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School of Urban & Regional Planning

Florida Atlantic University

SURP News

SURP partners with the village of Wellington on an innovative three-year research project

By MITRA MALEK
Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Posted: 5:36 p.m. Thursday, July 14, 2011

WELLINGTON — A fresh perspective, one honed in knowing how a town can best thrive, will come to Wellington this year.

Graduate students and staff at Florida Atlantic University's School of Urban and Regional Planning are teaming up with village staff to help plan Wellington's next half-century. Neighborhood revitalization, job creation, commercial redevelopment and equestrian community enhancement are part of the mix.

"Planning is the key," Mayor Darell Bowen said. "If we do it right, we'll get to where we want to. If we don't, we'll end up on dead-end roads."

The village council on Tuesday approved the three-year partnership, 2-1, with Vice Mayor Matt Willhite dissenting.

Mayor Pro Tem Carmine Priore and Councilwoman Anne Gerwig were absent. Priore on Wednesday said he supported the partnership. Gerwig couldn't be reached for comment.

The partnership comes with a $252,083 price tag, split among three years: $70,597 in 2012, $88,978 in 2013 and $92,508 in 2014. Wellington or the university can opt out of the project at any time.

"Like any program, if we don't see results it goes away quickly," said Wellington's manager Paul Schofield.

But that wasn't enough to convince Willhite to approve the partnership. He said that the money might be better spent on more immediate concerns.

Mayor Darell Bowen said the price tag is more of an investment than expense: "We'll get the dollars back in multiples over the years."

The agreement is part of developing "Wellington 2060," a plan the village is crafting to become a "sustainable" community with strong residential and economic components by the year 2060.

The FAU partnership calls for the village and university to work on five projects including an assessment of local economic opportunities, commercial retail re-use strategies, plans for the village's Medical Arts District and research for the village's Equestrian Master Plan. Each project will be compiled into a research report and be presented to the village council.

Wellington also will get a designated faculty liaison and designated graduate research assistants to work with, along with a summer graduate intern. The village council will have workshops with the team each of the three years.

A final feature is a "living lab," a website that will house the work as it evolves, which is expected to be online by September.


FAU's Living Lab to help village plan for next 50 years

July 20, 2011|Nadia Sorocka nsorocka@tribune.com
Sun-Sentinel

The School of Urban and Regional Planning at Florida Atlantic University's facility, staff and students will soon have a role in planning Wellington's future when the Living Lab is established. The two-year partnership with the university was agreed upon by the Wellington Village Council and will help Wellington with the 2060 initiative, which outlines the community's goals for the next 50 years.

"It's a program that will utilize resources from the university to provide a practical perspective to our economic development initiatives," said long range planning director Tim Stilings. "It's a collaborative effort between us and the university. They are providing us with resources that we don't have in-house."

He said the goals include neighborhood revitalization, job creation, commercial redevelopment and equestrian community enhancement.

"We want to use the knowledge and expertise we have in local communities to help them achieve their goals," said program director Dr. Jaap Vos.

Rather than hiring a consulting firm the university along with village staff use the real challenges and goals that the community offers to conduct research, which along with recommendations will later be presented to the council.

"The dollar value is substantially less than it would cost us to contract for the same service. We're not just getting the undergraduate and graduate students, we're getting the faculty and technology people," Village Manager Paul Schofield said.

In the three-year contract that was presented, Wellington would pay $252,083 to finance the project and would include the faculty, students, website and travel costs. Grants will aid in funding the project from FAU's end.

Schofield said that Wellington would get more bang for its buck partnering with the university than hiring consultants. With the Living Lab students and faculty would be working side by side with village staff, which is different from a typical consultant who works independently. The partnership would also give a fresh perspective to the 2060 initiative.

This would be the first community to form such a partnership, Vos said. The program was drawn to Wellington because of the 2060 initiative. Interest also came from the village's innovative use of technology.

According to Vos, the graduate, master and bachelor level students would benefit from the real world experience, while Wellington's planning staff would receive up-to-date training and access to staff and students' knowledge.

Vice Mayor Matt Willhite said that Wellington had already spent money on similar programs.

"I have a lot of concern with the fact that a few years ago, council and staff worked on a 2020 plan," he said. "Where is that?"

Mayor Darell Bowen said he supported the program and thought it offered an opportunity to make Wellington better in the future.

"I think that planning is the key," he said. "If we do it right, I think we'll get to where we want to go."

Councilman Howard Coates asked if the contract could be terminated at anytime. Schofield said both parties could terminate the contract with 60 days notice.

A one-year contract was brought up by Coates but Vos said it would not benefit the university or Wellington as it would be too close to a regular consultant contract.

Coates proposed a two-year contract with an option for a one-year extension, which was an acceptable option for Vos and the council.

The two-year contract was approved with a 2-to-1 vote with Willhite opposed. Councilwoman Anne Gerwig and Councilman Dr. Carmine Priore were out on vacation.


Wellington Inks Planning Partnership With FAU

Lauren Miró • July 15, 2011
Town-Crier Online

Florida Atlantic University students will soon have the opportunity to help shape Wellington's future after the Wellington Village Council agreed Tuesday to a two-year partnership with the university's School of Urban & Regional Planning.

The interlocal agreement will establish a "living lab" for students both in Wellington and online, allowing them to tackle Wellington's 2060 goals, including neighborhood revitalization, job creation, commercial redevelopment and equestrian community enhancement, Long Range Planning Director Tim Stillings said.

"It's a program that will utilize resources from the university to provide a practical perspective to our economic development initiatives," he said. "It's a collaborative effort between us and the university. They are providing us with resources that we don't have in-house."

It will be similar to hiring a consultant: graduate students, a handful of handpicked bachelor's degree students and faculty members at FAU will use Wellington's real-life goals, challenges and unique community to conduct research, which will be presented to the council.

In addition to the research projects, Wellington would receive enhanced communication and planning tools, a dedicated web site for the project, dedicated graduate research assistants during the school year and one graduate intern for three summers.

In the three-year contract that was presented, Wellington would pay $252,083, which would finance the faculty, student, web and travel costs. Additional money on the university's side would be provided by a grant.

Village Manager Paul Schofield said that Wellington would get more bang for its buck partnering with the university rather than hiring consultants.

"The dollar value is substantially less than it would cost us to contract for the same service," he said. "We're not just getting the undergraduate and graduate students, we're getting the faculty and technology people."

Unlike a consultant, who typically works independently, students and faculty will work alongside Wellington staff.

Stillings said that the program addresses several of Wellington's needs.

"It provides a university-level education presence in Wellington, which we hope to cultivate," he said. "It also provides a practical focus on our economic development, and provides new ideas and a connection to Wellington's community through innovative approaches and open communication."
Program Director Dr. Jaap Vos explained that living labs are an attempt by the university to become more involved in local communities.

"We want to use the knowledge and expertise we have in local communities to help them achieve their goals," he said.

Wellington would be the first community to form such a partnership, he said.

Vos said that FAU was drawn to Wellington because of the 2060 initiative, which outlines the community's goals for the next 50 years.

"We think Wellington has some really unique planning opportunities that other communities do not have," he said, adding that he thought that Wellington is innovative in both its planning and use of technology.

Students would benefit in getting real-life experience, while Wellington's planning staff would receive up-to-date training and access to staff and students' knowledge.

Vos said that the university is looking to tackle a long-term project.

"We think that if we really want to make an impact and build on something," he said, "we need to do this for several years and develop a partnership."

A similar project by students working with the Broward Metropolitan Planning Organization was successful, Vos said. And a project done by students for the City of Fort Lauderdale identified a surprising number of tax-exempt properties, a business district and an industrial district that the city didn't realize it had.

"These projects give an indication of the kinds of things we want to do as a university," he said.
Schofield noted that the partnership would provide Wellington with a fresh perspective on its 2060 initiative.

"Part of what we would like to have happen with this," he said, "is to have a critical look taken at our planning processes and our thought processes."

Additionally, it provides a research capability that Wellington doesn't have, which could save money in the long run, Schofield said.

Vice Mayor Matt Willhite expressed concerns about the partnership, notably with the cost. "I understand the need to invest in the future," he said. "But what I can control is what's happening right now."
He pointed to many residents who were concerned about the price tag of closing Goldenrod Road.
"This is a higher cost," he said. "And the residents living here now may not be affected by it because they won't be living here then."

Willhite also said that Wellington has already spent money on similar programs.

"I have a lot of concern with the fact that a few years ago, council and staff worked on a 2020 plan," he said. "Where is that?"

Willhite said he would not support the partnership.

Wellington Mayor Darell Bowen said he supported the program and thought it offered an opportunity to make Wellington better in the future.

"I think that planning is the key," he said. "If we do it right, I think we'll get to where we want to go. Otherwise we'll keep hitting dead-end roads."

Bowen said it would have been nice to have the foresight not to approve so much retail space, much of which remains vacant.

"We would have known then that we should have been trying to create jobs," he said. "I think that by partnering with FAU, we will only make [the 2060 plan] better. I believe we will make back multiples of what we will spend. Without a plan you don't get that return."

Councilman Howard Coates asked if the contract could be terminated, and Schofield said either party could cancel the contract with 60 days' notice. Coates asked Vos if the university would accept a one-year contract, but Vos said it was unlikely.

Coates suggested instead a two-year contract with an optional one-year extension, which Vos said would be suitable.

The measure passed 2-1, with Willhite opposed and Mayor Pro Tem Dr. Carmine Priore and Councilwoman Anne Gerwig absent.