Edward McMahon, an expert on sustainable development at the Urban Land Institute, addresses the Complete Communities Delaware 2012 Summit in Dover.

'Healthy, resilient places'

UD's Institute for Public Administration hosts Complete Communities Summit

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8:29 a.m., Nov. 27, 2012--“Attractive, inclusive, efficient, healthy and resilient places” is not only the slogan for the Complete Communities Delaware project but also the theme of a recent summit hosted by the University of Delaware’s Institute for Public Administration (IPA), a center within the School of Public Policy and Administration.

Held at the Dover Downs Hotel and Conference Center, the Complete Communities Delaware 2012 Summit was a collaboration among IPA, the Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT), and the Office of State Planning Coordination (OSPC), with support from the National Association of Realtors and its Delaware affiliate.

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Summit partners sought to bring together people from a variety of businesses, professional disciplines and local jurisdictions. Presentations provided insight on how Delaware can plan for and design “complete communities,” communities that provide transportation and housing choices, enhance economic competitiveness, and promote healthy and vibrant living environments. 

Edward McMahon, an expert on sustainable development at the Urban Land Institute (ULI) in Washington, D.C., was the keynote speaker. His presentation highlighted research indicating that more Americans are ending their love affairs with cars and sprawling suburbs in favor of more walkable, transit-connected communities with a sense of place.

Changing demographics and a volatile global economy are primary factors that are driving shifts in the housing market and living preferences. McMahon provided visual images and described how communities can achieve responsible land uses and attractive designs instead of expansive suburban patterns and characterless development.

A panel representing the development community discussed consumer demands for more walkable, compact, mixed-use development and the barriers that often hinder high-quality development in Delaware.

Greg Moore from the Becker Morgan Group Inc. described plans for a more pedestrian- and transit-oriented downtown Dover. Preston Schell, co-founder and president of the Ocean Atlantic Companies, and Jeff Lang, president/owner of the Lang Development Group, offered their perspectives on developing property that responds to market demand for appealing residential, commercial and mixed-use properties while addressing challenges to meet regulatory mandates and ordinances.

Featured lunch speaker James Tischler, director of the Michigan State Housing Development Authority’s Community Development Division, spoke on place-making, private-sector involvement and housing, and noted that revitalizing communities and rebuilding neighborhoods, with an emphasis on place-making, can enhance the quality of life of residents and promote a good business environment.

An afternoon session focused on IPA’s Planning for Complete Communities in Delaware project and community-engagement tools. IPA professional staff — Marcia Scott, Theodore Patterson and Edward O’Donnell — and Milford City Manager Richard Carmean provided an overview of the project and specific work in two pilot communities — Elsmere and Milford.

OSPC planner David Edgell explained how charrettes can be used to enhance public involvement in land-use and transportation planning. UD coastal communities development specialist Ed Lewandowski and UD community development extension agent Bill McGowan demonstrated the use of how the weTable model can be used to engage citizens in land-use decision-making. 

A final presentation featured Linda Pruitt, co-founder and president of the Cottage Company, based in the Seattle area. Pruitt’s company has pioneered a new style of small, single-family homes that cater to the need of baby boomers, single women and families who want to downsize their homes and/or desire energy-efficient homes in sustainable “pocket neighborhoods.”

For the past decade, such cottage communities have gained popularity in Washington state. They are recognized as models of national importance that utilize innovative land-use codes and demonstrate new approaches to compact, single-family housing — which may become an increasingly viable housing option as Delaware’s demographics continue to change. 

IPA intends to make the Complete Communities Summit an annual event. The plan is to bring people together from a variety of businesses, professional disciplines, and local jurisdictions to strengthen critical alliances to create, reinvigorate, and sustain attractive, inclusive, healthy, and resilient communities in the First State.

Article by Marcia Scott

Photo by Mark Deshon

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