SANTA ANA, CA—Understanding what each community needs and whattheir unique challenges are is key to a successful planning, designand environmental firm likePlaceWorks, principal Brian Juddtells GlobeSt.com. The firm recently won five awards from fourdifferent sections of the American Planning Association'sCalifornia Chapter for its exceptional work incomprehensive planning, urban design and transportation planning.GlobeSt.com caught up with Judd to discuss important things to keepin mind in comprehensive planning, urban design and transportationand what firms that specialize in these areas need to know in orderto thrive.

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GlobeSt.com: What are the interesting things you'renoticing when doing the type of work you do?

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Judd: We're a multidimensional firm,which is what makes us different from our competition. We offerenvironmental practice, urban design and planning all rolled intoone. We have expertise in economics, policy and regulatory,environmental, landscape architecture, public health and greenhousegases. We're working with a private developer on a master-planningcommunity, and we're bringing in experts in those different fieldsto really help them understand the issues and opportunities. We'regaining greater appreciation of the linkage between economic growthand housing affordability—how we deal with the built environment.For example, with the Bergamot Station Area Plan in SantaMonica, there are vital urban and suburban corridors, theaward we won recognized our efforts to convert 142.5 acres ofpreviously industrial land into atransit-oriented neighborhood centered around anew Metro Line stop that is expected to open by2016.

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We're seeing a lot of innovation, and each community is verydifferent. We're also working on a collect connector study in thecity of Fullerton to improve the connections between the college,the Metro station and downtown—the transit options for thatcommunity. And then on the healthy communities front, we've seen acombination of issues with respect to health services: how poorhealth behaviors have resulted in chronic diseases across thecountry and how social and economic conditions affect ourhealth.

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But I think what we need to see more of are really tailoredsolutions for each of these communities. The health issues are verydifferent among the communities: poor walkability or bike-ability,poor access to open-space resources, or maybe even if the physicaldesign of a block is there, it might not be conducive to walkingbecause of crime. Poor access to healthy food or healthcare mayalso have an effect on a particularly community's health. Eachcommunity is different, so a real understanding of each communityis required.

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GlobeSt.com: We've heard talk and reports that thesuburbs are growing stronger than the cities. Do you have aresponse to this?

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Judd: It's hard to compare the two.With the trends we're seeing, it's not an either/or situation. Thesuburbs will continue to grow; that's a natural trend. What you seeare some of the keys to growth in urban vs. suburban have to dowith different ages and preferences for living environments. Thesechange as people age. Adults are looking for more of an urbanenvironment—we're seeing those trends—and Millennials are startingto have kids later, and once they do it will be interesting to seewhat their preferences are with their living environment as well.Working with so many communities and living environments, we hearabout trends for urban development, and we try to accommodate thatto the specific communities. But further down the line, insingle-family established suburbs, it's important to ask how dothey compete for that particular resident? What are the amenitiesyou need to plan ahead for that?

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GlobeSt.com: What else distinguishes your firmenough to make it award winning?

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Judd: In addition to the diversity ofour services, we work at multiple scales, from a one-block radiuswhere urban designs use environmental science to work onremediation issues andredevelopment problems to at the same time workingon large regional plans and general plans for counties the size ofsome of the sates back east. We do a lot of work with the private,public and non-profit sectors, and not many of our competitors dothat. When developing a zoning code for a city, we workcontinuously with a design team that does a lot of work in theprivate sector to examining, for example, how is this going to getimplemented from the private-sector side? And for the public-sectorclient, we make sure the zoning codes are clear enough that theyare able to implement a vision. We have that uniqueperspective.

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Carrie Rossenfeld

Carrie Rossenfeld is a reporter for the San Diego and Orange County markets on GlobeSt.com and a contributor to Real Estate Forum. She was a trade-magazine and newsletter editor in New York City before moving to Southern California to become a freelance writer and editor for magazines, books and websites. Rossenfeld has written extensively on topics including commercial real estate, running a medical practice, intellectual-property licensing and giftware. She has edited books about profiting from real estate and has ghostwritten a book about starting a home-based business.