What is one thing all successful neighborhood parks, industrial developments, or a commercial centers share? They all start somewhere. Maybe with the smallest twinkling of an idea. Maybe it begins as a wish list of ideas for a community and nothing more. Questions then abound: What is the potential use of a site? What does the community need? What would it look like? How can we improve the community?
Maybe it is borne out of a rough napkin sketch or an informal discussion between colleagues and friends. Wherever and whatever the origin of the ideas, they and their subsequent evolutions are typically the beginning of the Master Planning process.
A master plan, as related to land development, sometimes also called a comprehensive or comp plan, provides a long–range vision, strategy for implementation, and a design for the future of a site, community or region. It will serve as a general guide to the appropriate use of land, and may include the designating of commercial, residential, public, and private development(s) areas and give the public, future stakeholders and developers a clear blueprint for a site’s future, preventing hap-hazard, thoughtless development that may not maximize a site or community’s full potential. As a guide for the future and future growth of a community, it will assist in determining what types of businesses, road orientation, public spaces and amenities will be pursued, as well as many other decisions that affect the growth and development of community. It will be a vision of the site in 10 or 20 years and beyond and it will shape the lives of all persons in the community, now and in the future.
It is important to enlist stakeholders and use their advice and recommendations to help shape direction of the master plan. These stakeholders should be a mix of community leaders and elected officials, as well as city staff, the public, and developers, who hold vested interests in the site or community; these are the best persons to provide advice and recommendations. They, in turn, will enlist the services of design professionals, engineers and landscape architects, like Hall & Hall Engineers, Inc. (HHE), to assist in identifying common goals, policies, strategies, and create a graphic plan to communicate the ideas to all.
Due diligence, in the form of a site inventory and analysis on the subject site or community, is initially conducted by the design professional. The site inventory and analysis shows the existing site conditions, including existing buildings, natural features, views, and such, offsite considerations such as conditions of adjacent properties and existing and future amenities of adjacent cities and regions, among others, and intangible elements like the socio-economics and community/regional demographics. When presented to the stakeholders, the site inventory and analysis plan will help them understand the existing conditions, and what the site or community may be lacking. In short, the site inventory will help narrow the focus and scope of the master plan ensuring efficient exploration.
Upon presentation of the site inventory and analysis, the steering committee of stakeholders and the design professionals will begin to direct the shape of the proposed master plan. This is done through a brainstorming of ideas or items including things the committee feels a community needs or prefers. The resulting list is subsequently summarized into to a “needs” or “preference” category and is used by the design professional to create several alternative plans.
The alternative plans incorporate, to varying degrees, items from the wish list, but may vary in their orientations, locations, themes, etc., while still addressing the concerns of the steering committee. Once presented, the steering committee will provide comments, questions, and feedback, and typically select one alternative to be refined further by the design professional into a Preliminary Master Plan.
The consolidation of the alternate plans into one Preliminary Master Plan gives the stakeholders a more focused view of the direction of the plan. Similar to the previous steps, the Preliminary Master Plan is presented to the steering committee for review and comments. Utilizing these suggestions, the design professional, then, begins work on the Final Master Plan.
The Final Master Plan is the further polishing and detailed refinement of the previous preliminary master plan, incorporating the above comments. Once finalized, the plan is presented to stakeholders and the public and gives everyone a blueprint for what is envisioned, needed, and preferred for a community’s future growth and can be an inspiration to subsequent generations. It will serve as a guidebook for developers, businesses, citizens and public officials, and shapes the look and feel of a place and community. It will also be a springboard for subsequent designs, developments, shaping the future use of the site. Therefore the importance of the Master Plan cannot be understated.
Items that may or may not be addressed in a master plan include funding sources, cost estimates, detailed design of infrastructure, buildings, or roads. The plan, again, is a guide, and as such, each element of the plan will require further detailed exploration when it becomes time for implementation.
Though this seems like a great deal of effort, the Final Master Plan is only the first step of a successful project that began with a little idea or comment or discussion. Let HHE evolve your ideas into a well-thought plan.