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For a Transformative Urban Plan, Ask the Community First

Properly engaging stakeholders is perhaps some of the most important work to be done in planning any community. Engagement gives residents, organizations, and business owners a voice in the planning process, encourages a diversity of perspectives and generates buy-in for plans. It gives elected officials the confidence that the plans moving forward have been reviewed by an engaged citizenship. The Urban Planning team at ROSSETTI not only takes this phase of each project seriously, we enjoy working with communities and receiving the input to our plans.

We are currently working with the Delray Neighborhood in Detroit to prepare a framework plan that will guide change in this geography that has seen decades of decline and transition into industrial uses. Traditionally, engagement techniques rely heavily on in-person meetings and internet surveys. With the current health crisis combined with Detroit’s digital divide, our team was challenged to reach as many citizens as possible using new tools and methods.

Together with our partner, Interface Studio, we developed an engagement kit that contained all the information, in English and Spanish, regarding recommended changes and opportunities in the neighborhood. A custom-designed reusable canvas tote was delivered to the doorstep of 300 houses. Inside the tote was an update on planning initiatives, a fun coloring activity for kids, instructions for various high- and low-tech ways to stay involved, and a snapshot of future events.

A recent Movie Night invited all residents to meet the planning team, review project goals and provide input in an outdoor, socially distanced format. The evening was capped off with a viewing of Disney’s Onward, with Spanish titles.

The input from residents and business owners from these types of community participation efforts informs and shapes both strategic planning direction as well as decisions on a more granular level.   

Amy Chesterton, AICP, RLA, is Principal and Director of Urban Planning at ROSSETTI. Amy has over twenty years of experience leading large-scale strategic real estate development, mixed-use districts, urban infill, adaptive reuse, institutional, and strategic planning projects. ROSSETTI’s Urban Planning team also includes: Alex Niehaus, AICP, Urban Planner; Kevin Stover, PLA, ASLA, Landscape Architect; and Xiaodi Xu, Urban Planner and Designer.