Master Planning: A Creative Journey for Innovation and Connectivity
Master Plans Increase Project Viability and Long-Term Success
When looking at a piece of land, a building, or a community, a master plan defines and unifies the project vision. It considers both the short- and long-term goals and objectives of the owner and other stakeholders, determines who will benefit or be impacted, and establishes a plan to achieve the best possible outcome.
At Curtis Miner Architecture (CMA), we have provided master planning services since our founding in 1998. While some firms focus solely on master planning then hand it off to others for the building design, our approach is different. We enjoy engaging with a client to develop a clear vision of what their project should be. “We understand the master planning process itself, but we also understand the buildings that have to be incorporated into the master plan eventually,” remarks our principal and founder Curtis Miner.
The process of master planning begins with asking questions and listening. “Through our processes we learn about a client’s needs and goals for the project,” describes principal Jay Taggart. Our team helps define the client’s growth projections, land use, parking needs, landscape percentages, and that enables our team to determine how and where the client builds on a property.
As the vision takes shape, we rely on careful research to guide each plan. We look closely at zoning or regulatory requirements, infrastructure, demographic studies, market analyses, planning initiatives, physical characteristics, and social and economic conditions. By peeling back these layers, we can help a client know whether there is enough land to meet their current and future needs as well as anticipate budgets and costs that will help determine whether the project is viable. “It’s really about maximizing the potential of the property,” says Curtis. “For a private developer, it’s about the viability of the project and profitability. A public entity is looking to provide the facilities and resources necessary to both engage residents and retain and attract private sector investment.”
The objective of gathering ideas and developing concepts is to organize the project into a cohesive whole: pathways, massing, view corridors, flows, adjacencies, and connections overlay and complement one another. Imagine driving into a townhome community and seeing residents around a pool that distinctly connects to units surrounding the recreational center. Bike storage areas, covered parking, and a pet potty area are accessible and safe. “A well-designed project maximizes the potential of the property, and a smart planner takes advantage of the unique characteristics of the site by design. Based on master planning, we can expect that this type of well-designed community will demand a higher rental rate,” Curtis reveals.
Once we’ve helped a client discover what is essential for their project, we craft an actionable plan. When committing a large swath of property to intended use, many stakeholders will have opinions and interests. Establishing support to create and implement a master plan effectively begins with meaningful involvement, outreach, and engagement. Some of the tools we use to help share the vision of a master plan are animation, VR, and renderings.
While working with Lehi City on the guiding document for its city campus, we recognized the necessity of using this technology and these tools to communicate our design ideas with City leaders and the public. “When we used 3D to show stakeholders what it would look like to stand in historic downtown and see the amphitheater and the City offices behind them, they could understand it and buy into it,” shares Jay.
Our clients also can benefit from the years Curtis served as a city planning commissioner. “Representing the interests of the city helped me gain perspective as an architect. By understanding the process and a city’s way of thinking, I can view a project through the lens of a municipality and help identify elements that will likely prove challenging and costly and that we may need to reimagine.”
For clients, enlisting the help of experienced master planning and design professionals like Jay and Curtis is a worthy investment. The success rate of master-planned projects is much higher than those that are unplanned. In the long run, a good master plan helps cut down on project costs and complexity by estimating and anticipating the timeline and cost of the project. In addition, taking input from stakeholders helps to reduce potential conflicts of interest and protects the owner’s vision. It’s a creative journey that empowers decision-making and creates a multitude of opportunities for innovation and connectivity.