Peer Chacko: Planning in Action in Dallas: Pragmatic Strategies for a Business-Friendly City

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Peer Chacko has been the director of planning and urban design for the City of Dallas since 2015. He has more than 23 years of city planning experience, having successfully integrated land use, economic development, transportation, and urban design initiatives in challenging urban environments. This includes 19 years of increasingly responsible experience with advancing the City of Dallas's strategic planning and development vision. Chacko has played a lead role in developing and implementing Dallas's first adopted comprehensive plan, form-based zoning code, complete streets policy, and neighborhood revitalization strategy. He has successfully overseen area-specific plans through public-private partnerships, such as the Downtown Dallas 360 Plan. He has also played a key role in advancing transit-oriented development opportunities through partnerships with Dallas Area Rapid Transit and through a collaboration agreement with Texas Central Rail to implement high-speed rail between Dallas and Houston.

Chacko received his bachelor's degree in architecture from the School of Planning and Architecture, New Delhi; and his master's degree in city planning from the University of Pennsylvania. He was awarded a 2008 McCloy Fellowship by the National League of Cities and the American Council on Germany to travel and report on city planning in five German cities. He has presented and participated on speaker panels at a variety of state and national conferences including the American Planning Association, Railvolution, American Society of Civil Engineers, American Public Transportation Association, Texas Institute of Transportation Engineers, Building Professionals Institute, and Neighborhoods USA.


Dallas prides itself as a city of bold visions, small government, and a business-friendly approach to getting things done. Simultaneously, it is a divided city trying to overcome a history of segregation and disinvestment. City planning in this setting must be constantly reinvented to play a meaningful role in influencing decisions and shaping the urban environment. This presentation paints a picture of the Dallas city planning context and uses project case studies featuring citywide policy development and targeted area planning from the last 10 years to highlight pragmatic strategies and techniques that have been effective — and not so effective — in integrating the discipline and value of planning into regular city operations. The project examples will illustrate key ingredients that lead to success, including a foundation set in the current reality, transparent data-driven strategy, a framework for incremental change, neighborhood-based engagement and leadership building, and strong interdisciplinary collaborations and public-private partnerships.

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