VERDUNITY News - June 2014

It's been a while since we sent out our last monthly newsletter. Thanks to everyone for all of the great feedback on the first few issues! One of the comments we received from several of you was to push content out more frequently through our blog and social media channels. So, we're going to do just that. Here's what you can expect from our VERDUNITY Community Blog and Social Media Network going forward:

  • VERDUNITY News. We're doing some cool stuff and we want to share it. On the first Tuesday of every month, I will post a summary of the previous month's activities and highlight some of the events and project work we have coming up in future months.
  • Thought Leadership and Commentary. We have lots of ideas on topics including community planning, municipal finance, repurposing infrastructure, placemaking, water quality, green infrastructure, and more. Each Monday or as often as we can, one of us will share new ideas we're working on or provide comments on something else we've come across that's changing the game.
  • News Digest. One of the core goals of our team is to expand perspectives and encourage collaboration across traditional boundaries. On Fridays, Kevin will consolidate and comment on some recent news items and blog posts from the fields of planning, civil engineering, finance, new urbanism, economic development, education, technology and others.
  • Resources and Best Practices. Information and examples are a critical part of educating and advocating for change. Our team spends a lot of our time researching trends, talking with other thought leaders, and trying out new tools and approaches. When we come across an especially good book, website, software tool, or other resource, we'll share a brief review via the blog, and then add it to the Resources page on our website, which we should have up within a week or two.
  • Conferences, Events, Presentations and Publications. Several members of our team speak frequently at conferences and community events, and are occasionally asked to contribute articles and op-eds for publications and websites. We'll keep you posted on upcoming conferences and events where we'll be attending and presenting. After presentations, we'll post updates with a copy of the presentation, pictures, and a summary of any follow-up discussions. You can always see where we've been and where we'll be on the Events and Presentations page of our website.
  • Social Media. If you're not already, please like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter (@Verdunity) and LinkedIn. If you really, really want to get to know us, you can also follow some of our individual team members' Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn sites (listed on the Team page of our website). Our personal sites tend to reflect more of our individual interests, unfiltered thoughts and community activities. We use our personal sites to advance our message and reach audiences that may not typically follow engineering and planning type stuff though, so if you can handle the occasional music reference, restaurant review or friend/family photo, shoot us a friend request or follow, join the conversation and help us expand our message even further. 

Recent News

Here are a few noteworthy items from recent months. It was an especially busy time for promoting our efforts on improving water quality and quantifying economic benefits of green infrastructure.

  • Publications. Mikel and Kevin had an article on economics of green infrastructure and the Panther Island project published in the April issue of Cornerstone's Journal of Sustainable Finance & Banking.
  • Earth Day, North Texas Water Symposium. Mikel was invited to be part of a USGBC sponsored panel discussion on water's impact on the north Texas economy and the health of economic development at the 2014 Earth Day Symposium. Other panel members included representatives from Coca-Cola, Hillwood Properties, Texas Water Development Board, North Texas Commission, Greater Dallas Planning Council, NCTCOG and Miller Coors.
  • UTA LID Workshop. Mikel spoke to local water resources management leaders in the planning, design and development industries about the current conditions of water resources in North Texas and appropriate strategies for effective implementation of green infrastructure.  Mikel presented strategies that will substantially improve water quality, revitalize neighborhoods, develop new spaces that will improve quality of life, and provide high value economic performance.
  • NCTCOG Public Works Roundup.  Mikel co-presented an overview of the Panther Island project in Fort Worth with Scott Hubley (FNI) and Woody Frossard (TRVA) to municipal Public Works professionals across North Texas. The presentation was focused on the development of LID strategies for Panther Island and the accompanying life cycle economic analysis that VERDUNITY performed on the project.
  • Don Raines Named Chairman of Oak Cliff Gateway TIF District Board. Dallas City Council recently re-appointed Don to serve as Chairman of Oak Cliff Gateway TIF District. Don's role as chairman is to conduct and oversee TIF District board meetings and work with the City of Dallas Economic Development department to review proposed developments within the district. TIF Board duties involve reviewing development  site plans, configurations, design aesthetics and context sensitivity before TIF funding applications can be rewarded. Don has served since 2010 and his current tenure will continue through September 2015.  
  • Big Win for Downtown Arlington (Abram Street). Earlier this year, we sponsored a series of Curbside Chats with Chuck Marohn from Strong Towns. One of them was held in Arlington, where there was an ongoing debate about whether to keep Abram Street through downtown a 5-lane STROAD, or convert it to a more pedestrian friendly corridor. The Curbside Chat provided some information for citizens, businesses, staff and elected officials, and we wrote a guest blog for Downtown Arlington Management Corporation with some of our observations. This week, city council expressed their support for reducing Abram Street to 3 lanes and significant pedestrian enhancements. Congratulations Arlington! You've taken a big step toward making your downtown a more productive and inviting destination. 
  • City of Dallas - Park & Open Space Benchmarking and Economic Study. In April, we learned that our team (led by WRT) was selected to do the Comprehensive Plan Update and Park and Open Space Master Plan for Dallas. This week, we learned that our team (led by H&RA) was also selected to do the Benchmarking and Economic Study. VERDUNITY will be providing expertise in pedestrian mobility and wayfinding, along with using Envision and the Business Case Evaluator to evaluate fiscal costs and benefits of various park and open space alternatives. We're really excited about working on two high profile projects with some of the best in their respective fields!

What's Ahead?

We've been invited to participate in some great conferences and events. We're also about to kick off some exciting new projects. Here's what's coming up in the next few months.

  • New Cities Summit, June 17-19, Dallas. Kevin has been invited to participate in this event, which is bringing together urban leaders and thinkers from around the world to discuss the topic of re-imagining cities. You can follow along on Twitter at #NCS2014.
  • AIGA DFW PechaKucha Night, "Dallas: Drawing New Landscapes", June 19, Dallas. Come out to Fair Park next Thursday night to hear Mikel and eleven other presenters deliver entertaining, seven minute presentations on a variety of topics, PechaKucha style. Mikel will be highlighting some of the innovative green infrastructure approaches we are applying at the development, neighborhood and project scales.
  • North Texas Renewable Energy Group Monthly Meeting, July 12, Dallas. Kevin will be presenting "Vision North Texas 2050: Helping Local Communities Plan for a Fiscally and Environmentally Resilient Future". Kevin recently gave this presentation to the City of Mesquite P&Z Committee. One of the P&Z members is also a member of NTREG, and asked Kevin to give a similar presentation to this group. This is one of Kevin's favorite topics to speak about, so if you're community or organization is interested in learning more about the impacts the anticipated growth will have on our region's mobility network, water resources, economy and workforce, give us a call or email Kevin directly.
  • Building a Fiscally Strong Town, July 15, Royse City. Kevin will be the main speaker at the Royse City Chamber of Commerce monthly luncheon in July.
  • EPA Region 6 Stormwater Conference, July 27-Aug 1, Fort Worth. Mikel will be participating in a panel discussion on Low Impact Development
  • Forney Comprehensive Plan. We'll be working with la terra studio to update Forney's Comp Plan. Our role will be evaluating existing infrastructure and natural systems, and prioritizing implementation efforts related to mobility, utilities and stormwater management. The plan will have a heavy emphasis on fiscal solvency, revitalization of downtown, and improving the quality of existing neighborhoods.
  • Coombs Creek Trail Park Master Plan. We're seeing more and more residents starting to step up to reclaim their neighborhoods. We're working directly with the East Kessler Park Neighborhood Association to develop a master plan to incorporate some landscape amenities and green infrastructure concepts into their neighborhood park. We'll also be developing design guidelines for converting the wide streets to narrower lanes with dedicated bike lanes and on-street parking. The neighborhood association intends to then take this information to their council member and city staff to lobby to get improvements included in a future bond program. 

We hope you all benefit from our revised approach to sharing our "news and views" via the blog. If there's something we're missing, a subject you'd like us to dig deeper into, or you just want to tell us we're crazy, we'd love to hear from you. Connect with one or more of our social media outlets and join the VERDUNITY Community conversation!

~ Kristin