A local property management and development firm sought approval of a multi-story, urban, infill, apartment building. Community opposition was significant and they had a head start reaching out to the body that was to vote on this project. About 40 emails and letters, including 7 representing local neighborhood associations, were sent to the Planning Commission in opposition to the project. The land was vacant, it was adjacent to a single-family neighborhood and had previously been the site of a single-family development. This was a characteristic the community felt should be restored and not changed. The land was vacated for interstate construction, but the interstate roadway was cancelled due to a 1974 Supreme Court decision, that prohibited the interstate from going through a local park. The project site had remained vacant for over 30 years.
Caissa was engaged to do public outreach and advocacy, with the intention to demonstrate a broad community support of the project.
Caissa’s engagement plan had multiple initiatives in order to create a good dialogue with the community. These included charrette style community meetings, online and physical petition drives, and an online survey. The charrette style community meetings began with a basic footprint of the project and show various concepts for height and design of the structures. As feedback was obtained from the community, Caissa worked with the developer’s design team to address the concerns we had documented. The community meetings and online survey opened the avenues for additional communication between the developer and community, which was crucial as designs were developed and the final plans evolved.
Initially, the application was denied by the local planning board. Caissa changed strategy and instituted a revised charrette meeting plan that was more like a focus group. Caissa mediated six to ten community members that met with the design team to explore options that would be able to balance the community concern and what the developers need for a successful project.
The final piece of our engagement plan was a grasstops approach. Caissa arranged and directed meetings between members of the City Council, key members of the developer’s design team and members of the community. This was crucial to correct any misinformation and sell the board that would be voting on this project. Through these meetings the Council was educated on the development plan and the level of public engagement instituted throughout the process. The meetings demonstrated the level of concessions made by both the developer and community.
Just 6 weeks after the initial denial of the proposed property development, Caissa was able to claim a win for the property management and development firm when the City Council approved the application. The new development plan for the property represented the original concept while addressing all of the major concerns from surrounding property owners and community.