While I feel a great affinity for Don Draper's quote shown here, the reality of professional life is that we all must find ways to sell ourselves. Like many people that venture into creative fields, that's always been a little uncomfortable for me. I'd rather get right to work solving problems and helping people than attempting to brag on myself. So bear with me as I explain how I typically add value to communities, developers and people that hire me.
What I've learned through 25 years of practice in urban design, planning and architecture is that we still have an awful lot to learn about the making of successful cities and towns. Our professions have come a long ways in that time, but we still have very far to go. We are largely still working with ideas and systems that were put in place in the post-WWII era, despite some obvious flaws and failures including an over-reliance on BIG development solutions. Even today, many of my colleagues seem unwilling to challenge some basic assumptions of governance and cities that grew out of that unique moment in time.
I find that I enjoy challenging those established viewpoints of almost everyone, and that my clients don't often get that from their consultants. Many people prefer to have simple answers to complex issues, even if those answers have poor track records. Solutions and moving forward quickly are important - I strongly believe that - but we must also dig deep. Planning is about the future and long-term decisions. We owe it to each other to do our homework and check our own biases.
My career has spanned a great many different places, client types and niches, which has enabled me to see problems from a wide variety of angles. My experience working with developers for many years has been helpful to public-sector clients, and likewise my experience working with and in the public sector has helped my private-sector clients. I've spent most of my career working in "flyover" country, which is a term I've come to embrace. It's been an ongoing education for me to realize that most of my colleagues simply don't understand the people, life and cities beyond the ten or so superstar metro areas. That's ok - I like and respect them in spite of their flaws, and I do my best to educate them on their misunderstandings. In fact, if you really want to get me started, let's talk about how to define the "Midwest."
This is also to say - I think it's very important to have a sense of humor.
In the end, I care most about designing and developing beautiful, sustainable projects, both economically and environmentally. Because our systems so often work against that notion, I've found myself to be a relentless advocate for changing the systems that get in the way, and educating the next generation of people that will hopefully make us all look like amateurs.
If you're interested in talking with me about consulting work, please contact me from this site. You can view some snapshots from my portfolio below. I've generally focused on helping clients with two key areas: creating bold, visionary long-term plans and the tools to begin implementing them immediately. It's been my belief throughout my career that people need both inspiration and an idea of what they can do tomorrow, next week or next month. I look forward to hearing from communities that are struggling with challenging problems, and what to do next.
My primary speaking topic is A New Paradigm for Economic Development, building upon my years of work for developers, cities and leading an economic development agency. The talk brings together a variety of topics that are relevant for chambers of commerce, economic developers, municipal leadership and passionate citizens. It examines the changes taking place in cities, how to be most effective fiscally and strategically, and challenges audiences on how to measure success. If you'd like to schedule this talk, please contact me directly from this site. I also speak regularly on three other topic areas, tying into my years of work in the planning and development field:
1. The culture change affecting cities. What is happening, why it’s happening, and what it means for your city, town or neighborhood.
2. How our big systems are failing our cities, and how they need to evolve.
3. Five mindsets for civic leaders for the 21st century
For twenty-five years I've worked as an urban designer, planner and architect.. Ten of those years I was a partner and co-founder of 180 Urban Design & Architecture in Kansas City, which worked on projects in 27 states for all manner of public and private clients. In 2010, I created a new company called K2 Urban Design, based in Savannah, GA and worked in that arena for four years, before taking a position leading the Savannah Development and Renewal Authority. I returned to private practice in 2018, with a goal to help public and private agencies make the transition to the next generation of planning and development. From the beginning, I have focused my energies on those who aim for successful walkable and sociable places. If you'd like more information on me and my experience, keep scrolling down the page.