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'Planning Matters' institute set for March 7-8

Melissa Mitchell, News Bureau arts writer
(217) 333-5491;


CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — "Thinking Outside the Box" is the title of the keynote talk at a two-day planning and zoning institute at the University of Illinois, but the featured speaker won’t be the only one promoting innovative approaches to planning, according to organizers.

Topics to be explored at the institute, set to take place March 7-8 at the Illini Union, 1401 W. Green St., Urbana, range from planned intergenerational communities and small-town planning to the use of alternative building materials and "green" construction and renovation practices. An annual event, this year’s institute is organized around the theme "Planning Matters."

"We are attempting to demonstrate that planning matters in the full range of quality-of-life issues for communities," said Christopher Silver, head of the UI's department of urban and regional planning, which sponsors the event, organized by the department's Professional Development Program. Silver said quality-of-life issues that will be addressed include "affordable housing, bringing art back into community life, utilizing green construction to conserve resources, sustaining the economic and environmental integrity of older urban centers, and of course, managing the growth of communities through participatory planning processes."

"Participants in the institute will come away with a very different notion of what it means to plan for their communities," Silver said, noting that sessions are aimed at a wide audience that includes professional planners, citizen planners, architects, developers, landscape architects, educators and real estate agents.

The institute's keynote speaker, architect Charles McAfee, will begin his talk at 4:30 p.m. March 7 in the Plym Auditorium, Temple Hoyne Buell Hall, 1400 W. Peabody Drive, Champaign. McAfee, a fellow in the American Institute of Architects and National Organization of Minority Architects, practices in Atlanta, Dallas and Wichita, Kan. According to institute organizer Pattsi Petrie, McAfee is regarded as a pioneer in outstanding design for affordable housing and is known for promoting the use of manufactured parts in modules that can be adjusted to meet clients’ individual needs. His talk at the UI is supported by the School of Architecture’s Max Abramovitz Endowed Lectureship fund.

Other speakers will include UI faculty members in the departments of urban and regional planning; landscape architecture; natural resources and environmental sciences; schools of Architecture and of Art and Design; and Institute of Government and Public Affairs. Also participating in the program will be faculty members from other universities, as well as architects, planners and contractors.

Co-sponsors of the event include the UI College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences, UI Extension, UI at Chicago and American Planning Association chapters in Illinois and surrounding states.

A brochure containing a complete list of events, along with registration information and a fee schedule, is available on the Web at, or by contacting Petrie at (217) 333-3890, or