When HUD announced its new Sustainable Communities Regional Planning Grant Program in 2010, the Evansville, Indiana region was one of the first 45 areas to receive funding. HUD awarded the Evansville MPO and the Sustainable Evansville Area Coalition (SEAC), a consortium of 21 local organizations and agencies, $1.4 million to develop a Regional Plan for Sustainable Development (RPSD). The work covered the greater metropolitan area, which spans three counties in two states and has 285,000 residents.
The RPSD’s goal is to integrate land use, housing, and transportation planning. This includes establishing goals; developing performance measures; and devising strategies to implement projects, programs, and policies that advance livability principles. The plan includes recommendations at both regional and neighborhood levels with a focus on developing neighborhood niches. It will give special attention to three areas: the Evansville Arts District, located near downtown; the Boonville, Indiana downtown; and the Henderson, Kentucky East End neighborhoods. These three areas will be “case studies” to test best sustainable practices.
Lochmueller Group (Lochgroup) developed a project-specific GIS map that incorporates information on transportation facilities and services including sidewalks and bicycle paths, water/wastewater, utilities and other infrastructure; land parcels with zoning, sales, and assessed values; environmental hazards and resources; demographics; businesses; and governmental boundaries and designations.
This information was also used to expand the Evansville Metropolitan Planning Organization’s (EMPO) travel model to a hybrid/tour-based model and to develop a land use model that will work in tandem with the travel demand model to assess the impact of changes in land use and the built environment on travel behavior. These include impacts from increasing street connectivity, adding of sidewalks, altering the density of neighborhoods, and allowing mixed-use developments.
Lochgroup helped launch a public awareness campaign to educate, energize, and engage the public in the planning process. A Sustainability Summit featured nationally-known speakers who challenged more than 150 attendees to incorporate sustainable activities at a neighborhood, community, and regional level. Our team developed an RSPD website and social media campaign. We also distributed information and gathered surveys at the at the city’s Fall Festival, which draws more than 150,000 visitors.
Next, Lochgroup facilitated 12 public visioning workshops involving more than 300 participants. One workshop was held in Spanish. The success of this initial effort was recognized by the Indiana MPO Council for Outstanding Public Involvement at its 2011 conference.
Using the goals and objectives established in the initial meetings, Lochgroup used the transportation and land use models it developed, along with other analytical tools, to evaluate the relative success of different scenarios in accomplishing the plan’s goals and objectives.
The final phase of this effort featured another series of meetings, workshops, and public outreach documenting the results of the various scenarios and action items based upon the performance measures specified in Phase 1. Input from these meetings formed the final recommendations for the RPSD as well as a timeline to complete goals and projects.
The adopted plan includes 4 volumes: Volume I: The EMPO Regional Area Today, Volume II: The Millennial Plan for 2040, Volume III: 2040 Metropolitan Transportation Plan (prepared by EMPO), and Volume IV: Fair Housing and Focus Area Plans.