DUSP graduate students honored by American Institute of Certified Planners

The American Institute of Certified Planners has awarded a team of 16 graduate students from the Department of Urban Studies and Planning (DUSP) an AICP Student Project Award. The annual awards recognize outstanding class projects or papers that advance the field of planning. Winners will be recognized at the 2018 National Planning Convention in New Orleans.

Working with a Main Streets organization in a diverse neighborhood of Dorchester, Massachusetts, that has a high concentration of recent immigrants, the students developed a comprehensive plan for the commercial district of Bowdoin Geneva. Connecting Bowdoin Geneva: A Plan for Community and Commerce was selected for an award in the category "Application of the Planning Process."

The Bowdoin Geneva Main Streets District is located in the heart of Dorchester, Boston's largest and most diverse neighborhood. The commercial district serves about 13,000 people, including residents from Cape Verde, the Dominican Republic, Vietnam, and Haiti.

The plan was produced from January to June 2017. The students were advised by DUSP faculty members Karl Seidman and Mary Anne Ocampo, and supported by doctoral candidate Laura Delgado, Annie Ryan (MCP '17), and Anh Nguyen, director of Bowdoin Geneva Main Streets, among many other community collaborators.

Connecting Bowdoin Geneva incorporates a wide range of community priorities, provides practical urban design recommendations, and lays out economic development proposals to support local businesses in the face of gentrification. The plan focuses on four clusters of businesses along the commercial corridor, using three thematic lenses to develop recommendations: business, mobility, and community gathering space.

The team from MIT was aware of the history of marginalization, disinvestment, and prescriptive "top-down" planning in the Bowdoin Geneva district. The process for developing their plan emphasized generative, inclusive, and ethical interaction with community members, including a group of local teenagers who helped draft and implement a business owner survey in the district and participated in community workshops.

Team member Danya Littlefield noted, "I hope that we've left the Bowdoin Geneva community with a tool they can use to advocate for better and smarter investment in the commercial district. We're excited to see how community stakeholders continue to push elements of the plan forward, building on already strong leadership across the neighborhood."

The following students were on the winning team: Tatianna Echevarria, Meg Hess-Homeier, Reed Jordan, DeeDee Kim, Esther Kim, Danya Littlefield, Daniel Mascoop, Soumya Pasumarthy, Matthew Robayna, Ayesha Shahid, Riddhi Shah, Evan Spetrini, Jonathan Tarleton, Tia Vice, Jessica Wolff, Zhekun Xiong.

Image credit: DUSP MIT