In October Jim Charlier served on an American Institute of Architects “Sustainable Development Assessment Team” for the City of Parma, Ohio.
AIA’s SDAT program is a community assistance program that focuses on the principles of sustainability. SDATs bring teams of volunteer professionals (such as architects, urban designers, planners, hydrologists, economists, attorneys, and others) to work with community decision-makers and stakeholders to help them develop a vision and framework for a sustainable future.
Parma is an older suburb of Cleveland, the type of place that planners describe as an “inner,” or “first-tier,” or “mature” suburb. A blue-collar city of nice neighborhoods that saw its heyday in the period from 1920 through 1970, Parma’s population has shrunk from over 120,000 at its peak to about 80,000 today.
The urban parts of Cuyahoga County have lost population since the 1970s, yet the rural parts of the region have none-the-less seen ongoing suburban and exurban sprawl. This “hollowing out” phenomenon is characteristic of many regions in the Northeast and Upper Midwest, including most notably Buffalo and Detroit. Like those cities, Parma’s wage earners traditionally worked in manufacturing, including the auto industry, and related industries. For many decades these provided good, steady jobs, enabling Parma’s residents to live the American dream – a bungalow on a 1/6-acre lot in a nice neighborhood with good schools and modern shopping. The Parmatown Mall drew shoppers from throughout the region to park in its vast parking lots and to walk its indoor corridors past bright stores full of the latest merchandise.
Like many inner suburbs, Parma now faces daunting challenges. Its population is aging, its commercial corridors are dying, its school district is downsizing and closing schools. When older people leave their bungalows to move into senior housing (or to Florida) there is no new generation to buy the home. City tax revenues are falling. Even the venerable Parmatown Mall faces an uncertain future.
The SDAT team included:
• Henry Kosarzycki, A.I.A., Team Leader, Program Manager, Wisconsin Department of Commerce
• Thomas W. Rounds, AICP, Town Planning, URS in Denver
• Rodney Swink, FASLA, Past president of the American Society of Landscape Architects.
• Shannon Kettering, AICP, ASLA, Ecos Environmental Design in Atlanta
• Jim Charlier, AICP, Charlier Associates, Inc. in Boulder
• Danelle Smith, Associate General Mgr for General Growth Properties at the Parks at Arlington, TX
• Joel Mills, American Institute of Architects, SDAT Program Manager
A copy of Jim’s final presentation to the City is provided below –
AIA Sustainable Development
AIA SDAT Program
City of Parma