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      /  Uncategorized   /  Congress of New Urbanism 2022

    Congress of New Urbanism 2022

    At the end of March, many from our planning department headed west to Oklahoma City to attend the Congress of New Urbanism (CNU) Conference where the team not only attended but shared stories, hosted panels, and opened their minds for the betterment of urban design.

    New Urbanism is a movement with the belief that the “physical environment has a direct impact on our chances for happy, prosperous lives” and that well-designed and thoughtful placemaking will create healthier communities.

    The Congress for New Urbanism studies “disinvestment in central cities, the spread of placeless sprawl, increasing separation by race and income, environmental deterioration, loss of agricultural lands and wilderness, and the erosion of society’s built heritage as one interrelated community-building challenge”.   The main objectives of this organization are to diversify neighborhoods, design for climate change, and legalize walkable places.

    This year’s theme was “Resilient Together” with discussions of equity, sustainability, and resilience as it pertains to urban design. This conference explored the changing landscape of Oklahoma City and the progress of its placemaking, hosted panels and seminars discussing equity in housing, fostered young members, and heard from changemakers in the profession.

    Our team hosted a number of sessions and sat on panels, sharing wisdom from their experiences. One of the events SGS hosted was a panel discussing how designers can “re-think public housing”.  This panel session addressed how housing authorities across the country are capitalizing on new HUD programs and policies, including RAD (Rental Assistance Demonstration) and Choice Neighborhoods, to reshape their inventory into more equitable and community-based neighborhoods. The conference provides opportunities for young designers into New Urbanism by providing a sister organization through “Emerging New Urbanists”; they shape the future of New Urbanism by fostering good mentorship, opportunities for growth, and creative thinking for young professionals.

    The Merit Award was presented to Westside Evolves, a collaborative planning project based in Chattanooga, TN that SGS has had the privilege of being a part of. This project explores redeveloping and honoring the historic neighborhood of Westside in Chattanooga by providing more resources, equitable housing, and safer neighborhood conditions. It is such an honor for a special project like Westside Evolves to be recognized in this arena and hopefully, its story will continue to be heard. For more on this story, click here.

    The conference organizes tours within the host city and our team got a chance to explore Oklahoma City in greater detail. One such area was the Wheeler District which exemplifies pedestrian-oriented planning paired with an intentional and unique architectural expression of the townhomes.  The city is eclectic with pockets of special moments experienced only by the pedestrian.

    Finally, one of the most notable and inspiring speakers was Mitchell Silver who is currently a Principal for McAdams as an Urban Planner but has served as Commissioner for the NYC Department of Parks & Recreation as well as Planning Director for Raleigh. Silver shared his experiences in creating equitable places at the planning and design levels and amplifying diverse voices. One such example is the Juneteenth Grove in Brooklyn, NY, an urban garden space that gives voice to those unheard and recognizes history that has been diminished or uncelebrated in the past. Designers and planners should strive to be allies and representatives of all users of a project and be active, not passive, in equitable design. The speech closed with the powerful statement “Diversity, equity, and inclusion is not something you do, but who you are.