Blue Township

Blue Township

Last spring, students supervised by Assistant Professor Kate Nesse proposed several economic development steps for the community of Blue Township, Pottawatomie County, Kan. to address growth pushing out from neighboring Manhattan, Kan.

“The assignment is designed to get students to explore one strategy in depth in a specific context,” Nesse said. “The [students] often struggle at first to work out all of the details to make their recommendation work and usually one or two change their recommendation after the first draft (there are three drafts) because they realize that while a good idea generally, some detail will not work out in this particular context.”

The proposed economic development strategies focus on activities to influence how the economic growth of the region will impact this township. Blue Township is typical of many rural areas that are being absorbed into expanding metropolitan regions. The rapidly growing Manhattan area is transforming the face of the township faster than the residents can manage the changes.

“The highlight of the experience was the community input meeting which provided a lot of context to the problems in the area from actual residents,” said Amelia Lewis, a regional and community planning student.

Pottawatomie County Economic Development Corporation, PCEDC, sponsored the meeting and the project. The students presented the final report to the board, who were impressed with their creativity.

Through their work with the community and with the PCEDC, the students understood that economic development in this case meant a good deal more than just economic growth. The proposals range from a recommendation to incorporate the township to give the community a larger voice and greater control over the development process to suggestions for clustered commercial and residential development to maintain the remaining farm land. Most of the proposals tried to find ways to preserve the rural character of the township in the midst of the rapid development.

Within each of the proposals, the students identified who needed to be involved to make the proposal happen, how it would be funded and the mechanics of actually carrying out the proposal – all within three pages each. These proposals are not aspirational dreams of what the township could be like. They are concrete activities that the community can undertake immediately to change the direction of the local economy and community life.

The students who participated in the project include:

Amy Denker, MRCP ‘14; Joseph Foster, MRCP ’15; Everett Haynes, MRCP ‘16; Amelia Lewis, MRCP ‘16; Chase Sterling, undergraduate in the department of Geography; Jessica Weber, MRCP ’16; and Yihong Yan, MRCP ’16.

Students collaborate with St. Joseph stakeholders and community members

StStudents in the site planning and design studio initiated the first portion of a multi-semester partnership between St. Joseph and the department during the spring 2014 semester.

Collaboration with the Mo-Kan Regional Council and the City of St. Joseph allowed students to actively engage with community members and participate in a four-day site visit in April. The students worked in teams of two to generate ideas for specific parts of downtown St. Joseph.

“My hope is that students gained a better understanding of collaborating with stakeholders and community members, and an appreciation of the role landscape architects can play in strategic and visionary planning,” assistant professor of landscape architecture, Alpa Nawre said. “They will also get an opportunity to play a role in catalyzing important changes in downtown St. Joseph.”

Students began the project with research and mapping, followed by development of conceptual design alternatives. These alternatives were critiqued by key project partner’s midway through the semester. The proposals were subsequently refined and presented to city officials, community stakeholders and local design professionals in St. Joseph through several community engagement sessions.

“I really enjoyed hearing the range of ideas held by community members and stakeholders,” landscape architecture student, Wesley Moore said. “It is interesting to me to see that the designer’s role is often to be a good listener and a mediator of sorts.”

Moore and his teammate focused on providing a public space that enables individuals and organizations to not only interact, but also to utilize and shape the space so it might best meet the community’s needs.

The final studio projects were presented to the community at Better Block St. Joe in May. The two-day event celebrated ideas for improving downtown St. Joseph. Prior to Better Block St. Joe, students delivered formal presentations to St. Joseph City Council members. Throughout the event, students exhibited their final project posters, short videos and talking with community members about their ideas.

“The goal for the partnership is that the community gains a set of visionary ideas that helps them to re-imagine the potential for downtown development in St. Joseph,” associate professor of landscape architecture, Blake Belanger said.

You can read more about the Kansas APA New Horizon Award that the project received here.

Regional and community planning students host annual learning event with local elementary school

BOXhattan Banner1

The K-State Student Planning Association, SPA, hosted its annual BOXhattan event on October 31, working with 39 third-graders from Woodrow Wilson Elementary at the First Lutheran Church of Manhattan.

BOXhattan began in 2011 and is hosted once a semester. The event was created as a way for SPA members to teach the principles of planning, community involvement and urban design to elementary students.

The chapter takes the students through a multi-step process that mirrors real-life planning scenarios. BOXhattan allows the children to plan their own city using boxes of various sizes. The children have to apply for “building permits” and have their building “approved” by a SPA member.

Once buildings are complete, there is one final group discussion about the finished city and what the children think of it. This gives students a chance to use the knowledge they have just learned to discuss what makes a city, and what choices can make it better for all.

“I hope that students will take away the desire to observe their surroundings in a new way,” said Jessica Weber, regional and community planning student and president of SPA. “I hope they will begin to think about how design and planning is shaping their lives every day. I want them to question everything and dream of ways to make their city a happier and healthier place to be.”

Since this year’s event took place on October 31, the group incorporated a Halloween spin on the BOXhattan from previous years. The event was titled ‘Ghosthattan’ and there were new craft décor for the elementary students, including a ‘spooky’ power point presentation, Halloween stickers and foam pieces, orange and black construction paper, Halloween music, and of course, plenty of spider webs to string across the buildings.

“Planning is a degree at K-State that people are intrigued by once they hear of what Planning encompasses,” Weber said. “It is never too young to get kids thinking about their futures and how they might want to contribute to the working world.”

The student chapter plans to hold the next BOXhattan event at Open House in Seaton Hall on Saturday, April 11, 2015.

SPA members who participated in BOXhattan include:

Joe Foster, MRCP ‘15; Everett Haynes, MRCP ‘16; John Heiman, MRCP ‘16; Alicia Hunter, MRCP ‘18; Amelia Lewis, MRCP ‘16; Douglas May, MRCP ‘16; Alexsis Stensland, MRCP ’15; Megan Underwood, MRCP; Melissa Wilson, MRCP ’17; Jessica Weber, MRCP ’16; Taylor Whitaker, MRCP ‘18; and Melissa Wilson, MRCP ’17.

Students explore possible future water recreation in Park City, Kan.

Water recreation options for Park City, Kan. provided real-life planning experience for students in recent Infrastructure and Plan Implementation and Community Research Methods courses. Regional and Community Planning Assistant Professor Huston Gibson received a small grant from the community to support a study of possible future water recreation alternatives for the city.

The project stemmed from Park City once having a public pool, and some residents advocating for the pool to be renovated and reopened. While that option is not currently being considered by the city, there are two viable alternatives that might make sense for Park City: a new pool in an alternative location, and/or converting the old pool site into a splash park. The students explored these options and determined public opinion regarding these alternatives.

The project allowed Community Research Methods students to  identify a planning problem(s) and associated questions, and then answer the questions to address the problem with appropriate methods (a survey). Students in the Infrastructure and Plan Implementation class were able to learn about the  the costs and decisions  behind determining a public infrastructure investment such as a public pool.

Dr. Gibson oversaw both courses as students worked on this project.

“The project is intended to help inform Park City in future water-related recreational infrastructure decision-making. So, they will get a better informed decision about their community’s recreational infrastructure needs and wants,” Gibson said. “Having the students work on the project is a win-win; as the students get experience and the city gets valuable information that they might not otherwise afford.”