How To Kick Off a Project

by M. Andre Primus

One of our latest projects at Highland Planning is the comprehensive plan update for the City of Rochester, also known as “Roc 4.0.” The city is split into five planning areas: northeast, the southeast, northwest, southwest, and center city. Each planning area has a designated Planning Area Committee (PAC), made up of residents and business owners in the area, to provide guidance to the project. Highland Planning is leading the engagement efforts in the northwest and southeast areas. We have met with the Planning Area Committees (PAC) for both areas, and received a lot of great information about what it is that people love about their neighborhoods, and what they want to improve.

I thought I’d tell you a little bit about how our southeast meeting went!

Our first meeting was held at the Southeast Neighborhood Service Center, which is at the Village Gate. Nancy Johns-Price, our wonderful and talented City of Rochester Southeast Administrator, organized a team building exercise for the PAC in the form of a scavenger hunt. The PAC was split into teams of two and given a list of clues. The clues brought the SEPAC all around the Village Gate.

Some of the questions led us to view public art (i.e. take a picture with your favorite piece of art!), and some encouraged us to participate in it (i.e. take a picture with your entry on the “before I die” board!). Several questions sent us to the Village Gate’s businesses (i.e. find the business selling a tiger backpack!). After the teams returned, prizes were awarded for the teams who completed the challenge the fastest. The winning team got canvas bags from the Renaissance Plan, the City’s 1999 comprehensive plan.

After the scavenger hunt, we began what could be called the “real meeting.” Though at Highland Planning, we don’t see it that way. The scavenger hunt was a delightful and valuable part of what made the subsequent discussion so civil and productive. The PAC became a team, and that showed.

Our team provided an overview of the project and the group discussed the southeast planning area’s assets and reviewed data relating to the area. There was a lot of great feedback and as a group we created an asset map of the area.

Next month, we will have our next meeting, and I’m excited.  Our last meeting was a great example of how valuing individuals, forming relationships, and being creative leads to a civil and productive process, and it felt great to be a part of.

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