

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Tags: next city vanguard

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