National Planning Awards 2012

APA's National Planning Excellence, Achievement, and Leadership Awards honor the best planning efforts and individuals that create communities of lasting value. The 2012 award recipients will be honored at a special luncheon held during APA's National Planning Conference.

Award Winners

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Awards Ceremony

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National Planning Excellence Awards

The Daniel Burnham Award for a Comprehensive Plan

Vision 2020: New York City Comprehensive Waterfront Plan

New York, New York

New York City's waterfront stretches 520 miles. Vision 2020: New York City Comprehensive Waterfront Plan creates a strategic framework for the city's waterfront, waterways, and water for the next 10 years. One of the plan's goals is to make the water part of New Yorkers' everyday lives.

The city has been making great strides in connecting New Yorkers with the water's edge over the past several decades. Vision 2020 expands upon previous efforts to provide site-specific strategies to improve the waterfront in all five boroughs. The plan is organized around eight goals: expand public access; enliven the waterfront; support the working waterfront; improve water quality; restore the natural waterfront' enhance the Blue Network (the waterways themselves); improve government oversight; and increase climate resilience. Short-term implementation of Vision 2020 is being led by the New York City Waterfront Action Agenda, a set of 130 projects totaling $3.3 billion. The city is also in the process or reinstating the Waterfront Management Advisory Board to oversee implementation of Vision 2020 and the Action Agenda, as well as advise the city on waterfront policy.

Vision 2020: New York City Comprehensive Waterfront Plan

The HUD Secretary's Opportunity and Empowerment Award

Robert R. Taylor Homes / NorthSide Revitalization

Wilmington, North Carolina

The Taylor Homes, barrack-style public housing units, were seen as a barrier to the planned revitalization of the NorthSide. Once a vibrant neighborhood, the NorthSide was now plagued by crime and considered as a housing choice of last resort. The existing Taylor Homes were demolished and the Wilmington Housing Authority led the efforts to secure funding for rebuilding. In place of the older housing, three unique properties were built, reflecting the historic architecture of the surrounding community, offering housing choices to low-income residents, and serving as a community anchor for the NorthSide Plan.

More than 55 community meetings were held to gather input and improve stakeholder involvement. The intense resident participation led to the formation of the NorthSide Neighborhood Association that is still active today.

Now, 240 in-need individuals have moved into the Robert R. Taylor Homes. All of the residents are able to enjoy a new community center, free internet access, parks, playgrounds, and accessible transportation downtown. 

Robert R. Taylor Homes

HUD Best Practice Case Study

National Planning Excellence Award for Best Practice

Cool Planning: A Handbook on Local Strategies to Slow Climate Change


Oregon like most states in America, struggles to balance development and sustainability. Cool Planning: A Handbook on Local Strategies to Slow Climate Change gives step-by-step guidelines to help communities reduce their carbon footprint through community development, land use, and transportation planning. Cool Planning was created by the State of Oregon's Transportation and Growth Management Program (TGM) and consulting firm Otak.

Cool Planning offers how-to strategies, examples and case studies, and public health benefits that states and towns nationwide can implement. It presents a complex subject in an easy-to-follow format, written for local officials, planning commissioners, planners, community organizations, and developers.

The handbook puts smart growth and progressive transportation planning principles into the climate change context and explains their relevance and effectiveness. The handbook provides guidance on planning strategies that can become elements of a climate action plan or a community's comprehensive plan, and tools for measuring a plan's effectiveness.

Cool Planning: A Handbook on Local Strategies to Slow Climate Change

National Excellence Planning Award for a Grassroots Initiative

Yorktown 2015: A Blueprint for Survival and Sustainability

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Built in the 1960s, Yorktown serves as a model of urban redevelopment for shared public spaces and right-of-way elements. Concerns over aging infrastructure and perceived threats over changes within and around the neighborhood prompted the Yorktown CDC to create a strategic neighborhood plan. The community-driven planning process maintains the community's legacy and preserves the neighborhood through reinvestment.

Yorktown 2015: A Blueprint for Survival and Sustainability engaged residents through meetings, interviews, surveys and the "Yorktown Chatter Box," a custom-built story telling booth. Despite the small community size, more than 260 residents participated in shaping the plan. Since completion of the plan just over a year ago, the community has reached numerous milestones, including: securing investments of more than $70,000 from multiple agencies working in partnership with the Yorktown CDC; adoption of the plan as the official neighborhood plan by the Philadelphia City Planning Commission; initiation of five "Green Street" projects to retrofit Yorktown's right-of-way features as green infrastructure elements; and support from the Philadelphia Housing Development Corporation with $40,000 in homeowner assistance funds through its Targeted Housing Preservation Program.

Yorktown 2015: A Blueprint for Survival and Sustainability

National Planning Excellence Award for Implementation

Contra Costa Centre Transit Village


Contra Costa Centre Transit Village is a 140-acre area that focused on merging work, social, and living environments. The County of Contra Costa and its Redevelopment Agency Planners, working with the private sector, have been implementing this smart growth model for 25 years.

The project's goal was to connect residents, businesses and employees near the convergence of several regional transportation systems including rail systems, a major arterial, and a regional trail. The site is nearly 90 percent built out and features 2,700 housing units, 2.4 million square feet of office and commercial space, and 432 hotel rooms, and an array of public facilities and amenities. The Transit Village accommodates 7,000 employees, 6,000 residents, and 6,000 BART patrons on a daily basis. All uses in the village are within a quarter-mile of the BART fare gates.

Contra Costa Centre Transit Village

National Planning Excellence Award for Public Outreach

Fast Forward Mobile Outreach Bus

Tulsa, Oklahoma

The Indian Nations Council of Governments (INCOG), the regional planning agency for the Tulsa metro area, wanted to identify and prioritize corridors for long-term transit development. To gather citizen input, an ordinary city bus was transformed into an mobile transit lab featuring educational tools, LCD video screens, and interactive displays.

The 40-foot Fast Forward Bus traveled to 117 locations over a four month period, stopping at schools, libraries, shopping malls, and community events. More than 2,000 citizens were able to discuss transit face-to-face with planners. Upon entering the bus, citizens could discuss transit options with a staff member, take a short survey, and watch a five-minute video. The interaction enabled citizens to discuss specific transit needs, concerns, and frustrations face-to-face. Of the citizens participating in the Fast Forward Bus, 88 percent indicated they had never previously participated in a transportation planning meeting and more than 1,500 citizens submitted surveys about transit planning in the area.

Fast Forward Mobile Outreach Bus

National Planning Excellence Award for Innovation in Sustaining Places

Re-imagining a More Sustainable Cleveland

Cleveland, Ohio

Re-Imagining a More Sustainable Cleveland is a collaborative effort to address the issues of persistent population decline and large-scale urban vacancy while positioning the city for sustainable future development. Cleveland has approximately 20,000 vacant lots that negatively impact property values and quality of life for residents. The initiative is led by the City of Cleveland, Neighborhood Progress Inc., ParkWorks, and support of Kent State University's Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative along with 30 other community-based groups.

The initiative addresses vacancy issues by introducing non-traditional urban land uses to city neighborhoods. There are three broad categories for the land uses: seeing  vacant lots as opportunities for future development; restoring green infrastructure and reclaiming badly damaged ecosystems; and employing productive landscapes using vacant land for agriculture and alternative energy generation. Community engagement was achieved through workshops held throughout the city, a vacant land ideas-to-action booklet, and a grant program that distributed nearly $600,000 in funding for 56 vacant land pilot projects conducted by local residents and community organizations.

Re-imagining a More Sustainable Cleveland

Best Practices in Hazard Mitigation and Disaster Planning

Florida Statewide Regional Evacuation Study Program


Florida has long been a victim of disastrous hurricane seasons leaving the coastline, infrastructure, and citizens in dismay. The hurricanes during 2004 and 2005 were the most deadly with nearly 3,000 deaths and causing $50 billion in damages. The Florida Legislature appropriated $29 million to conduct a statewide study to improve evacuation planning and emergency disaster response. The primary purpose of The Florida Statewide Regional Evacuation Study Program was to map future evacuation strategies while incorporating traffic, housing, and other community improvements. The study enabled projection estimates for evacuation times and shelter demands by region and county.

An important aspect of the study was using Light Detection and Ranging data (LiDar) to provide elevation data for every six inches of the Florida's coastline. This data greatly improves the accuracy of the SLOSH (Sea, Lake and Overland Surge from Hurricanes) Model and Surge Inundation Model results. The program resulted in an evacuation study for each one of Florida's 11 regions that is unique to that particular region. Additionally, Florida included other natural disasters in the study crucial to its region with the ability to analyze hazards such as wildfires and inland flooding.

Florida Statewide Regional Evacuation Study Program

National Planning Excellence Award for a Planning Firm

Sasaki Associates, Inc.

Watertown, Massachusetts

Sasaki Associates, Inc., has a history of regenerating communities with its unique collaboration of engineers, architects and planners. Founded in 1953 by Hideo Sasaki, his approach of uniting planning and design disciplines was pioneering at the time and has created a legacy of significant projects, including the revival of Sea Pines Plantation in 1953, construction of the Charlestown waterfront in the 1990s and the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics.

The firm's planning process is based on the value of strong ideas, critical inquiry and exploration, and broad public engagement. Sasaki Associates, Inc., has received more than 500 awards from various design and urban planning foundations, including the 2011 APA National Planning Excellence Award for Best Practices in Hazard Mitigation and Disaster Planning for Cedar Rapids' River Corridor Redevelopment Plan, and a 2011 ULI Award of Excellence for the Euclid Avenue HealthLine BRT Project in Cleveland.

Sasaki Associates, Inc.

National Planning Landmark Award

The Bennett Plan of the City of Pasadena (1925)

Pasadena, California

Pasadena's 1925 plan was created by Edward H. Bennett, protege of Chicagoan and renowned planner Daniel Burnham. Bennett envisioned Pasadena as the "The Athens of the West." Pasadena residents heavily endorsed Bennett's plan in 1923 in a citywide election. Bennett's plan included architectural concepts and strategies to extend the landscapes of its east-west streets and boulevards and implementation of a zoning ordinance. Over eight decades, the city and its residents vowed to preserve its ten historic landmarks while pursuing various community rehabilitation initiatives.

Remaining faithful to its commitment, nearly $400 million in investments reopened its legendary Civic Auditorium, renovating the old police building to mixed-use housing, restoring City Hall, and the Central Library. In addition to maintaining its rich history, the city undid early mistakes and reopened the Garflied axis through a renovated Paseo Colorado shopping mall; and made architecturally compatible additions  to the Plaza Las Fuentes, a hotel and office redevelopment project, and an expanded conference center flanking the auditorium. 

Guiding Principles for Federal Architecture

U.S. General Services Administration

Federal buildings dot the landscape of cities and towns all across America, and are often the most visible interaction between people and their government. In 1962, Daniel Patrick Moynihan included in his memo on federal office space to President John F. Kennedy the Guiding Principles for Federal Architecture.  Moynihan championed good design and wrote, "The belief that good design is optional, or in some way separate from the question of the provision of office space itself, does not bear scrutiny, and in fact invites the least efficient use of public money."

Fifty years later, the Guiding Principles for Federal Architecture are still inspiring and shaping the mission of the Public Buildings Service and have become the cornerstone of the General Services Administration's Design excellence Program. They have elevated attention to design and the integration of planning, architecture, public art and the landscape into a public realm of beauty and utility.

The GSA's General Design Philosophy

National Planning Achievement Awards

The Pierre L'Enfant International Planning Award

Strategic Master Plan I Petra Region, Jordan

Petra Region, Jordan

Petra is a 6th century archaeological site and was named a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1968, and more recently named one of the "New Seven Wonders of the World." While its tourism draw is the second largest component of the Jordanian economy, the Petra region is now facing multiple challenges, including unplanned tourism growth, environmental degradation, population growth, and limited water availability, putting the region's world heritage site status was in jeopardy.

The Jordanian government established the Petra Development and Tourism Regional Authority (PDTRA) that has authority over a 197,685 acre region, including the Petra Archaeological Park. A multidisciplinary team was assembled to create the Strategic Master Plan for the Petra Region.

Input was obtained from more than 400 participants including local leaders, women's groups, youth groups and local subject experts. The strategic plan includes provisions for watershed management; sets aside 93.8 percent of the region as conversation zones and open space; addresses dependencies on unsustainable tourism practices; provides opportunities for economic diversification; and proposals for managing regional transportation impacts associated with mass tourism.

National Planning Achievement Award for a Hard-Won Victory

Candlestick Point-Hunters Point Shipyard Phase II EIR


The Bayview Hunters Point community of San Francisco was challenged by unemployment, extreme poverty, and high crime rates. Bayview was ranked by the Department of Justice as one of the 10 least advantaged locations in the U.S. The Candlestick Point-Hunters Point Shipyard Phase II Project goal is to revitalize the community through multiple channels, including maximizing reuse of a naval shipyard (a Superfund site); increasing business and employment opportunities; providing housing options at a range of affordability levels; and integrating transportation.

After a 30-year public outreach and community planning process, it was imperative that the project produce tangible benefits for the community. To analyze the environmental impacts of the project, the team was confronted with a number of challenges including ongoing hazardous materials cleanup at a Superfund site; addressing sea level rise; assessing biological resources; and phasing of parkland and infrastructure improvements with project development. The result is a 10-volume environmental impact report that is now being used by the city as a "model environmental document." The report also took into account the history of the community, and the massive direct environmental impacts, and the prospect of creating a metropolitan neighborhood that must be assimilated into San Francisco.

Candlestick Point-Hunters Point Shipyard Phase II EIR

Advancing Diversity & Social Change in Honor of Paul Davidoff

Leonardo Vazquez

Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey

Leonardo Vazquez has made a mark in urban planning by shifting the focus to alleviate issues that plague Latino communities. For 15 years as a leader, educator, and author, Vazquez has been a staunch advocate for social justice and ethnic diversity in the planning industry.

Vazquez is the head of three centers at Rutgers University's of Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Policy, where he teaches students how to diagnose problems and create solutions for multi-ethnic communities. He is the author of Leading from the Middle: Strategic Thinking and Planning and Community Development for Professionals and co-editor of the forthcoming Dialogos: Placemaking in Latino Communities. Vazquez played a key role in the conception of APA's Latinos and Planning Division, and is co-founder of the Planners for Ethnic and Cultural Diversity Committee for APA's New York Metro Chapter, which is helping other chapters establish diversity councils.

Leonardo Vazquez

The National Planning Excellence Award for Planning Advocate

Gov. Martin O'Malley: Reinvigorating Smart Growth in Maryland


Governor Martin O'MalleyGov. Martin O'Malley has continued the legacy of planning innovation in Baltimore that started nearly 50 years ago. Concerned that homes were being built on state farmland and forest land far quicker than the rate of population growth, O'Malley developed a multi-pronged approach to promote smarter growth in Maryland.

Among the many highlights achieved during his tenure, O'Malley has signed into law provisions that require a jurisdiction's zoning to be consistent with its comprehensive plan; championed two light rail Metro projects; helped establish a public-private partnership to redevelop a 50-year-old complex of state offices; and created Maryland's first ever state-wide development plan, PlanMaryland, to help strengthen older communities, build sustainable new places inside growth areas, and preserve resource land.

Maryland Department of Planning

Maryland Smart Growth Indicators

AICP Student Project Awards

The 2012 Student Project Awards Jury: Mark E. Stivers, AICP; Jennifer Zadwick Carver, AICP; Jordan S. Yin, AICP

Applied Research

Urban Strategies in Historic Beijing

Submitted by: California State Polytechnic University Pomona (in collaboration with North China University of Technology)

Project Team Members: Alma Acosta, Gamaliel Aguilar, Joseph Baclit, Katrina Banzon, Roland Escalona, Albert Escobar, Matthew Geldin, Pavel Kouznetsov, Michael Lam, Sem Luong, Brenda Lyons, Gerardo Marquez, Erika Mendez, Chelsea Morris Woodard, Matthew Ottoson, Allyn Polancic, Ryan Raskop, Shahrzad Razi, Daniel Schnizler, Kenji Tan, Andreas Utama, Bryan Walker

Faculty, California State Polytechnic University Pomona: Irma Ramirez, Gwen Urey, Andy Wilcox

Advisors, North China University of Technology: Chen Sui, Fu Fan, Jia Dong, Zhang Bo, Zhang Juan, Li Zhengxi, Qu Tiejun, Xiong Jiaquan

Cal Poly Pomona partnered with North China University of Technology to serve as a professional liaison between the Fayuan Temple Hutong community and government entities. Cal Poly Pomona students traveled to Beijing to conduct research of the Fayuan temple neighborhood focusing on the community's history, cultural, and ethnic histories; the mapping of historically significant buildings; infrastructure documentation; and the recording of cultural inventories to formulate an image of the neighborhood's resources. The goal is to influence government to cease demolition plans and redirect towards sustainable strategies. The result is a comprehensive document used by the community, Chinese planning academics and professionals to educate and dialogue with local governments.

Read the full narrative (pdf)

Read the final report (64MB) (pdf)

Application of the Planning Process

Portland Mercado:
Community Economic Development to Revitalize, Uplift, and Empower

Submitted by: Portland State University: College of Urban and Public Affairs – Graduate Program: Masters of Urban and Regional Planning (MURP)

Project Team Members: Ellen Wyoming, Abigail Cermak, Bridger Wineman, David Ruelas

Faculty Coordinator: Ellen M. Bassett

The student team Adelante Planning partnered with Hacienda CDC to plan for the creation of a community-oriented indoor Latino market (Mercado) as an economic development tool and business incubator for the Latino community in the Portland region. Over the course of 20 weeks, Adelante Planning played a pivotal role in community organization and mobilization around the concept of a new Mercado, laying the groundwork for continued progress on its development.

Read the full narrative (pdf)

Read the final report (pdf)

Contribution of Planning to Contemporary Issues

Action Plan for the Fort McPherson Community

Submitted by: Georgia Institute of Technology, School of City and Regional Planning. Master's Level.

Project Team Members: Rati Akash, Jenna Lee, Zachary Adriaenssens, Kia Ball, Drew Murray, Leslie Caceda, Susan Prater, Carlos Campo, Chris Faulkner, Neela Ram, Ruma Ram, Carolyn Knabel, Andrea Rattray, Stephanie Wansley

Faculty Coordinator: Michael Dobbins, AICP

Fort McPherson is a 488-acre army base in the City of Atlanta designated for closure under the BRAC process. Leaders from mostly minority and low-wealth communities surrounding Fort McPherson asked Georgia Stand-UP, a "think and act tank for working families," to assist them in engaging the BRAC process. Georgia Tech's planning program provided technical assistance in formulating a community-based plan. The ensuing partnership organized community guidance into a single document. Key points in the plan, which is both comprehensive and action-oriented, stress job creation, a clear interim planning and operational strategy, and active reintegration of the base with the community, in part through engaging existing rail transit stations as Transit Oriented Developments.

Read the full narrative (pdf)

Read the final report (pdf)


The 2012 National Planning Awards jury was co-chaired by Marie L. York, FAICP and Ann C. Bagley, FAICP.

Read the biographies of the 2012 Awards Jury