APA Recognizes 2023 National Planning Award Winners

Celebrating planning efforts that move communities toward a stronger, more resilient, and more equitable future.

For more than 50 years, the National Planning Awards have elevated exemplary planning work in communities across the country.

"This year's recipients demonstrate the important role planners play in helping their communities overcome past injustices and advance toward a stronger, more resilient future," said Ben Hitchings, FAICP, 2023 APA awards jury chair. "We celebrate the outstanding work displayed by each of these award winners. Their efforts demonstrate the incredible care and dedication planners bring to create great communities for all."

Daniel Burnham Award for a Comprehensive Plan

Charlotte Future 2040 Comprehensive Plan

Charlotte, North Carolina

Charlotte Future 2040 is a comprehensive plan to harness and direct Queen City's unprecedented growth with a focus on equity.

The planning team worked to elevate community voices typically not heard in the planning process, including low-income communities, communities of color, non-English speaking residents, and youth. Over 40 methods of engagement — including the Charlotte Planning Card Game, a TikTok challenge, a virtual scavenger hunt, and more — succeeded in bringing over 6,500 community members into the effort. An accessible, digital dashboard helps keep the community engaged and up to date on implementation.

To analyze data through an equity lens, planners utilized new tools to identify disparities and better understand differences in access in under-served areas throughout the city - as well as the policy decisions that have enabled those disparities.

An innovative policy map defines place-based policies that are unique to specific geographies. "Place Types" also categorize distinct sets of places to help address overlapping needs. This information guides policy, investment, zoning, and development decisions that balance the unique needs of individual communities with the city's overall vision.

Jury said: "This effort pushes planning in a new direction. The replicable "Place Type" process can be a model for how to think about place more holistically and at a larger scale in other communities."

Advancing Diversity and Social Change in Honor of Paul Davidoff

Our Legacy, Our Community: A Renewed Vision for North Tulsa

Tulsa, Oklahoma

2021 marked the 100th anniversary of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre — one of the worst race-based massacres in American history that devastated the once thriving mixed-use and mixed-income Black communities in North Tulsa.

Our Legacy, Our Community: A Renewed Vision for North Tulsa creates a community-supported vision and framework for redevelopment. The plan strives to honor a painful history and move toward community healing by confronting historical inequities, segregation, race-based violence, as well as disinvestment that stemmed from redlining and displacement.

Deep-level community engagement was the top priority for this planning effort. The effort included over 1,000 touch points through a series of community meetings, surveys, elementary and middle-school student workshops, design charrettes, online workshops, and an 11-member Leadership Committee of North Tulsa community leaders. Residents collaborated with planners to define a vision of equity, ownership, and wealth-building for Black residents.

New development mapped out by the plan reconnects the neighborhood through diversity in housing, bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure, and a network of locally-owned businesses that will facilitate community wealth building, activate the street, provide a diverse array of services and amenities, and support the vision for a vibrant, mixed-use district.

Our Legacy, Our Community: A Renewed Vision for North Tulsa reckons with the past while addressing challenges of the present and creating a path for a more equitable future.

Jury said: "The economic analysis of lack of landownership and picking apart of some difficult social issues could be replicated as a way to honor a painful history to bring peace to some of the people that hold that legacy."

Resilience & Sustainability Award

Sea Level Rise (SLR) Constraint District

County of Kaua'i, Hawai'i

Coastal communities remain especially vulnerable to potentially devastating climate impacts. To take proactive measures to enhance community resilience and reduce risks to the built environment, the County of Kauaʻi adopted a new Sea Level Rise (SLR) Constraint District within its Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance.

The passage of the Sea Level Rise Constraint District bill is the culmination of close to five years of community engagement and stakeholder input. In addition to thorough resident input, the Constraint District is unique in its integration of GIS-based scientific modeling. Kauaʻi is the first county in Hawai'i to implement scientific modeling for climate change hazards into zoning and land use regulations.

The 3D online Sea Level Rise Viewer provides transparent information for property owners and community members to understand how properties may be impacted by future flooding. The Constraint District also establishes design standards for new development to mitigate flooding impacts with future SLR, including requirements for residential construction.

The SLR Constraint District is a model that can be used in conjunction with shoreline setback rules and other land use regulations. This proactive approach to community resilience can minimize the threat to public health and safety, promote resilient planning and design, and reduce the expenditure of public monies for costly flood control projects.

Jury said: "To implement the rigorous methodology and scientific modeling with a forward-looking view is the future of what coastal communities and those vulnerable to flooding need to be doing."

Planning Excellence Award

Cody Rouge & Warrendale YOUTH-CENTRIC Neighborhood Framework

Detroit, Michigan


Planners have long advocated working with young people as future decision-makers. The Cody Rouge & Warrendale YOUTH-CENTRIC Neighborhood Framework advances this tradition through an innovative intergenerational partnership with city officials, community leaders, and young people on Detroit's far west side.

Younger residents worked side-by-side with city officials and resident organizations to document needs and design possibilities through programs like a teenage group of "Neighborhood Framework Investigators" and a "Community Picnic Table Factory." Young people's research and facilitation supported resident leaders in negotiations with city agencies to allocate resources to bring their vision to life."

The innovative engagement process established relationships between community leaders and the younger generation. The planning process supported resident organizing and advocacy, creating a path to more robust participation in shaping the future of communities.

Detroit is now the first major U.S. city to complete a comprehensive neighborhood plan backed with investments that put youth at the center of planning and making decisions.

Jury said: "A challenge we have in this day and age is a risk of seeing hopelessness in the next generation. The level of youth empowerment in the planning portion through to implementation makes a fantastic example for planning efforts in other places."

October 25, 2023