More than 80 stakeholders concerned with developing a strong, sustainable Piedmont Triad economy, including planners, developers, educational and nonprofit representatives, and elected officials, attended Piedmont Together’s 2nd Annual Livable Communities Summit on November 14 at Centennial Station in High Point.
Regional cooperation, flexible regulation and planning for economically integrated neighborhoods are keys to improve the Piedmont Triad economy, as discussed during the summit. An ideal development scenario will be created soon based on priorities expressed at the summit, and those being gathered via online and print surveys.
The Livable Communities Summit included:
- A progress update on the Piedmont Together regional planning project;
- An outline of the process for developing the Implementation Goals, Objectives & Strategies that are in progress;
- A synopsis of visions proposed through numerous public forums;
- Possible Piedmont development scenarios illustrated through regional mapping models;
- Getting feedback from attendees on top priorities for the vision of the Piedmont region;
- A panel discussion led by Algenon Cash on financing mixed income development; and
- Emma Littlejohn with The Littlejohn Group, LLC as keynote speaker on the challenges and benefits of developing economically integrated urban neighborhoods.
Panelists for the mixed-income finance discussion answered questions about finance sources, tax credits used, barriers to overcome, and more. The volume of questions was so great that attendees agreed a workshop on this topic should be held in the near future.
Keynote speaker Emma Littlejohn, founder of the nationally known housing consultancy The Littlejohn Group, discussed the importance of partnerships, flexible regulation, and healthy food in creating successful communities. Littlejohn included the best practice example of Brightwalk, an urban, mixed-income neighborhood that is built around sustainable living principles one mile from center city Charlotte.
The Piedmont Together project joins hundreds of residents and partners from communities throughout the region that are working together to develop solutions and create a stronger local economy. For the past three years a project integration team led by the Piedmont Authority for Regional Transportation (PART) and the Piedmont Triad Regional Council has been gathering data and community input, building a network of concerned stakeholders, envisioning scenarios for “possible Piedmonts,” and drafting recommendations that will help guide the Piedmont Triad toward a bright future.
Key focus areas of Piedmont Together’s plan-in-progress for the Piedmont Triad include housing, transportation, jobs, places and spaces, and health. All of these components and their interrelationships are examined through the lens of equitable development, with the ultimate goal of creating a comprehensive economic development plan for the Piedmont Triad region that will move all of the region’s communities and residents towards a more vibrant future. As Project Integration Team leader Mark Kirstner explained regarding the scale and depth of the project, “The Piedmont Together comprehensive economic development plan is going to be unlike any economic development plan you’ve ever seen.”
Project supporters emphasize that Piedmont Triad communities need to work together to leverage each other’s strengths and attract and retain sustainable jobs. Emcee Algenon Cash, managing director of real estate investment bank Wharton Gladden, recounted that county lines were originally created based upon how far out the Sheriff could ride his horse in one day. As he explained, those lines are not entirely relevant today. Businesses look at the region as a whole when making decisions, and the days have past when counties could plan for their own development without considering what is beyond the county line.
Attendees were given a brief overview of the new Piedmont Together website which provides information and reports on planning and development goals for the region that have been accumulated over the past three years. The public is encouraged to utilize the website to help prioritize goals for the region’s development via the Ideal Scenario survey, and to submit best practice or case study ideas.