The Sustainable Design Assessment Team, which set out to provide broad assessments to help frame future policies and sustainability solutions in the city of Bridgeport, has completed its rounds in Bridgeport. The http://www.aia.org/aiaucmp/groups/aia/documents/pdf/aiab086087.pdf report says that all planning decisions must be assessed based on three elements of sustainability and that advances in only one, to the detriment of the others, is not sustainable. The issues are environmental stewardship, social equity, and economic development and growth. Read more about this report and others by the American Institute of Architects here: http://www.aia.org/about/initiatives/AIAS075426.
The merging of the three elements to create community sustainability at the same time creates a sense of place, a demand for products and services and a physical basis for prosperity.
The team was comprised of:
- Sanford Garner, AIA, NOMA, LEED-ND
- Carol Mayer-Reed, FASLA
- Paul Fontaine, AICP
- Matt Leighninger
- Alan Steinbeck, AICP
- Ken Bowers, AICPBridgeport SDAT ObservationsBridgeport SDAT Observations
- While the bones of a great city are there, Bridgeport has an image problem.
- There are unfinished projects in Bridgeport that detract from its appearance.
- Resources are in poor condition and reasonably inaccessible.
- Downtown Bridgeport is in Limbo.
- More housing than jobs
- More rental than ownership housing
- An eroded commercial tax base
- A large inventory of vacant industrial land and buildings
According to one team member: Bridgeport’s best short term strategy is: Build more rental housing. 32,000 people aged 25 –34 would have to move to the region to match the national norm.
- Lead with downtown housing
- Revive the ground floor downtown economy
- Leverage transit and amenities to boost the office economy
- Grow downtown south and east to the water
- Maximize the value of waterfront sites
- Retrofit for modern industry where you can
- Improve housing quality in the neighborhoods
In the short term, the team is recommending a master plan, zoning reform, parking management reform, bringing car sharing to Bridgeport, and regulatory reform.
Another team member suggested that improved urban connections will:
- enhance alternative transportation modes with multi-use trails
- broaden recreation opportunities & contact with water & nature
- promote social sustainability through public spaces
- enhance visual quality of city at large & small scales
Improved North-South Greenways can:
- Store stormwater & improve water quality
- Incorporate multi-use trails
- Enhance human health & interface with nature
- Support urban wildlife with native vegetation
Also suggested: designing complete streets for vehicles, pedestrians and bicyclists.
The report concludes with “7 Magnificent suggestions”
#1 Convene the mavens
A 2007 report names “deliberative mavens” with experience in public engagement (mostly on school issues)
Bring together those people, along with teenagers, college students and other leaders, in a city-wide committee to promote, guide and advise public engagement on all issues
# 2 Transform the Neighborhood Revitalization Zones
Reconstitute NRZ committees as independent groups with official role in policymaking and central role in community-building
Call them “neighborhood roundtables,”or “front porch forums,”or something catchy and ask school system, faith community, nonprofits, businesses to help support.
#3 Equip neighborhood leaders and City Hall to work with public
Provide training in recruitment, facilitation, meeting design, issue framing, action planning, etc. Neighborhood leaders and city employees go through training together. Appeal to national nonprofits like Public Agenda (NYC), Everyday Democracy (Hartford) for free assistance.
#4 Establish online forums
Create simple online exchanges (can be email listservs). Not a replacement for face-to-face meetings. Models, examples at www.e-democracy.org
#5 Incorporate engagement into CitiStat system
Break all neighborhood plans down into measurable benchmarks. Start to gather process information (# of people at meetings, demographics, structure of meetings, satisfaction surveys), and establish benchmarks. Make everything publicly available online.
#6 Create neighborhood micro-grant program
Small, matching grants that require sweat equity, other contributions from residents. Funding does not necessarily have to come from government.
#7 Create a Bridgeport youth council
Give young people an official, advisory role in local policymaking. Link with schools, clubs –youth councilmembers should think of themselves as engagement leaders, not representativesBetter engagement = successes + new questions and challenges.
“We had to make our City Hall a flatter, less hierarchical organization in order to respond effectively to citizens, and support their problem-solving efforts.” ~ Mark Linder, asst. city manager, San Jose, California