Envisioning the Future of Community Design for World Landscape Architecture Month

Posted on April 16, 2021
This excerpt was originally featured on The Field, the ASLA Professional Practice Networks’ Blog and is just a portion of the full interview with the Community Design Professional Practice Network (PPN) leadership team. Norris Design Principal Stacey Weaks is the Community Design PPN Co-Chair.

Given the 2021 WLAM theme of healthy, beautiful, and resilient places for all communities, ASLA’s Community Design Professional Practice Network (PPN) leadership team put together a set of thought-provoking, community-focused questions for the PPN’s leaders to address to celebrate the launch of WLAM.

Stacey Weaks

Stacey Weaks, Principal

How do you deal with brownfield sites and other types of sites that require remediation for new development? How do you make these reimagined sites an addition to the community fabric and an enhancement of the community environment?

Redevelopment remediation projects require a significant commitment from the lead developer and the teaming partners, including public and private entities. Norris Design has been collaborating on Miller’s Landing in Castle Rock, Colorado, a centrally located property in the Downtown Castle Rock area which historically served as the town’s former landfill. The property recently completed an extensive remediation process. Our team, in collaboration with the Town of Castle Rock and an extensive team of subconsultants, has been guiding the planning, design, and entitlement process to redevelop the 80-acre property, which required complete remediation prior to any redevelopment.

The vision for Miller’s Landing establishes a mixed-use district that diversifies the community fabric to serve the growing Castle Rock area and expand the economic opportunities in the area. A key aspect of the master plan is the establishment of a central Main Street with connections to a restored greenway, linking a critical segment of the trail network between downtown and the regional park and resulting in a healthier environment that would not be possible without the extensive remediation process.

What have you been seeing in terms of the impacts of working from home on communities?

Over the past year, we have moved from the tremendous uncertainty of where the planning and design market would go to engaging in a variety of new opportunities, including a range of project types to serve an evolving marketplace. With offices in Arizona, Colorado, and Texas, we are experiencing new residents and businesses transitioning into these marketplaces. This has led to a diverse mix of single family, single family for rent, and multifamily projects to meet the growing housing demand.

The pandemic has brought a renewed emphasis on quality outdoor space and some projects include an increased footprint for outdoor space. We are seeing community reinvestment into new and renovated parks, trails, and urban space. This rediscovery of the value of public space creates exciting opportunities. Yes, the experience is somewhat different today, but we shall return to the days of gathering and sharing concerts, events, or simply enjoying the outdoors together.

What do you foresee for community design post-COVID?

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, communities looked to the public realm, multi-modal strategies, and parks and open spaces as opportunities to support health, social well-being, and economic stability. It has become evident that public and private outdoor spaces provide many interrelated benefits to communities at various scales. Community design will focus on the integration of public and private outdoor realm. The private outdoor space may be the front or rear yard, porch, deck, terrace, or other creative area to provide residents access to comfortable, enjoyable outdoor space. The collaboration of the architectural and landscape architectural team is key to maximizing these private spaces. As communities plan housing, retail, and civic projects, this balance of private space as well as public realm are essential to enhance the overall living experience. It is vital for public community space to establish comfortable spaces, whether in a park or plaza setting or a retail/mixed use area.

Programming for the public realm will become more dynamic to create an assortment of places and spaces for people to enjoy comfortably. For example, a park may need more nodes of gathering space to accommodate small groups and provide social distancing. At the same time, these spaces need to be strategically planned for future gatherings for small and large groups as we emerge from the pandemic. This unique time has presented opportunities to rethink our design of private and public realm to continue to enhance each person’s experience as well as the larger community.

Read the full interview on the Field Blog