Plan RVA’s future, play with Lego

This May, hundred of regional developers, real estate professionals, and elected officials will come together to create a vision of RVA in 2035. And of course, Lego bricks are involved.

Over 300 people from local businesses, nonprofits, government, and other sectors across the Richmond region will use Lego to help develop a regional plan as part of RVA Reality Check, an event organized by the Urban Land Institute of Richmond that will be held at the VCU Siegel Center on May 14th.

According to the Southeastern Institute of Research, the metro Richmond population will increase (PDF) from 1.25 million people in 2010 to an estimated 1.6 million by 2035. To the Urban Land Institute (ULI), this presents both a need and an opportunity to discuss how to designate the region’s land use to create sustainable and thriving communities in the coming years.

That’s where the Lego come in.

Graduate students in VCU’s department of Urban and Regional Planning have assigned Lego to represent commercial and residential structures, as well as string and ribbon to signify waterways and traffic corridors.

“When you start talking about the number of structures that will be needed to support the number of people that were expecting with population growth,” said Leisha LaRiviere of ULI, it’s helpful “to hold something tangible” to better understand the scope of needed development and the surrounding environment.

Participants will be grouped by table and will comprise real estate professionals, public officials, developers, environmentalists, members of the public, and others. Each table will have a map of the Richmond region, along with locations of current housing and employment. Groups will then use Lego to decide where to position roughly 200,000 homes and 200,000 jobs anticipated from future regional growth. Results from each table will be presented at the end of the day.

In 2012, ULI led a series of public seminars on the issues of transportation, land use, and affordable housing to explain industry ideas and terminology, in part to prime participation for the upcoming event.

There are 30 seats open to members of the public for May 14th event. Those interested in attending must apply online. LaRiviere said a committee will choose participants to provide a “good cross-section of ages, jobs, community engagement…to make sure we have the right people at the table.” Applications are due before April 15th.

LaRiviere said that a public press conference will be held roughly one month after the RVA Reality Check event to discuss the findings. ULI will also send those findings to elected officials across the region and other interested parties, like homeowner associations. She said a year-long educational initiative will also follow the event.

RVA Reality Check will take place at the VCU Siegel Center on Tuesday, May 14th.

Photo by: Michael of Scott

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Nathan Cushing

Nathan Cushing is a writer, journalist, and RVANews Editor.

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