1,000 urban planners coming to Buffalo for national conference this fall

Downtown Buffalo will be a significant feature of this year's ACSP national conference, being hosted Oct. 25-28 by UB's Department of Urban and Regional Planning. Photo: Douglas Levere

Downtown Buffalo will be a significant feature of this year's ACSP national conference, being hosted Oct. 25-28 by UB's Department of Urban and Regional Planning. Photo: Douglas Levere

Scholar activist Rosa Clemente will serve as keynote speaker

by David J. Hill

Published May 11, 2018

One-thousand urban planners from across North America, Europe and Asia will be coming to Buffalo in October for the Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning (ACSP) national conference, being hosted by the Department of Urban and Regional Planning in the University at Buffalo’s School of Architecture and Planning.

Robert Shibley
“The Buffalo-Niagara region has turned a corner since the planning academy last gathered here in Buffalo.”
Robert G. Shibley, Professor and Dean
School of Architecture and Planning

The conference runs from Oct. 25-28, and will take place primarily in the Hyatt Regency Buffalo Hotel & Conference Center downtown. Other conference-related events, including in-depth tours that will share some of the region’s unique stories with visitors, will take place around the area.

This year’s event is titled “The Continuing City: People, Planning, and the Long-Haul to Urban Resurgence.” Participants will explore stories of long-term planning and action, along with questions about equity on topics including economic development, waterfront redevelopment, parks planning, education, employment and transportation.

Rosa Clemente will serve as the keynote speaker. A native of South Bronx, Clemente is one of the most raw and honest political, social and cultural voices in the country. She was recently part of bringing #MeToo, #TimesUp and #PRontheMap to the 2018 Golden Globes.

Buffalo last hosted the ACSP conference in 1988, and much has changed in the city over the past 30 years. Faculty and students from UB, as well as community leaders from across Buffalo, will share lessons learned from Buffalo’s dogged, continually evolving comeback, while inviting the exchange of stories of city-making, and remaking, across all urban scales.

The conference also provides an opportunity for UB’s School of Architecture and Planning to showcase its recently renovated home in Hayes Hall, and to share with prospective students and urban planning scholars alike its city-as-laboratory approach to Buffalo and Western New York.

“The Buffalo-Niagara region has turned a corner since the planning academy last gathered here in Buffalo,” said Robert G. Shibley, dean of UB’s School of Architecture and Planning. “The Department of Urban and Regional Planning, likewise, has grown and matured over those three decades, in large part through the role it has played in that resurgence. We’re eager to share those stories.”

A series of mobile workshops will give conference participants a chance to learn more about the region through tours centered around affordable housing and social justice; Buffalo’s West Side; Niagara Falls; Buffalo’s many architectural treasures, which include the Louis Sullivan-designed Guaranty Building and Frank Lloyd Wright’s Darwin D. Martin House; innovations in transportation; and the historic grain elevators that add a rustic beauty to the city’s waterfront.

In addition to the conference itself, UB is hosting two other key events around it:

  • A Predoctoral Workshop for Students from Underrepresented Groups. ACSP has conducted four similar workshops since 2013, but this will be the first happening near the East Coast. The workshop is intended to help boost the diversity of faculty in urban planning schools by reaching students from underrepresented groups. “We are delighted to host this event, since it can be a critical part of changing the diversity of faculty members who teach urban planning at U.S. colleges and universities,” said Daniel B. Hess, chair of UB’s Department of Urban and Regional Planning. “A larger aim is to attract a more diverse student body to study urban planning and then join the profession.”
  • A “What’s Next for Buffalo-Niagara?” workshop that will bring local subject matter experts and stakeholders together with planning scholars from around the nation to consider what the region needs to do – now and over the next 50 years – to meet the challenges of the 21 century. Participants will examine the legacy of recent planning, ongoing work, and looming “mega-trends” to suggest what the region should look like by 2068.

ACSP is a consortium of more than 100 university departments and programs offering urban planning degrees in North America, as well as programs that offer degrees affiliated with planning. The organization also includes students and individual and retired faculty.

Hess says he hopes to build on this trajectory toward an elevated national profile. “I am honored to assume this important leadership role and to advance our important educational and research missions. Our key aims—to improve urban planning practice, to enhance city functions and urban life, and to ensure fundamental fairness and equity for all—address critical challenges facing our communities.”

Adds Dean Robert G. Shibley: “Dan’s international research networks and deep connections to practice will reinforce our award-winning studio curriculum and nationally-ranked research enterprise. I am inspired as well by Dan’s plans for strengthening our undergraduate environmental design program.”

The recipient of UB’s Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching, Hess has taught core courses in the environmental design bachelor’s program, directed award-winning studios in the Master of Urban Planning program, and led eight study abroad courses in England, Estonia, Latvia and Russia.

His research on housing and transportation spans urban planning history, post-socialist urban space, land use planning, and disaster preparedness and response planning for extreme events. His most recent research in Estonia through the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Research Fellowship took Hess across the Baltic States to explore the Soviet-era housing complexes that still dominate the urban landscapes of Eastern Europe. While there, he served as director of the Center for Migration and Urban Studies at the University of Tartu.

Hess says research – and student engagement in research – is central to the program’s success. “Research is paramount to what we do in the department. We cannot excel in our research endeavors without the involvement of students.”

In addition to its studio-based curriculum and intensive community engagement, the program is distinguished by its research enterprise. The department’s faculty consistently rank at the top of urban planning programs in the Association of American Universities for research funding and publications. The program receives national and international funding for its research on food systems planning and public health, extreme weather and cities, planning for distressed urban neighborhoods, and urban policy for transitioning cities.

A former Fulbright Scholar, Hess has also been recognized as a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellow and an Eisenhower Fellow with the U.S. Department of Transportation. Hess has authored more than 50 scholarly articles in peer-reviewed journals and 10 book chapters. He is co-editor of the forthcoming Housing Estates in Europe: Poverty, Ethnic Segregation, and Policy Challenges (Springer Publishing International) and will assume the role of co-editor of Town Planning Review, one of the oldest scholarly journals in urban planning.

Hess is a 1997 graduate of UB’s Master of Urban Planning program. He earned his PhD in urban planning from the University of California, Los Angeles, and holds a bachelor’s degree in civil and environmental engineering from Clarkson University.

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