We Built This City

APA planning conference vail

One of the highlights of the APA conference was the Keynote speaker Mitchell Silver, Past President of APA, and Chief Planning and Economic Development Officer for Raleigh, North Carolina. In her introduction, Colorado APA conference president Susan Wood promised that we would be inspired, and he did not disappoint. To appeal to the left-brained planners and designers, Silver provided solid metrics.  He outlined trends and the issues we as city shapers would need to plan for, including cities with growing populations, an increase in single parent families, the need for more elderly housing and transit-oriented housing, and the impact of social connectivity.  Though well-prepared with statistics, Silver also painted a picture that appealed to the right-brained city designers as well.  He presented a vision that we could all identify with, and he pushed his audience to leave the conference invigorated as we prepare for our changing cities.

Silver was not short on anecdotes and one especially resonated with me. In our effort to move cities towards change, there will be resistance.   With those naysayers, take a firm stand and let them know that when they say “no” to something they are saying “yes” to something else. These emerging trends indicate how our cities are reshaping, with a new reality of “planning for people” not just “planning for place”.  Those who favor high-end condos for their urban downtown and saying no to high density low-income urban housing, are saying “we’ve made a choice, we don’t want seniors and young professionals in our neighborhoods”.   Saying no to something is always saying yes to something else.  Planners offer value to present and future generations and must be ready to help build a better future, one neighborhood at time.

Before Silver left the podium to jet back to Boston to teach a class at Harvard, he challenged the conference attendees to remind themselves of why they got into their professions in the first place and to rediscover that passion and drive.  When walking into work on Monday, I remembered his challenge and had a different perspective.


Mairi Mashburn, AIA, LEED AP BD+C