Many cities across the nation are fortunate to be experiencing an influx of population with growing businesses and economic development. The Midwest is no exception. However, there are often growing pains associated with rapid expansion – especially when time and space are tight. Having a masterplan to help direct and provide a guideline for future development can not only help alleviate headaches for the current administration and community, but also those of future generations.
Although this article primarily focuses on citywide masterplanning, it should be noted that masterplanning can apply to a variety of other areas including (but not limited to) specific community facilities, an individual business, or road / traffic layout and circulation.
When business and real estate are booming and projects seem to be popping up left and right, things can get a little chaotic. It may be flattering to have interested parties pouring into the community and spend money on new developments, but sometimes we need to take a step back and look at the big picture to ensure a cohesive and synergistic community. Developing on a project-by-project basis is often looking through too narrow of a lens. Communities can become compartmentalized or overrun with too much of a single market segment. The most vibrant communities boast a healthy balance of various uses and industries. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Setting up guidelines for what project or industry is to move into an area, where it will be located, and when that development will take place can help make for a smooth ride into the future.
Masterplanning not only guides how an area is laid out and flows, but it also helps prioritize future projects chronologically. For example, downtown streetscapes and improvements are vital in creating a thriving urban environment, but knowing when and where to implement these improvements will allow for strategic and efficient use of funds. The City of Sioux Falls has developed a few masterplans including a 2025 Downtown Masterplan and 2040 City-Wide Masterplan that are being used to help guide future development. Both documents, as well as a few others, can be found on the City’s website here.
One thing to keep in mind is that masterplans are not necessarily meant to be “set in stone”. Rather, they provide a framework for future growth and a vision for interested parties to get behind. Proactively developing a masterplan demonstrates investment into that vision and sets the stage for the future. It shows you are here to play ball. This is done through a process of studying market growth, traffic patterns, contextual analysis, local economies, etc. Many times the local community and organizations are engaged as they are ultimately the most affected parties. Having public backing on a city-wide masterplan is paramount to its success because, ultimately, it is the citizens who will interact with, experience, spend money, and invest in the area. Through this journey, many questions are answered and many more are raised. The important thing is that the organization behind the masterplan becomes aware of those questions and can create a strategy to resolve them.
As mentioned above, a master plan is not meant to be set in stone. Once an initial master plan is developed, revisiting it after a period of time is something to consider. By doing so, the City has the opportunity to confirm the masterplan still aligns with the their long term vision, and provides the flexibility to adapt to unforeseen challenges and opportunities.
What are some examples of successful masterplans that you have seen, and what are some examples that “missed the mark”?
Josh Muckenhirn, AIA is a licensed Architect at ISG in Sioux Falls, SD. He received his M. Arch from NDSU in 2014, ventured further north for 2 years, and has called Sioux Falls home since the summer of 2016. His claim to fame is (at one point) being able to solve a Rubik’s cube in 32 seconds.