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UB: One Region Forward receives national planning award

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Mon, Apr 4th 2016 12:35 pm

American Planning Association recognizes public outreach efforts of UB-led initiative

By the University at Buffalo

The One Region Forward plan for sustainable development of the Buffalo-Niagara region has been recognized by a national planning organization.

The American Planning Association named One Region Forward one of six Achievement Award winners as part of its annual national planning awards program. Nine projects from around the country received Excellence Awards recognition.

The projects are cited by the nine-person jury of planning professionals as examples of good planning work.

One Region Forward received the National Planning Achievement Award for Public Outreach. Winners will be recognized today (April 4) at the APA's national conference in Phoenix.

The University at Buffalo Regional Institute (UBRI) directed planning research, community engagement and plan development for One Region Forward.

Noting that the "traditional public meeting is dead," Bart Roberts, project director for One Region Forward and UBRI's associate director of research, said public engagement has been a focal point of the effort.

"We tested, adapted and invented all sorts of engagement techniques designed to involve people who typically don't show up to community meetings," Roberts said.

"As we move the plan into action, that engagement lives on through the thousands of citizen participants, through the Citizen Planning School that teaches the plan to local leaders and everyday citizens, and through the implementation council birthed out of this process," Roberts added.

The Citizen Planning School, housed within UB's School of Architecture and Planning, is one of many ways One Region Forward has actively engaged residents in the process. The academy brings together members of the community to help them implement ideas for sustainable initiatives in their neighborhood.

The school has trained more than 300 citizens and 25 people through "Champions for Change," an advanced program of the Citizen Planning School that offers more in-depth training and one-one-one support.

Other public outreach highlights included:

•The "Text It Forward" text message survey campaign, which solicited feedback on a range of topics, from public transportation to land use, vacancy and food access.

•Games and interactive activities while tabling at area ethnic and neighborhood festivals in an effort to engage people who don't typically get involved in planning.

•Online forums designed to educate the public about key issues, such as the connection between sprawl and housing vacancy.

The national recognition for One Region Forward follows a series of planning honors presented to Western New York projects, many of which have been guided and supported by the UB School of Architecture and Planning, over the past decade.

"Western New York again has shown itself to be a national leader in planning and place-making rooted in the values and vision of our community," said Robert Shibley, dean of UB's School of Architecture and Planning.

"One Region Forward took community-based planning to a new level through inspired coalition-building and a set of programs and tools that will continue to educate, engage and inspire citizen-driven planning," Shibley added.

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