By Nousheen Rahman
Forward Pinellas and the Pinellas County Department of Housing & Community Development have partnered to develop an Urban Design Services Pilot Program for 2022-2023. Urban design encompasses many things but is ultimately all about creating the physical spaces that we live in and includes everything from the design of buildings, pedestrian paths, and the surrounding landscape, as well as the codes and regulations that go into organizing and executing these design outcomes.
As a community that is largely redeveloping, Pinellas County is faced with the unique challenge of enhancing its existing communities, all while maintaining the character that makes a community its own in the county, which is incredibly important to its residents. This program, which is free to local governments, is the first of its kind in Pinellas County and aims to provide a range of urban design services to communities looking to realize their local goals and objectives.
A key goal of the pilot program is to help communities visualize the change that can come from planning based in effective design recommendations, as well as understand different factors which address community compatibility. These services may include improving the architectural and design qualities of new development to create an environment that is compatible with existing neighborhood and community elements, while also increasing the desirability for walking and bicycling. Furthermore, a significant component of the pilot program is to involve community members in the development process through platforms such as charettes and design studios, which essentially function as focus groups for specific projects.
Forward Pinellas and the Housing & Community Development Department will work collaboratively to select projects for this pilot program, especially where they include areas of unincorporated Pinellas County, or include facilities and services owned and operated by Pinellas County. Forward Pinellas has selected the private consulting firm S&ME to help support this pilot program. The firm has a team of designers, planners and landscape architects experienced in urban design that has provided similar services to communities around Florida.
All partners in this project are invested in bettering the quality of development throughout our county in order to create environments that are reflective of community character, and aim to enhance the accessibility, safety and livability of our communities as they redevelop.
Forward Pinellas has also issued a Call for Projects, and are soliciting letters of interest from local governments who would like to apply to utilize these program funds. Information about how to submit a letter of interest can be found here: https://forwardpinellas.org/projects/call-for-projects-urban-design-services/