Giving Compass' Take:

• CoUrbanize is a web platform that allows the public to advise and comment on new building developments, ensuring that surrounding communities can be a part of the urban planning process. 

• Will this participatory approach combat the adverse effects of gentrification? 

• Read about how students in urban planning classes can benefit from understanding how neighborhoods are built.

CoUrbanize opens up public comment to everyone, not just the few people who are able to go to planning meetings.

In Seattle’s Central District, a plan for a massive new development with hundreds of apartments and a high-end grocer fell through in 2017, in part because of criticism about gentrification and displacement of the neighborhood’s shrinking black community. But in late January, a new developer easily got city approval for another design for the site with more affordable housing, a public square, and a portion of retail space dedicated to local businesses.

A shift in the community engagement process may have helped move the project forward. The developer used an online tool to gather community feedback about the new public square, rather than only hosting in-person community meetings.

If standard meetings usually have relatively few participants–because people have to work or, for other reasons, just don’t have time to attend–moving comments online can reach a more diverse group of community members. Signs at the site also invited people passing by to comment by text message.

People can build on each other’s comments, and the developer can also respond. The web platform also makes it easier to reach residents in different languages; another recent project that used the tool in Glendale, California, for example, asked questions in Armenian, Spanish, and Korean.

Read the full article on CoUrbanize by Adele Peters at Fast Company.