2014 Winners

The Economic Development Division of the American Planning Association is pleased to announce the winner and honorable mention of the 2014 Donald E. Hunter Excellence in Economic Development Planning Award. The awards committee consisted of members of the Economic Development Division: Julie Herlands, AICP; Lance Harris, AICP; and Dustin Akers.


Uptown Columbus (Georgia) for "Chattahoochee River Whitewater Park"
Chattahoochee River Park is a 2.5 mile urban whitewater park, located in Columbus, Georgia. The project has been 10-plus years in the making and is a public/private partnership between local communities, state, and national agencies. Whitewater Columbus is a 2.5-mile course that opened May 2013 and was recently named one of USA Today's "Top 12 Greatest Man-made Adventures on the Planet."

What started out as one man's unique vision of making the Chattahoochee River a sustainable force in economic development for the Columbus community became a reality over a decade later. This economic development project did not just achieve its original goals of reenergizing the Chattahoochee River, it reenergized an entire community. Relying on the natural fall line of the Chattahoochee River, two damns were breached and additional construction in the river allowed the rapids to take shape. In May of 2013, the Chattahoochee River Park — the world's longest urban whitewater course — was open to the public with thunderous support.

The Chattahoochee River Park benefits the entire region by increasing revenue, restoring the river to its natural state, creating jobs, growing tourism and improving the quality of life by creating a unique sense of place. The Chattahoochee River Park was funded through a public/private initiative and reached across state lines where both Alabama and Georgia meet on the east. The project's $26 million investment was paid through the collaborative efforts of individuals, businesses, and foundations, as well as local, state (Georgia and Alabama), and federal government.

Now, just one year since its opening, over 16,000 rafters have experienced whitewater in the heart of Uptown Columbus, Georgia. When the park reaches its full potential, an economic impact study by Columbus State University projects 188,000 visitors, creating a $44 million economic impact. (Local contact and Division member: Verona Campbell, Transportation Planner, Columbus-Phenix City MPO; 706-225-3920; vcampbell@columbusga.org.)


Royal Commission at Yanbu, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, for "Yanbu Economic Vision 2030"
Situated along the Red Sea coastline, the Royal Commission at Yanbu's history dates from 1975 when the city was established as an industrial hub in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Now the world's third largest oil refining hub, Yanbu's refining capacity exceeds 1 million barrels per day with a total investment of over $53 billion dollars. The Royal Commission at Yanbu is a significant contributor to the Kingdom's economic growth and a leading choice for investors in petrochemical and energy-intensive industries.

Building on the city's success, the "Yanbu Economic Vision 2030" seeks to identify future areas of opportunity and support diversification of the city's and regional economy. The plan introduces 12 new initiatives and 43 projects organized by three over-arching components: Industry, Community, and Leadership. Taking advantage of Yanbu's location alongside the world's foremost shipping lane (the Red Sea through the Suez Canal), major industrial initiatives include establishment of a multi-modal logistics hub, a minerals processing hub, as well as the nation's first automotive cluster. The plan's implementation is expected to enhance job growth by 31 percent, creating up to 33,000 new jobs beyond the city's projected 63,000 jobs by 2030. (Local contact and Division member: Ryan Hughes, Community Economic Planning Specialist, Royal Commission at Yanbu, hughesr@rcyanbu.gov.sa.)

2013 Winners

The Economic Development Division of the American Planning Association is pleased to announce co-winners of the 2013 Donald E. Hunter Excellence in Economic Development Planning Award: Central Market Economic Strategy, San Francisco Office of Economic and Workforce Development; and Nathan Benderson Park, Sarasota County.

Nathan Benderson Park, located in unincorporated Sarasota County, Florida, is a former unimproved borrow pit lake that is being transformed into a 600‐acre regional park with a world‐class rowing venue. The project is a partnership of the county, state, private developer, local economic development corporation, recreation experts, schools, rowing clubs, and local citizenry. A sports tourism opportunity was identified in the design of the park in which the rowing venue element plays an important role in attracting international attention for world‐class aquatic competitive events. The rowing events bring in economic, quality of life, and health benefits that far exceed the financial investment. Sarasota County's conservative estimates of economic impact in today's market are approximately $13 million of direct spending by participants and attendees with a total regional economic impact of almost $25 million.

The panel was impressed with the Nathan Benderson Park project's innovative and unique approach, establishment and pursuit of a vision, ongoing and incremental implementation and results, and the collaboration of a wide-range of stakeholders to produce a public-private partnership that is adding economic value to the community where it may not have otherwise occurred. (Local contact: Adriana Trujillo-Villa; (941) 861-5140; atrujill@scgov.net.)

The Central Market Economic Strategy is the culmination of ten months of community outreach, technical research, and collaboration of a diverse group of stakeholders focused on creating a clear and unified plan to improve the Central Market district of San Francisco. While the area has historically been a regional center for arts, entertainment, and retail, the area has struggled over the past several decades with high vacancy rates, physical blight, a lack of private investment, and a variety of social challenges such as homelessness, drug activity, and a concentration of extremely low-income single-room-occupancy housing. The Economic Strategy reflects a unified framework from over a dozen entities that prioritizes activities, programs, and policies. The approach has produced visible results over the past year such as: 9 tech companies and one venture capital firm have occupied almost 1 million square feet of space in the district; 8 new small businesses have opened and 2 have expanded; 3,300 residential units are under construction; 9 performance/gallery venues have either opened or are in the pipeline; and vacancy rates have decreased significantly.

The panel was impressed with the Central Market Economic Strategy's attentiveness to local conditions, transferability, short-term results, and the collaboration of a wide-range of stakeholders to produce results that are overcoming challenges to produce long-lasting economic value to the community. (Local contact: Jordan Klein; (415) 554-6645; jordan.klein@sfgov.org.)

2012 Winner

Innovation Square (Gainesville, Florida), is the 2012 recipient of the Donald E. Hunter Excellence in Economic Development Planning Award. The award submittal was co-sponsored by four of the project's major stakeholders — the University of Florida, Shands at UF, City of Gainesville, and the Gainesville Community Redevelopment Agency — and the urban design and planning consultant, Perkins+Will.

Innovation Square, located between the University of Florida campus and Downtown Gainesville, is a planned mixed-use research neighborhood that is being developed with overwhelming community support and stakeholder collaboration. This urban redevelopment project is expected to transform twelve underutilized blocks in Midtown Gainesville into a mixed-use urban research neighborhood that advances the national and global profile of the city's largest employer — the University of Florida with its medical center, Shands Hospital at UF — and the growing local biotech industry. Unlike the internally focused suburban research parks of the previous decades, Innovation Square aligns the goals of the City of Gainesville and the University of Florida to create a livable, walkable, adaptable, and sustainable urban research district that will give Gainesville a competitive edge in attracting and retaining the best minds and companies in research. As Bernie Machen, the President of the University of Florida, stated: "As we envision it, Innovation Square will be unlike anything you've seen. In fact, it will be nothing short of a complete re-invention of the town square concept." Further, a local commercial developer noted: "Innovation Square is the most exciting opportunity for job growth I've seen in Alachua County. It's the first time I've seen UF, the city and business leaders get on the same page to create office, retail and residential space that will bring real jobs."

The panel was impressed with the project's high quality, establishment of a vision that is not only aspirational but implementable, and the collaboration of a wide-range of stakeholders to create and implement a framework to create a transformative project that will make a lasting contribution to the economic condition of the community. The panel was unanimous in its selection of Innovation Square as the 2012 Award recipient. (Local contacts: Linda B. Dixon, AICP, Associate Director, Facilities Planning and Construction Division, University of Florida, (352) 273-4010, ldixon@ufl.edu; David Green, AIA, LEED AP, Principal, Perkins+Will, (404) 443-7559; david.green@perkinswill.com.)

The Excellence in Economic Development Planning Award was presented at the Economic Development Division's annual meeting and reception on April 16 during the 2012 National Conference of the American Planning Association in Los Angeles.


The panel also selected one Honorable Mention, Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe for their Pyramid Lake Economic Development Plan. Over the past 22 years, the Tribe had tried 7 times to adopt a plan for economic development but was unsuccessful because of a lack of a community embraced vision for economic development on the reservation. The latest plan was created and adopted after an extensive public outreach process and truly reflects local conditions and needs. The plan has established the foundation for years of economic growth and opportunity for the Tribe. The panel was impressed with the overall effort particularly the perseverance in getting the Plan adopted, the potential for real impact from the Plan, and the reflection of local needs, goals, and tasks in the Plan. The Plan was also awarded the "Outstanding Plan Award" by the Nevada Chapter of the APA in 2011. (Local Contact: Scott H. Carey, Tribal Planner, Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe, 775-574-1000 ext 116, scarey@plpt.nsn.us.)

The awards committee consisted of members of the Economic Development Division of the APA:  Julie Herlands, AICP, Principal, TischlerBise (www.tischlerbise.com) and Chair-Elect, EDD of the APA; Lance Harris, AICP, Senior Associate, AECOM Economics (www.aecom.com) and Secretary/Treasurer-Elect, EDD of the APA; and James Stevens, Senior Associate, ConsultEcon Management & Economic Insight (www.consultecon.com).

2011 Winner

The City of Hampton's Peninsula Town Center is a successful redevelopment of an enclosed mall into a vibrant town center providing approximately 2,400 new jobs and significantly increasing the taxable sales base in Hampton. Prior to its redevelopment, the former Coliseum Mall was inwardly focused and obsolete with increased vacancies and declining investment. The City of Hampton, through its community planning process, developed the Coliseum Central Master Plan and design guidelines that recommended fundamental changes to the property's configuration into appropriately scaled urban blocks supporting mixed-use pedestrian-oriented development. The commitment by the City of Hampton to reinvigorate its aging business district motivated the mall owners to partner with a development team to transform the site from a deteriorating enclosed shopping mall into a vibrant mixed-use town center serving as a regional destination.

The panel was impressed with the project's quality, contribution to the community, and successful implementation and results as well as the role of planning to bring about the redevelopment. The panel was unanimous in its selection of the City of Hampton as the 2011 Award recipient.

The Excellence in Economic Development Planning Award, which is accompanied by a $1,000 grant, was formally given to the City of Hampton at the 2011 National Conference of the American Planning Association in Boston during the Economic Development Division's annual meeting and reception on April 11.


City of Irvine, CA: "Irvine Business Complex Mixed/Use Vision Plan"
The Irvine Business Complex (IBC) Residential/Mixed-Use Vision Plan and Overlay Zoning Code development standards were developed to facilitate the evolution of a primarily office and industrial center (the IBC) to a fully mixed-use business and residential community. The IBC Vision Plan, adopted as a new element in the City's General Plan, represents policy direction to create both a neighborhood and economic growth framework for the IBC. The IBC Vision Plan project encourages more housing units in the same area as one of the City of Irvine's two major job centers in the 2,800-acre IBC, the largest employment center in Orange County. The new mix of land uses will further facilitate infill of underutilized properties in the area. The panel appreciated the "non-traditional" approach to economic development and was impressed with the plan's originality, comprehensiveness, and to a certain degree, transferability. As suburban areas, particularly inner-ring suburbs, experience increasing infill pressures, this approach to developing a complete "economic ecosystem" is likely to become more desirable. The approach taken by the City of Irvine could serve as a model for other areas of the country. (Contact: Bill Jacobs, AICP, Principal Planner, City of Irvine Community Development Department, bjacobs@ci.irvine.ca.us, 949-724-6521.)

Town of Marana, AZ: "Marana Economic Roadmap"
The Marana Economic Roadmap is the Town's first strategic plan for economic development in its 34-year history. The Roadmap process was inclusive and focused on the Town's existing industry base, seeking to build supply chains and facilitate sustainable growth of major employers. The Roadmap has been instrumental in the development and adoption of two incentive programs for high-wage job creation in the town. The Roadmap process and programs directly led to the retention and expansion of the Town's largest manufacturer after potentially losing the company due to consolidation and expansion of its worldwide facilities. The panel recognized the quality planning of this applicant as well as the Roadmap's comprehensiveness, transferability, and initial results. (Contact: Joshua H. Wright, Director of Strategic Initiatives, Town of Marana, jwright@marana.com, 520-382-1938.)

2010 Winner

The 2010 Donald Hunter Economic Development Planning award went to Arlington County, VA for their work on the redevelopment of the Shirlington neighborhood. While Arlington is well known for transit-oriented development, Shirlington is an urban village served by bus transit. It has become a major cultural and entertainment center, but also has a mix of retail, residential, and office development.


There was no award winner chosen for 2009.

2008 Winner

This year's award went to Prince George's County, Maryland for the reuse of obsolete strip shopping centers as medical facilities.

2007 Winner

The Economic Development Planning Award for 2007 was awarded to Whitnall-Summit Co. and the City of West Allis who formed an economic development partnership that has catalyzed redevelopment and brought creative financing to the revitalization of the former Allis-Chalmers Mfg. Co. complex. The 166-acre former industrial user, Allis-Chalmers Mfg. Co., went bankrupt in 1987 at the cost thousands of jobs. From 1979 to 1989, West Allis lost 8,500 manufacturing jobs and experienced a decline of 10,000 residents, while the average wage within the City dropped 25 percent. In the last three years, the site has dramatically increased in value, due to the collaboration between Whitnall-Summit Co., and the City of West Allis.

2006 Winner

The Economic Development Planning Award for 2006 went to Harrison County, Mississippi. In response to Hurricane Katrina, the Ohio State University Department of City and Regional Planning helped the county conduct a regional growth and recovery planning process. Ohio State University utilized a citizen-based approach to develop rebuilding and economic development plans.

A thorough planning process was used to develop a comprehensive plan for Saucier, a rural community located 20 miles inland. The plan evaluated and suggested improvements to aid the citizens of Saucier in achieving their goals for the future of their community. The process engaged local economic developers, planners, citizens, elected officials, and businesses. Plan goals and objectives recognized the needs of the community and offered a variety of solutions. The plan analysis included all the major economic development factors including roadway development, rail, labor force, and land availability. The plan also addressed housing, rural character, and the development of a village center.

2005 Winner

The 2005 Excellence in Economic Development Planning Award was presented to the Alexandria Economic Development Partnership for their U.S. Patent and Trademark office development. The USPTO project met the criteria for its quality, originality and comprehensiveness of design, as well as its implementation and contribution to the community. The project has transformed a nearly vacant former rail yard into the world's intellectual property gateway and a thriving center for commerce, retail and residential opportunities.