Ken Ryan – TOD Design Requires Consensus Building

September 11, 2014

IRVINE, CA—High design and consensus building in transit-oriented projects is a necessary combination, Ken Ryan, principal and head of KTGY’s community planning and urban design studio, tells exclusively. Ryan believes it’s critical to take a thoughtful, strategic approach to the community-outreach process.

“Transit-oriented development projects, particularly in more suburban settings, demand that the operative values of trust, openness, certainty and consensus building be integrated into the design and entitlement process,” says Ryan. “The approach should be concurrent and less linear. This doesn’t mean compromising design integrity. High design and consensus building are not mutually exclusive—a strong urban-design framework can serve as a platform for addressing the issues of livability, affordability, sustainability and mobility in a deeper more integrated way.”

Ryan adds that this type of design is about “more than reducing vehicle miles traveled; it’s about applying the fundamentals of great neighborhoods to an urban setting and allowing for compelling memorable places to emerge. Various tactical tools should be considered, but fundamentally key elements must be addressed in working with the community on TOD projects.”

Ryan believes the by following his top-10 list to achieve objectives, “you’ll have a smoother process and create added value to your project. He lists these top-10 fundamentally key elements as:

  1. Create the vision. Respond to the human senses, establish an appropriate image and identity and create meaningful physical and emotional connections.
  2. Understand the issues. Every community has its own set of unique characteristics; provide links to those elements and incorporate functionality.
  3. Baby steps. Let the process evolve, and identify a phasing plan that allows the project and process to gain momentum and emerge.
  4. Incorporate authenticity. Craft design concepts that respond to an area’s physical, social and built environment.
  5. Educate decision-makers. Meet one on one, show solutions and overcome stereotypes. Put the odds in their favor and work with staff.
  6. Find the public benefit. Identify what it is, provide ways to achieve it and celebrate the public realm.
  7. Understand the back story. Do your homework. Understand the market forces that actively influence the project. Identify costs and revenue streams.
  8. Establish trust. Share information, listen carefully and work toward win-win goals.
  9. Pay attention to stakeholders. This must occur upfront; meet and discuss in small groups.
  10. Utilize the media. Take the high road, keep the message simple and focus on helping the community rather than the project.

While TODs are gaining considerable attention, don’t count out the appeal of suburbia just yet. As reported in July, reports of suburbia’s demise as a draw for Millennials are extremely premature—if applicable at all. According to a recent online poll asking why Millennials are rediscovering the virtues of life outside big urban centers as they enter a different life stage, 47% of respondents said the suburbs still corner the market on better services such as schools and property, and 42% said the cost of city living has made it harder to establish a family and career.