By Nicole Ginley-Hidinger
As the middle of the term approached and the work for final projects had begun, three Planning, Public Policy and Management classes made the first Sustainable Cities Year Program class visit to Medford on Friday, October 18.
The three classes, Intro to Planning Practice, Human Settlements, and Planning Analysis I, focused on encouraging new development, are assigned to develop and present a final report on how the Jackson County area can continue transitioning into more sustainable, efficient practices. The same group of first year graduate students is in all three classes.
The site visit began at Medford City Hall, where half a dozen city staff gave an overview of the city, their priorities, the background and history of Medford, and information about the specific site the classes are working on. The second half of the day was spent starting impromptu conversations with interested and curious community members looking around the site, an area on E Main St. with many of the city’s health development services.
“It’s one thing to go out with a class and look at a site and look around,” says Rich Margerum, professor of Intro to Planning Practice. “It’s a whole other thing to go out with half a dozen city staff and get their perspective.”
Rebecca Lewis, professor of Human Settlements, thought that the biggest gain of the Medford visit was hearing how people who worked and lived in the city wanted the area to change in the future.
“It was great to go around the site and get a feel for it,” she says.
The student’s final proposals are meant to spark conversation within the city and community about how the area can develop in the next ten to twenty years.
“It may open up new ideas that just haven’t been on the table before,” says Margerum. “This is an older area, and it’s hard to imagine something new and exciting. It’s a big leap for a community to say, ‘here’s a possibility.’”
Students create overall plans that incorporate all aspects of the community. They determine if bike lanes would be useful, if buildings could be repurposed or rebuilt, and if parks should be incorporated in the area. They also determine how redevelopment could affect traffic in the area, the impact on nearby neighborhoods, and the best ways to maintain the character of an area.
On December 4th, students will present their final plans to the City of Medford.