Urban Affairs

Urban Affairs


The Urban Affairs Committee of AIA San Antonio monitors all urban development issues and provides assistance and leadership to the larger community.

David Bogle, AIA

AIA San Antonio – A Partner For Your Community

If your community wants to develop a plan for growth and redevelopment, AIASA can help.
The San Antonio Chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIASA) can help support your community development in several ways. If you are ready to hire a design professional, we can guide you through the process of selecting the designer best suited to address the specific needs of your community. If you are in the beginning stages of organizing and planning for your community, we can help assist you in determining the best strategy for planning growth and redevelopment in your community.

Bringing your community together to create a redevelopment plan will ensure the most buy-in to your final community vision plan.  This process is known as Community Design, a movement focused on the creation and management of environments for people. Community Design promotes change to the built environment from the neighborhood to the regional scale, and aims to meet community needs through participatory decision-making. Community design often involves all members of a community, from the residents, to the local government, to the stakeholders in local real estate and businesses. The collaboration of each member of the community can help to establish active partnerships between local residents, businesses and institutions all advocating and developing strategies to help improve the quality of life within your community. A commitment to diversity and dialogue are core values of community design.

Should you decide to embark on the Community Design process, you may wish to meet with AIASA. Volunteers from AIASA have the experience and expertise in design and community development to help determine the scope of your project, and the best way for your community to proceed. Your team of volunteers will also be able to assess the level of assistance AIASA can provide for your community.

A design charette is often used in Community Design as a means of organizing and developing a wide range of ideas and opinions into a cohesive planning solutions.  A charette is an intensive design workshop in which citizens, designers, and other stakeholders collaborate on a vision for development.  The charette process provides a forum for ideas and offers the unique advantage of giving immediate feedback to all the members involved. More importantly, everyone involved becomes a mutual author in the future development for the community. Should you decide to conduct a design charette, AIASA can assist you in the planning and conducting your charette.

The outcome of a charette is intended to provide:

  • A community based vision
  • Stakeholder buy-in
  • Design objectives and goals
  • List of “next steps”
  • Strategies for plan implementation, and
  • In some cases, the charette can provide a basis for developing a request for professional services.

The outcome is NOT intended to provide:

  • Full design services
  • Construction Documents
  • Construction management services
  • Cost estimating

AIASA supports volunteer participation of AIA members in charrettes to promote community-based stakeholder outreach and input during the planning and design of neighborhoods and communities.  AIASA also supports implementation of sustainable planning principles and maintains a commitment to design excellence.

Even with the assistance of experienced professionals, achieving your goals and producing a development strategy will require a significant investment from your community. Your organization or community will be in charge of bringing stakeholders to the table, securing funding/donations, seeking support from elected officials, organizing the charette day and any marketing efforts. Volunteers from AIASA can help guide the process through regularly scheduled meetings during the preparation period.

How long is the preparation period? Expect around six months, depending on your project scope. Time must be allotted to accomplish the following:

Determine the area stakeholders and bring them to the table

  • Identify the social, economic and political issues related to the project through a strengths – weaknesses – opportunities – threats analysis).
  • Get the word out and build interest in the project
  • Gather necessary information on the design area, including plan, maps, GIS data, and any other relevant information.

Can the vision be created without the charette process?

AIASA promotes the public charette process as the most successful community-based planning exercise because it helps to ensure that all voices of a community are heard and that any final development strategy reflects the needs and opinions of all members of the community.

Local communities that have utilized AIASA volunteers, include Port San Antonio, Boerne and Leon Valley.

AIASA can provide further support in additional to volunteer efforts in the following ways:

  • Assist in finding sponsors for the community design charrettes
  • Solicit participation of allied partners, professionals and organizations

(San Antonio Foundation for Architecture, AIA national, APA, ASLA, ULI, University programs, CNU, etc.)

If this sounds like a process your organization wants to undertake, apply to the AIASA to see if a Design Assistance Team can meet your needs.  Your application letter should come from the organization sponsoring the redevelopment efforts and should identify the boundaries of the study area. Please include information about any funding you have available and any additional funding you intend to seek. Additionally, identify your committee chairpersons and committee members along with their related expertise (ex. Design professionals, grant writer, etc.)

Contact the Urban Affairs Committee, AIA San Antonio. The Center for Architecture, 1344 South Flores, Ste. 102, San Antonio, Texas 78204  210.226.4979 or info@aiasa.orginfo@aiasa.org

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