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U. of I. planning institute kicks off with pedestrian safety workshop

Melissa Mitchell, Arts Editor

Released 2/13/2007

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Organizers of an annual planning institute at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign are taking it to the streets this year with a three-day, pre-institute workshop on “Developing Pedestrian Safety Action Plans and Designing Streets for Pedestrian Safety” Feb. 26-28, at the Levis Faculty Center, 919 W. Illinois St., Urbana.

“The workshop is responding to a national-level concern about pedestrian and bicyclist safety when sharing the roadway with cars,” said Pattsi Petrie, the coordinator of the institute, hosted by the U. of I.’s department of urban and regional planning.

In addition to focusing on the effectiveness of various strategies such as crosswalk illumination and “road diets” (reduced street widths), the workshop – co-sponsored by the Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District – will include opportunities for participants to visit local sites that will then be used as the basis for creating design solutions to improve safety.

The workshop kicks off a weeklong series of community-planning events coinciding with this year’s institute, which is organized around the theme “Imagining Communities: Plan, Design, Implement.”

New on the schedule is a two-day, pre-institute film festival, Feb. 27-28,
co-sponsored by the local chapter of the Sierra Club. Selections range from the short film, “The Appalachians,” which presents a critical view of mountain-top removal in West Virginia, to the feature-length “Earth to America,” which takes comic aim at global warming with a cast that includes Tom Hanks, Steve Martin and Robin Williams.

A complete list of films and screening times and locations – along with a full schedule of the weeklong series of events planned and registration information – is available online at

Also taking place in advance of the institute, from 1-5 p.m. on Feb. 28 in the atrium of Temple Buell Hall, 611 Lorado Taft Drive, Champaign, is a design charrette with U. of I. architecture professor Lynn Dearborn and her students, and institute participants Dan Pitera, the director of the Detroit Collaborative Design Center at the University of Detroit’s Mercy School of Architecture; Cheryl Morgan, the director of the Center for Architecture and Urban Studies at Auburn University’s School of Architecture; and Andrew Freear, a co-director of the Rural Studio at Auburn’s School of Architecture. Petrie said the charrette – an intensive planning session involving input from various stakeholders – will focus on Champaign’s East University Avenue area and the contiguous Boneyard Creek area.

The institute will be held March 1-2 at the Alice B. Campbell Alumni Center, 601 S. Lincoln Ave., Urbana.

“In a day and a half, community and ‘citizen planners’ will learn about urban design, land-use planning and economic development – the top three concerns mentioned by community leaders,” Petrie said. “The institute is a unique opportunity to network and exchange ideas with practicing planners, professors and students of planning.”

Following remarks by Robert Graves, the interim dean of the College of Fine and Applied Arts, and Rob Olshansky, the interim head of urban and regional planning, at 8:15 a.m. on March 1 will be a talk featured talk by Fred Schnook, project manager/planner in community economic development at consulting and engineering firm Foth & Dyke, on “Sustainability and the Eco-Municipality Movement.” Petrie said Schnook, a former mayor of Ashland, Wis., “moved an economically depressed town to one totally sustainable by capturing ideas from Norway.”

Another highlight of the institute will be the Max Abramovitz Architecture Lecture, presented by Freear at 6 p.m. on March 1 in the Plym Auditorium, Temple Buell Hall. Freear will discuss activities of the Rural Studio, which, since its inception in 1993 has designed and built 68 buildings using alternative or “green” building materials.

“Freear and his architecture students who live and work with the residents in Newbern, Ala., design and build structures based on the residents’ needs,” Petrie said. Their unorthodox building materials include baled cardboard boxes that function as exterior walls, used automobile tires converted into roofing material, and car windows transformed into windows.

“These students are learning to think outside of the box,” Petrie said.
Among the sessions offered during the institute will be one by U. of I. architecture professor Michael McCulley and his students who are participating in the Solar Design Decathlon, a national competition in which teams of architecture students are designing and building energy-efficient, 100 percent solar homes that will be displayed on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., this fall.

Also planned are two half-day workshops on land use and economic development, presented by U. of I. faculty members.

Co-sponsors of the planning institute include the university’s School of Architecture, department of landscape architecture, Center for Advanced Study, Environmental Council, Illinois Program for Research in the Humanities, and Lorado Taft Lectureship on Art; Illinois chapter of the American Planning Association; and Champaign and Urbana.