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If there’s anything we should have learned from planning exercises that have not delivered what we hoped (along Mission Road and throughout the City of Calgary), it’s that we must find a better way to involve residents and businesspeople (and City staff) in the process.

If we replace refereed conflict with real collaboration, and if we involve everyone from the start, rather than getting people reacting to plans that are already well along a path, two advantages are presented. First, we tap into the deepest reservoirs of local and professional knowledge. We get to problems that need solving fast. And we can test possible solutions with real experts – not just the professionals, but also the people who live and work and play in the areas we’re studying. Second, we start building support for plans as they’re being shaped. We don’t have to waste time and resources selling ideas to the people who were partners in their development. And most important, we end up with better plans.

The tool for this collaborative process is something Calgary’s been talking about for some time, but until now, has never fully implemented — a “charrette.” Because its format allows for testing and refining ideas in collaboration with everybody likely to be affected, a charrette is a great time and resource saver. Check out this video for more details:

Finally, to ensure ours is as productive as possible, we began with a World Café-style exercise this past winter, on January 29. Here’s the video for that.

So what are the goals for this packed week of collaborative planning?

We’re concentrating on Mission Road and how it could evolve into a mixed-use “Main Street” that connects and enriches the neighbourhoods of Parkhill and Erlton. (For a map of the study area, go here.) Calgarians have been loud and clear on our preferences for avoiding the land-devouring, car-centric pattern of suburban sprawl and for encouraging compact, mixed-use approaches that allow for multiple mobility choices. What we want to achieve from the week of collaborative idea-testing and plan refinement is a comprehensive, consensus-driven plan for Mission Road, complete with a regulatory framework for guiding future redevelopment and development in line with citizens’ preferences and market realities.

To help us with that planning process, we’ve selected an international all-star consulting team. We chose them because they share our principles of growth management and because they are among the most experienced in the world at using charrette processes to apply planning and coding strategies to precisely the sorts of goals we’ve set.

Andres Duany, a founding principal of Duany Plater-Zyberk & Company (DPZ), may be the best known urban planner in the world. He’ll lead our charrette and bring along key planners from his firm.

PlaceMakers Canada will involve most of the firm’s principals, led by Calgary-based Geoff Dyer. Geoff has already distinguished himself as one of the most talented designers and planners in North America.

Having these experienced professionals in Calgary for our charrette gives us the chance to get maximum results from our investment of time and resources. If we’re to create the inspiring plan we envision for Mission Road and set a template for planning in the future, we couldn’t have picked better partners to work with.

The table is set. Now, all we have to do is come together for the event. I promise it will reward your interest and participation. So plan to attend and tell your friends. For a rundown on how the week is divided and all the choices you have for participation, see the Schedule.

Even if you can’t attend the public sessions during the charrette, you can keep up with the evolution of ideas and the refinement of plans here on this website. We’ll be providing regular posts about the process and its products as we move through the charrette. At the end of each of these posts, we’re inviting comments and questions. And, of course, you can contact my office directly at any point. See you at the charrette,


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    This is the moment we’ve all been planning towards.

    Beginning Wednesday, June 15, 2011, citizens, landowners, and City staff sat down with an international consulting team to translate years worth of lessons learned into a plan for healthy growth along Mission Road. Just as important, they used this week-long planning workshop as a test run for how Calgary's residents, business people, and government might better go about charting the future of our neighbourhoods together.

    That’s why we’ve described this project as: Neighbours on a mission. In reality, we’re all neighbours. And we have to work together to get where we want to go. Read more here.