Public Engagement Post COVIC-19, a Virtual Charrette

DPZ was looking forward to traveling to Tasmania and had begun to plan for a September 2020  public charrette.  However, the COVID-19 pandemic unfortunately upended those plans and have caused us to transition to virtual charrettes for our projects and integrate them into a user-friendly online engagement platform.  While we recognize that many people will be comfortable coming out in public, many may not be, such as seniors or those with immune-compromised conditions.  Therefore, in these times of required physical distancing, DPZ’s virtual charrettes have become an essential tool for facilitating project participation by many decision-makers and community stakeholders.  

We are currently developing the Skylands digital platform as part of our public engagement plan, in order to solicit public input during the master planning process and define the engagement strategies early on in the process.   Over the next few months, we will use this platform to share information and provide ways you can participate. The goal is to provide all stakeholders with an easy to use website where they can share information and provide feedback for the DPZ team to use in our work before, during and after the virtual charrette.   This website along with the DPZ Team will be your vehicle, providing constant feedback during the course of this planning effort.

image of the charrette team and drawings
Designer Meeting

While we do not underestimate the value of personal connections, and personal conversations from more traditional in person meetings, we know that for now that cannot be replicated.  So instead, we are proposing a creative yet effective public engagement tool to increase and broaden community participation in crafting this master plan.  This method has already been used successfully in the Philippines, in Ohio and in Florida bu DPZ; and in Mornington, Victoria by Macroplan who are part of the project team.

DPZ’s work is divided into three phases and our public engagement plan has been tailored accordingly. 

Pre-Charrette Phase: June – October 2020

Before putting pencil to paper, the DPZ team will be conducting technical analyses and assessing site conditions, identifying opportunities and constraints, understanding market development potential (in collaboration with Macroplan), and evaluating zoning options.  

In terms of public engagement, this is the EXPLANATION phase.  Our goal is to set the tone for engagement and convey scope and information accurately. This includes:

  • Defining the community participation scope in collaboration with the Clarence City;
  • Identifying all stakeholders, as different groups have different goals;
  • Providing resources such as articles of best practices for development, to help set the tone for the project;
  • Clarifying community, city and client goals; 
  • Educating stakeholders on project challenges and opportunities; and
  • Developing a multi-media engagement approach that includes digital and traditional outreach methods.   

Charrette Phase: October – November 2020

This is the phase in which multiple master plans are drawn and collectively assessed with the hope that by the end of the charrette, a preferred plan emerges.  The Skylands virtual charrette is currently scheduled for October 27 – November 5, 2020 and will involve a combination of design sessions, focused topic meetings and many presentations.  The DPZ team will be working remotely and live, and we will provide community stakeholders with a variety of ways to engage directly with us during the charrette, despite the time difference.  Municipal officials and city staff, community groups, business owners, and area residents are all invited to attend and participate in this charrette.  The goal is to reach as many stakeholders as possible with a multi-pronged approach with easy and convenient access to the digital platform on a computer or mobile phone.  As a result, the Charrette is conceived as one very long Zoom meeting! 

Early Design

How the virtual charrette is organized is further described below.  We have posted the initial charrette schedule and will provide more details on the specific engagement opportunities as we get closer to the event. The charrette schedule with all of the daily meetings and presentations will be the primary resource for public participation.

In terms of public engagement, this is the ENGAGEMENT phase. Our goal is to collect opinions on the multiple master plan options and build that feedback into revisions.   This includes:

  • Designing plan in public to build trust;
  • Clearly conveying the big ideas;
  • Capturing community ideas by building them up not tearing them down;
  • Providing multiple tools to evaluate proposals and help clarify issues and trade-offs of each plan; and
  • Ensuring master plans provide realistic, implementable solutions stakeholders can support.
Public design sessions with concurrent meetings

read more about the Skylands Charrette

Post-Charrette Phase: November 2020 – early 2021

This is the phase in which the preferred master plan is finalized based on collective feedback received during the virtual charrette.  The DPZ team will produce a report that describes the master plan in detail.  

In terms of public engagement, this is the EVALUATION phase.  Our goal is to evaluate public preferences that can heLp inform the final master plan.  This includes:

  • Summarizing and evaluating public input on the master plan options; 
  • Reporting on what we learnt and next steps forward; and
  • Making public presentations of the proposed final master plan.