Design Connect Receives APA Award

Design Connect planning meeting in Aurora
Members of Design Connect meet with residents of the village of Aurora to discuss plans for a community trail. photo / provided
Aurora Community Trail map
A map shows the proposed route of the Aurora Community Trail. plan / provided
Hospital rooftop garden plan
A proposed design for a rooftop healing garden for St. Joseph's Hospital in Elmira. plan / provided
Camp Monterey reuse plan
Plans for a lodge and brewery are one of the ideas Design Connect presented for the reuse of Camp Monterey in Orange. plan / provided
Rendering of re-visioned downtown Ovid
A rendering shows a re-visioning of downtown Ovid as a "walkable, people-friendly built environment." rendering / provided
March 19, 2015

Design Connect is the recipient of a 2015 Outstanding Planning Student Organization (PSO) Award from the American Planning Association (APA) in recognition of the body of work the multidisciplinary group has produced in the last year. Design Connect will receive a cash prize of $1,125 and be recognized at the 2015 National Planning Conference in Seattle in April.

Design Connect is a student-run community design organization that offers practical experience to students through partnering with local municipalities and nonprofit organizations that may not have the resources to hire professionals.

"Design Connect has evolved over the years by being increasingly thoughtful about the projects it selects, so that the organization is even more effective," says CRP Professor Michael Tomlan, faculty advisor to the group. "Whether the project involved a hospital, an unused prison facility, a railroad bed, a suburban greenfield, or a vacant lot in the middle of a village, the energy and talent of the organization is regularly providing creative solutions."

The APA's PSO awards are given to organizations that identify and incorporate best practices into their activities and promote student volunteerism in their communities and state chapters. The awards program also provides a means for student groups to share their ideas, learn from one another, and receive recognition and rewards for creative, successful activities.

"It's a great privilege to share our efforts with other planning students and be recognized for enhancing the educational experience of students and engaging with local communities," says Kevin Meindl (M.L.A./M.R.P. '15), who was chair of Design Connect for the fall semester. "And, the award provides some much needed funding to support the organizations' efforts; we are an independent student organization that relies on donations."

Since 2009, Design Connect has worked in more than 22 local communities and involved hundreds of students from 16 different academic fields. Recent projects for Upstate New York communities include proposals for adaptive reuse of a shuttered correctional facility in Orange; a downtown re-visioning project in Ovid; investigation of public transportation in Lansing; and a conceptual design for a rooftop healing garden at a hospital in Elmira.

By Rebecca Bowes