Every planning student finishes their program in the Planning Workshop, where students work in teams with community clients to address a real problem, develop and evaluate alternatives, engage the community directly, and develop a recommended course of action. In 8 of the past 12 years, a Planning Workshop project has won a national award from the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP), more than any other planning program in the United States. The 2017 project, called Umatilla Together, engaged residents in a visioning and planning process for downtown Umatilla in eastern Oregon and won the award for “application of the planning process.”
What started as a Planning Workshop project in 2011 has now turned into Portland Mercado, a Latino public market place which opened in 2015. The student group, Adellante Planning, did the feasibility study, which outlined strategies based on research and case studies to successfully implement a Mercado as an economic development and business incubation strategy for Portland’s Latino community. It won the AICP award in 2012.
Another award winner, the 2016 project, OHSU Night Access Plan lays out a strategy to make getting to and from Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) at night and early in the morning safer, more convenient, and affordable. “The goal of the plan, ultimately, is to create a more inclusive campus,” says OHSU Transportation and Parking Operations Manager Brett Dodson. Employees who work during these hours have fewer transportation options than daytime workers do. Since many of these employees work the least favorable shifts because they are new or have lower incomes, they are even more disadvantaged than those traveling during daytime hours. “OHSU has already activated several of the team’s recommendations,” says Dodson. “We are piloting a ride share program, a shuttle service from a major transit hub, and reducing the cost of a transit pass to a flat 95% discount to anyone with a badge.”
The 2015 winner was Fourth Plain Forward: An Action Plan for Vancouver’s Multicultural Business District, which the City of Vancouver has since adopted as a multi-year initiative to improve the portion of East Fourth Plain Boulevard known as Vancouver’s “international business district.” The project addressed an increasingly common set of challenges faced by planners in communities like Vancouver: promoting neighborhood revitalization and inclusive development in a diverse and multicultural—but low‐income and civically disengaged—community; creating safe and inviting pedestrian and public spaces amid an auto‐dominated urban form and disinvested building stock; and engaging and empowering the community through the planning process. “The neighborhoods adjacent to the Fourth Plain Forward study area are the most ethnically and economically diverse in the city,” says Chad Eiken, Director of Community and Economic Development for the City of Vancouver. “In recognition of this, the student team developed and managed an extensive public involvement process, which provided numerous opportunities for residents and businesses to engage.”
Check out examples of past workshop projects.
Students in our Ph.D. and Masters of Urban Studies programs do a thesis or dissertation, which you can find here.
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I am a Professor of Urban Studies & Planning at Portland State University.