Recent research has indicated that much of the growth in housing and even in jobs will take place in suburban communities over the next decades. Development pressures, seniors choosing to age in place, and new immigrant groups looking to bring up their children in good schools and leafy environs, are but some of the factors that are changing the needs and character of some of these communities.
Recent research indicates that small and mid-sized cities will be growing more rapidly than previously expected. Some of these are plagued with "gateway city" and other inner city challenges but also have great potential in terms of becoming walkable, vibrant and interesting places to live, work and play. Often the residents in these cities are of diverse backgrounds and a special effort is required to bring the community together around efforts to plan for the future.
A community's center is like its living room. However, many of our downtowns are less vibrant than residents would like, and less vital than some residents, those who experienced town centers before the advent of malls and on-line shopping remember. Revitalizing our downtowns is critical for our sense of community. There are many opportunities to re-make these centers into locales for community gathering and for housing for elderly, empty nesters, and others seeking smaller multi-family units within walking distance of goods and services.
Transportation, land use, and economic development are intimately related. There is increasingly significant interest and support in many communities for alternative modes of transportation, a desire to reduce dependency on the automobile and therefore support for public transportation and walking and biking infrastructure. Community conversations often revolve around reducing traffic congestion, increasing parking capacity, and creating a walking and biking system of connected sidewalks, crosswalks, bike paths and trails as an alternative to travel by car.
Community Circle has worked with healthcare, educational and other institutions working with stakeholders in pre-design phases, taking their input and “translating” it into a space program. Additionally, Community Circle has conducted evaluations of buildings, post-design, working with stakeholders to determine how well a building meets its design goals, what to replicate in future designs, what to avoid, and what to improve.
The relationship between land use and other town planning decisions and their impact on the health and wellness of residents is increasingly being recognized as a critical component of planning for our communities' futures. Community Circle has dealt with the health and wellness components of community planning as part of its work in several master plans as well as having completed projects whose entire focus is on health and wellness. Including issues of health and wellness in the community conversation has become an increasingly important way to both educate the public as well as to identify their priorities regarding these issues.
Public workshops, targeted outreach meetings to interest groups, discussion groups focused on themes, and other forums all play a role in providing an opportunity for participants to understand the process, express their views, and become enthusiastic and hopeful for an improved future. This helps garner support for proposals and even motivates some to participate actively during the implementation phase.
Community Circle has worked with public agencies to evaluate their programs in terms of how well they are meeting the needs of their stakeholders. Input is collected through focus groups, individual interviews and/or surveys, as appropriate. Recommendations are then provided based on this input as well as on systematic observation when relevant.