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Ponderosa Mobile Home Park: Building Trust and Capacity

Since March 2015, PlaceMatters has been working at the Ponderosa Mobile Home Park in North Boulder, CO, around issues of affordable housing, community engagement and communicating complexities. Through our grant with HUD-EPA Sustainable Communities Initiative and a subsequent contract with Trestle Strategy Group, we had the pleasure of working with the Ponderosa community and the City of Boulder to navigate the complexities of annexation for the parcel of land that currently offers a valuable asset for low-income residents.

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The community of Ponderosa is unique: 69 trailers are located on a privately-owned parcel that falls under the Boulder County jurisdiction but is surrounded by the City; residents enjoy wonderful views of the foothills, river and park access, a community garden, and can walk to shops, bus routes, and bike paths.The community offers affordable, single family units that are not subsidized by affordable housing programs or the government. The residents know they have something special, which is why many of them have been here for over twenty years. 

 

Green frame - view The issue of affordability in Boulder has been at the forefront of the regional conversation and for good reason. Trulia.com reports that the median selling price for a home in Boulder, CO from May to August 2015 was $538,000. In 2014 the Boulder Weekly reported that the large number of high earning households in the community is creating higher housing prices and a dwindling stock of affordable housing units. As part of addressing affordability, Boulder has looked to preserving mobile home parks as an asset.

 

As residents have noted, they are proud to own their homes and that they are not subsidized. They appreciate having their own space, not in a multi-story apartment building and value having room for their children to play in a stable community. From their perspective, the park is a very different life than other affordable housing types.

However, Ponderosa, like many mobile home parks that are owed by a single landowner, certainly does have issues to confront. Aging infrastructure can be overly burdensome for a single landowner or cause drastic rent hikes to cover. Road improvements and flooding concerns can also be factors. The City of Boulder is working with the landowners to find innovative and collaborative ways to address these issues and keep the residents of Ponderosa in place.

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Our work on this project started with compiling research on practices and land use policies for mobile home parks across the nation. PlaceMatters reviewed existing policy for mobile home parks across the nation, area experts in mobile home park issues and created a resource guide for mobile home park policy considerations, common issues and area experts. The research led us to understand that
Colorado has relatively few protections for residents and unfavorable land use policies for parks. It also showed how parks can become places where residents thrive from an appreciable asset.

 

Research provided the base knowledge that we needed to engage with the community. Marine Siohan and Anne Kuechenmeister had the opportunity to work with Ponderosa residents alongside Trestle. Annexation is a complicated process that is difficult to understand. The community was also starting in a place of mistrust for city government. The team knew that building trust and communicating complex issues, while learning about what the community needs and values were, would be critical pieces to guide the annexation scenarios that were recommended.  In order to build trust and learn about the community, PlaceMatters sought to shift the power dynamic of interactions between the team and residents.

 

Crowd at July 1 meetingMeetings were held in the community, in a comfortable outdoor space, in English and Spanish, using low-tech community methods. This was the basis for integrating power shifting techniques to open up dialogue.

 

PlaceMatters used a variation of PhotoVoice, a process of collecting input telling place based stories through photos. Residents used red and green frames to take photos of what they wanted improved and what they value and appreciate in the community. Red frame symbolized what they would like to be changed about their community and green frames represent what they value. Residents taught us what was important to them about the community and what they would like to change. This helped us understand values and community assets while building trust.

 

Using photography to communicate also assisted in breaking down language barriers between English and Spanish and made enabled people with different levels of literacy to equally participate. In addition, the activity was accessible to youth and adults, and resulted in nuances being communicated in a way that may be lost in a traditional written survey.

 

Alongside static photos, we also worked with residents to videotape their stories and connections to Ponderosa and the surrounding community. Through storytelling residents have shared their vision for the future and what they value about their community. Sharing residents’ voices has given city leaders a better understanding of who lives here and why the opportunities that the park affords them is so valuable. We are excited to announce that after seeing the video and hearing information on the park, the Boulder City Council has stated that they are not willing to move forward with annexation if it means that residents will be displaced.

 

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Best Practices of Neighborhood Improvements to the Built Environment

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Our local partner, Groundwork Denver, has published a collection of lessons learned and recommendations for best practices when implementing low-cost improvements to create better neighborhood environments, including improvements for pedestrians and cyclists, neighborhood cleanup, tree planting, and more. This is based on their work in Denver for the past several years.

Over the past couple of months, I have been working on additional chapters to this guide on tactical urbanism, walkshops, community engagement, and parklets. This work is made available to HUD grantees and folks interested in making a difference in their communities.

See the final version of the Best Practices Guide for Neighborhood Improvements to the Built Environment here!

This Saturday: Help shape Denver’s future at the DenverUP Scrimmage!

CBWish to help shape Denver’s future in a unique and fascinating way?

On June 6th, CityBuild and ReWork are teaming up for a full-day, immersive rapid prototyping scrimmage that will bring together Denver residents who care about making a positive impact on the Denver community (that’s you!).

The Challenges:

  • Urban Peak, which works with homeless youth, will be addressing the topic of how to better equip youth in their program for life-long employment.
  • EatDenver, which represents hundreds of independently owned local restaurants, will be exploring staffing challenges in the industry and mis-conceptions about careers in hospitality.
  • PlaceMatters will be exploring how Denver might be able to create (safe) public spaces for “unstructured play”, especially for those communities who don’t have a lot of resources at home.
  • Mile High United Way will be exploring how to make the Denver city centre more friendly and livable for families.
  • The Denver Public Library will be examining how to provide “library services” to emerging neighborhoods…but without requiring any brick-and-mortar
  • Zocalo Community Development will be addressing challenges with providing affordable housing options in Denver.
  • BikeDenver will be examining how we can create the right combination of biking, walking, car sharing, and public transport to reduce single-person vehicle commuting.
  • CityBuild will be exploring how we can engage more youthful generations in civic conversations

What’s rapid prototyping? A method used to accelerate the innovation process.

Wondering what’s in it for you? The scrimmage is a great opportunity to network with like-minded professionals, help create innovative solutions for leading organizations in the Denver community, and learn design-thinking and rapid prototyping skills that will translate to your professional life.

Wish to learn more about what prototyping looks like? Check out this 8-minute TED Talk from ReWork’s mentor Tom Chi, about building Google Glass.

When? Saturday, June 6th from 9:30am – 3:00pm

Where? Galvanize, 1062 Delaware St

Reserve your spot today! 

Just announced: Encourage a friend to join you and get a 20% discount! Just make sure to purchase your tickets together and to select the “Group” option on Eventbrite.

Housing Recovery in Lyons, CO

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Map of Lyons, CO and flooding effects

Following the 2013 flooding in Colorado, the Town of Lyons continues to navigate the complex world of disaster recovery. The Town is continuously aiming at transparency and public outreach in their efforts to rebuild stronger and smarter. In a landlocked community, the issue of where and how to rebuild housing has been a challenging process. Refer to our November 2014 post, Resilience Planning in Lyons, CO, for a map and additional background on the flood recovery process.

Through our grant with HUD-EPA Sustainable Communities Initiative, PlaceMatters was able to assist the Trestle Strategy Group and enhance their community engagement strategy by bringing high- and low-tech solutions to the process. In October of 2014 the Town had tasked Trestle to conduct additional site analysis for Lyons residents to vote on a site for replacement housing. They had only four months to complete their analysis, with robust engagement for stakeholders, who would ultimately decide if the proposed site was acceptable through a vote.

The first issue that arose was the need to get accurate information to the community on the immense amount of work that had been going on since the flood to determine where housing should go and how it would be paid for. Between the fast pace of disaster recovery, the numerous other concerns of residents, and wide range of ongoing projects, much of the current work on housing recovery was not known to residents. Several different websites hosted relevant flood recovery information and it took searching to find all of the plans, meeting minutes, and analysis that had been performed.

In an attempt to centralize all information in one place in a visually engaging manner, PlaceMatters created an interactive Tiki-Toki timeline. The timeline displays events that happened in Lyons since the floods; it is searchable and allows for colored content bands to help the user navigate the information; and it links back to the original documents they referenced. The Town of Lyons embedded the timeline on the main page of the housing recovery website allowing for residents to more easily navigate information. Residents were then able to easily access the Recovery Action Plan, Housing Recovery Plan, numerous meeting minutes, Board of Trustees deadline information, and recovery videos in one location.

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As more residents became aware of housing efforts, concerns also peaked. A primary concern for residents was to not have a clear understanding of what the future held for this process and when they would be heard. We created a simple infographic timeline that gave residents a better understanding of how they would be involved throughout the planning process, what the time frame was, and what the next steps would be. Copy of Lyons Recovery Housing Process

Another key concern was the location of housing. A group named SOPOS, or Save Our Parks and Open Space, formed to voice their opinion against placing recovery housing in Bohn Park, or any other park space. Lyons, CO is a landlocked community, surrounded by open space. This leaves very little space for development within the town limits. Bohn Park was one location being considered for recovery housing.In Lyons, CO any resident can bring any issue to a full town vote with 50 petition signatures. Those working on identifying sites were aware that if they selected Bohn Park for housing, SOPOS would most likely circulate a petition and bring the issue to a town vote.

On January 5, 2015 the BoT voted to use Bohn Park for a future housing project and the design process began. As expected, SOPOS managed to get enough signatures to bring the issue up for a town vote. The town then prepared for the vote, giving residents information on available funding that was related to the initial flood and the importance of timing, and continued to provide information on the site.

In February 2015, the Lyons Housing Collaborative was formed to conduct outreach to residents and provide education and solicit input on recovery housing. The team included the architecture firm Workshop8, the landscape architect DHM Design,  the landscape consultant Urban Oasis, Trestle Strategy Group as the engagement consultant , Boulder County Housing Authority as the master developer, Habitat for Humanity of St. Vrain Valley, and Milender White Construction.  PlaceMatters supported the overall process and the team. The team had a storefront in Lyons, open to answer residents questions on housing issues. They had an Internet presence, held public meetings, conducted weekly site visits and a visit to explore what affordable housing looks like in the area. The outreach was extensive. The architecture firm, Workshop8 gathered resident input in a workshop and then needed to refine and understand resident inclinations, by polling them on design preferences. PlaceMatters was able to support the Team through live keypad polling at the meeting. Keypad polling allows participants to rank or choose preferences with instant feedback, providing transparency and moving discussion forward on the nuances of why residents voiced the opinions they did. The polling is also anonymous, giving residents a safe venue for providing honest feedback without the worry of neighbor reactions.

Residents were pleased with the instant feedback and they were eager to discuss the pro and cons of their choices. The meeting was highly productive and architects were able to leave with a clear understanding of the residents top choice for site layout, construction materials and amenity preferences.

The Lyons Emergency Assistance Fund (LEAF) hired Janaki Jane to assist with communication to displaced residents. Over a year after the flooding, it has continued to be difficult to identify how many residents are still displaced and there is little understood about what, if any, information is being communicated to them. Janaki has taken video of potential types of housing for the displaced residents, but doesn’t have the capacity or tools to edit and share the video.

PlaceMatters supported communication with residents by assisting Janaki with editing and distributing footage she took of replacement housing examples. The product is an informational video on affordable housing typologies in Boulder County.

The Town voted on using 5-7 acres of Bohn Park for recovery housing on March 24, 2015. Emotions peaked leading up to the vote and you were hard pressed to find a resident who was unaware of the vote and hadn’t been in contact with some form of outreach.

The residents voted not to use this space for recovery housing. A local news outlet, the Longmont Timescall, reported that 614 voted against and 498 voted for using Bohn Park for housing. This is 55% of the voting population and the highest recorded turnout for voting in the town. PlaceMatters role was to provide support engagement and information sharing for replacement housing. Given the mission of the grant we were careful to stay out of political advocacy.

While finding homes for those displaced by disaster is something that we may believe on a personal level, the outcome of the vote does not discount the success in the high level of participation, conversation and engagement the the residents were part of leading up to it. Residents are now looking at a range of options that could still lead to some affordable housing units being built in town to help some of the displaced residents return. Without Federal recovery funding, however, we will mostly see fewer units built over a longer period of time.

 

 

FREE Webinar: High-Tech High-Touch NCI Charrette Training

Join us for a free hour-long webinar to learn about the latest high tech/high touch version of this collaborative process for innovative design, taking place on April 7th at 12pm MT. Register here.

Architects and inventors have known for centuries that the most creative way to work is to immerse themselves in a problem for an uninterrupted period of time. The charrette brings specialists and stakeholders together for an uninterrupted period to break through to a creative solution. What normally takes months is accomplished in a fraction of the time.

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In this webinar we will discuss how the NCI Charrette System™ can be used to cut project timelines in half, gain broad stakeholder support and develop out-of-the-box creative solutions.

Presenters:

  • Bill Lennertz, Executive Director, National Charrette Institute
  • Ken Snyder, CEO, PlaceMatters

 

 

Training on Scenario Planning and Smart Growth for Superstorm Sandy Recovery on Long Island

In January of 2015, Placeways, PlaceMatters, and CH2M HILL developed a training on Scenario Planning and Smart Growth for Superstorm Sandy Recovery on Long Island. This effort was made possible through a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) managed task order funded by an interagency agreement with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The training was a five-day workshop for over 20 attendees from local agencies in the region, with information and hands-on training on high-tech engagement tools, low-tech/on-the-ground engagement techniques, scenario planning, CommunityViz, and other tools to use for recovery planning.

Since Hurricane Sandy made landfall in the New York-New Jersey region in October 2012, the need for better knowledge about using scenario planning tools for hazard mitigation and disaster recovery planning within the region has become apparent. This five-day training on Long Island introduced participants to integrating various tools within the recovery planning process – including tools to support scenario planning, help increase engagement and provide critical analysis and communication of complex issues. The training also helped to build local capacity on strategies to incorporate scenario planning with public engagement, smart growth concepts, equitable development issues, and hazard mitigation.

The first full day of the five-day training brought together 30 participants for presentations and demonstrations of how to incorporate both high-tech and low-tech tools – including scenario planning – into the planning process. This first day was designed to include a broader group of stakeholders than would attend for the remainder of the training and therefore included a general overview of scenario planning and other tools to help provide some context and guidance on ways to inform the recovery planning process.

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Over the next four days, a subset of the participants spent a significant amount of time learning about and using tools to support recovery planning and resiliency. The first two days were spent in hands-on training using CommunityViz – a powerful, GIS-based scenario planning tool – and various models and data sources that can integrate with CommunityViz to help inform recovery planning. These included FEMA’s Hazus-MH, EPA’s EJ Screen, and NOAA’s Digital Coast. During the final two days, the group split into teams to build on the skills gained during the hands on training. These teams worked together to define projects that interested them and used the tools presented during the first three days to perform an actual analysis. At the end of the final day, the four teams presented their projects to the rest of the class and to over a dozen local and regional agency officials attending via screencast. These presentations can be viewed below or here.

The projects included:

  • Coastal Re-Development – Making the Case for Evolution in Suburban Zoning,
  • CommunityViz and FEMA’s Environmental Benefits Calculator for Evaluating Open Space
    Restoration and Property Acquisition,
  • Identifying Suitable Locations for Secondary Sewage Treatment Plant, and
  • Elevating Structures in Barnum Island/Harbor Isle/Island Park.

As communities work to create more robust and informed resiliency plans, it is often difficult to determine which tools and techniques to use. This includes trying to determine the best way to integrate these tools and techniques to maximize public engagement, increase local capacity, and encourage long-term resilience. As part of this training, attendees were introduced to a number of important tools and resources to help inform this process – including an introduction on how best to maximize the use of particular tools during the planning process. Available for download below is the full final report on this training, including a list of many of the tools and techniques presented to the attendees during the training, along with links and information to support successful implementation of these tools.

Download Final Report: Scenario Planning & Smart Growth for Superstorm Sandy Recovery

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High-Tech High-Touch Planning Tools™ Certificate Training

We are happy to announce that we will be partnering with the National Charrette Institute to offer a High-Tech High-Touch Planning Tools Certificate Training this May in Washington, D.C. This training will augment NCI’s Charrette System™ Certificate Training, which teaches trainees about creating a collaborative planning process that harnesses the talents and energies of all interested parties to create and support a feasible plan.

High-Tech High-Touch Planning Tools™ Certificate Training
brought to you by PlaceMatters and the National Charrette Institute

Confused by the wide range of high-tech planning tools available? Having trouble picking the right tools for your projects? This 1.5-day training will give you a hands-on introduction to many effective high-tech tools for project research, stakeholder engagement, landscape exploration, mapping and scenario planning, idea generation and prioritization, and communication.Together, PlaceMatters and NCI will provide a working understanding high-tech tools that are synchronized with the NCI Charrette System™ to support and enhance successful public involvement efforts, helping you maximize the reach and quality of your engagement and leverage your limited engagement budget.

Washington, DC • May 7-8, 2015
$500 before 2/20/15, then $585
Register •  Flyer
**The NCI Charrette System™ Certificate Training is a prerequisite for attending this training**

NCI Charrette System™ Certificate Training

The purpose of this 3-day training is to teach you how to design the right process for your project that will result in the best solutions with broad support. Participants will gain a practical understanding of how to apply the NCI Charrette System™ to a wide range of planning projects. You will gain a working knowledge of the 13 most important NCI Charrette System™ tools and techniques. NCI experts will give you tools for building relationships and changing perceptions throughout challenging situations. You will learn how to save time and money by reducing rework through the short feedback cycle work flow, and how to use design as a conflict resolution tool to create an aligned vision and shared solutions.

Washington, DC • May 4-6, 2015
$700 before 2/20/15
Register • More Info

The National Charrette Institute (NCI) is a nonprofit educational institution building capacity for collaborative solutions. NCI teaches the NCI Charrette System for project planning, design and realization to public and private professionals and community leaders.

PlaceMatters is a Denver-based non-profit think tank for civic engagement and process in planning. Our work creates opportunities for informed, inclusive decision making in the planning of vibrant cities and communities.

Resiliency planning in Lyons, CO

Lyons Generic 2Flooding in September of 2013 devastated Lyons, CO, causing substantial damage to almost 200 homes in the confluence and neighborhoods near the North and South St. Vrain Rivers. This has caused many of these locations to be no longer eligible for development. In a town with very little available and suitable land for development already, the challenge of where to rebuild housing in order to bring back displaced residents and restore community assets is a huge and challenging undertaking. On October 27, 2014, the Town of Lyons Board of Trustees awarded Trestle Strategy Group the work for the Lyons Housing Site Analysis Study and the Lyons Facilities Siting Plan/Municipal Campus Feasibility Study. Both studies will be a trusted source of information for the community to help build a coalition of support, and guide the Town to the best options for the community as a whole.

Through a grant from HUD and EPA’s Sustainable Communities Initiative, PlaceMatters is coordinating efforts between the Town of Lyons, Trestle, DRCOG, CU Denver, and DOLA, and working to facilitate community discussions linked to the Town’s recovery plan and implementation. A lot has happened in a short amount of time, and keeping track of progress, including events and who is involved, can be a challenge with the immense amount of activity that goes with disaster recovery.

PlaceMatters provided support during the Halloween Spooktacular festivities on October 25, 2014 by hosting a booth with flood recovery information. The booth also had the now familiar yellow ribbons for residents. The ribbons represent the still displaced residents. Community members could also sign up to receive the Lyons Recovery Action Plan – a visual tour of the effects of the flood, and each commissions’ strategy towards recovery – and books from local students with stories from the flood.

Along with Trestle, we are also helping the Town build a website and social media page so that anyone can easily find useful information about the amount of work that Lyons has done since the flood, what is currently being done, and key decisions that will be to be made in the near future. To do so, an interactive timeline (to be built built on the Tiki-Toki platform) on the Town’s webpage will link to resources and help residents see the amazing amount of background work that has been done around these challenges.

The timeline will provide a visually engaging way to explore past, current and future efforts, milestones, and opportunities for involvement and input. It will include videos, audio, images, text and links to information. Most importantly, it will bring together all of the pieces of recovery to one location to easily navigate. We are hoping the timeline will be on Lyons’ website by next week.

In addition, many people from the community have worked hard during the last year to get Lyons’ residents to tell their flood stories; we are working with those community members to gather and publish the stories they collected on a common platform. Hopefully this platform will bring recognition to their outreach efforts and continue building the community’s unique identity.

Yonkers, NY: Street Festival to Gather Public Input on Brownfields Redevelopment

In the 1940s, Southwest Yonkers had a train called the Putnam Line, which traveled between Van Cortland Park and Getty Square. However, after World War II, the line was abandoned by New York Central in 1944 after a series of legal challenges by the city (Source: WCBJ). Though the rail tracks were pulled up, the right of way still remains for the long-abandoned three-mile branch line. We are now looking at different options for this corridor and how improvements can benefit the neighborhood.

Groundwork Hudson Valley was awarded a grant from the US Environmental Protection Agency as part of EPA’s Brownfields Redevelopment Program to clean up and reuse former industrial sites. Groundwork has formed a steering committee in Yonkers made up of local non-profits, churches, the Municipal Housing Authority,  governmental agencies, and other project stakeholders to gather public input and identify ways in which a multi-use trail and improvements to adjacent streets could better serve the needs of the community. The path will provide a direct link to the subway and access to jobs in New York City, helping revitalize the community.

Through our grant with HUD-EPA Sustainable Communities Initiative, we were able to provide support for Groundwork Hudson Valley and the team to organize a public neighborhood Street Festival this summer on Lawrence Street, a major corridor in Yonkers, NY. The Street Festival served to demonstrate the potential of the neighborhood and to solicit public input to identify wants and needs of the community.

Along with Alta Planning + Design, we were able to demonstrate some great complete streets features in the neighborhood with street calming elements. We taped down a pop-up designated bike lane with parallel parking between the bike lane and the street, serving as a barrier to protect cyclists from car traffic. This allowed kids to ride down the street without fear of being too close to moving cars. Once we began taping down the bike lane and crosswalks, traffic on the street instantly slowed. It was great to see how quick and easy traffic calming elements really made a difference for Lawrence Street; it completely changed the street experience in less than an hour–from cars whizzing down the hill, to kids and families playing in the street. The team also recruited several local businesses and stakeholders to come “open shop” and help residents imagine new businesses and a more active streetscape with food trucks, activities for kids, music, and seating areas.

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We also collected public input from the neighborhood during the street festival. We invited participants to give feedback through:

  1. An 11-question multiple-choice/open-ended paper survey, which asked participants about their vision, barriers, and transportation mode in the Lawrence Area Neighborhood; and
  2. A visual preference survey dot exercise, that asked participants to rate 4 examples in each of the following seven category of Retail, Mixed-Use, Single-Family Residential, Multi-Family Residential, Parks & Public Spaces, Sidewalks & Trails, and Youth Activities.

We also made a version of the survey available online and through an SMS-based (mobile text messaging) survey platform called Textizen, to give residents several ways to give us feedback. With translation assistance from Groundwork’s youth team, we were also able to provide a Spanish-translated survey (approximately 11% of the surveys were administered in Spanish).

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After the July 31st charrette, PlaceMatters prepared a full report on findings for the team, which is available here. Some key findings included the identification of a priority vision to be “Cleaner” and “More Active,” and that crime and safety is a major barrier for the community. Additionally, there is a want for more cycling, bus, and Metro-North (train) access in the community, and a large majority of respondents indicated that they would use a multi-use trail. Residents are excited about improvements to their community, and seemed to be very supportive of any type of development that was an improvement to existing conditions, rather than being picky about specific styles. There was a high priority for public space improvements, including activities for families and youth, trails, and parks.

PlaceMatters is still providing minimal assistance as Groundwork Hudson Valley moves forward in the process of creating a multi-use trail. To learn more, visit the project website here. If you or someone you know lives in the area and would like to get more involved in the public process, please contact Curt at Groundwork Hudson Valley. Check out below for even more pictures!
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Webinar Materials: “Using Tools And Data to Inform Equity-Oriented Decision-Making”

Webinar Description

On October 15, 2014, PlaceMatters facilitated a webinar on “Using Tools and Data to Inform Equity-Oriented Decision-Making”. Participants were able to learn about three strategies for thinking about and improving equity in our regions. University of Maryland demoed OppMap, a web-based tool for community-driven opportunity mapping in the Baltimore region. The Kirwan Institute showed how historical analysis brought clarity to equity discussions in Cleveland. MAPC shared lessons learned about how tapping into empathy can help cultivate an open environment for discussing equity.

 

Speakers

  • Critter Thompson, Program Director, PlaceMatters (webinar facilitator)
  • Gerrit J. Knaap, Professor of Urban Studies and Planning & Executive Director, National Center for Smart Growth Research and Education, University of Maryland
  • Holly St. Clair, Director of Data Services, Metropolitan Area Planning Council
  • Jason Reece, Director of Research, The Kirwan Institute for the study of Race & Ethnicity, The Ohio State University

 

Materials

 

Additional Links: