Serving the UMN community since 1900

The Minnesota Daily

Serving the UMN community since 1900

The Minnesota Daily

Serving the UMN community since 1900

The Minnesota Daily

Daily Email Edition

Get MN Daily NEWS delivered to your inbox Monday through Friday!


Minneapolis hosts National Planning Conference after 15-year wait

The conference provided local and national city planning communities, including students, a chance to connect.
Image by Eleanor King
The conference lasted four days at the Minneapolis Convention Center.

Minneapolis welcomed thousands of city planners from across the country to the National Planning Conference held at the Minneapolis Convention Center the weekend of April 13, returning to the city after 15 years.

The American Planning Association hosted the conference, last held in the city in 2009. City planning, public works and other departments’ staff led presentations, special events and over 45 tours showcasing the city’s development and infrastructure, according to Minneapolis city planning manager Jason Wittenberg.

Chief of Staff for the Minneapolis Downtown Council Ben Shardlow said the council and city staff planned the events by questioning what narratives and information need sharing.

“What are the right stories to tell? What are the interesting places that planners from around the country would be interested in to learn about?” Shardlow said. “Both the things that have worked and more about some of the challenges as well.”

Wittenberg, who led one of the mobile tours through the city, said the conference was an excellent opportunity to show off the city and region’s innovative planning work.

“One reason a lot of people were pretty curious about visiting Minneapolis was that we’ve been at the forefront of planning issues that are really hitting on equity and the housing crisis that this country is facing,” Wittenberg said.

The Minneapolis 2040 plan and the Grand Rounds Scenic Byway System were two of the initiatives highlighted at the conference, according to Shardlow. 

Minneapolis 2040 is a guide for improving and diversifying housing in the city which took effect at the beginning of 2020. Grand Rounds is a 51-mile-long bike and pedestrian road connecting the city’s parks. 

Shardlow said the conference was a way to celebrate the city’s recent urban planning work while acknowledging the “soul searching” and work yet to be done in the aftermath of the pandemic and the murder of George Floyd.

Shardlow added that the conference also offered a chance to develop community among city planning professionals.

“There’s a tendency, especially for urban planners to just think about what’s next, and think about the challenges and the unsolved problems,” Shardlow said. “It’s great to connect with other people who understand how to shape, grow, develop and manage cities across the country and establish a sense of camaraderie with them.” 

Involvement in the conference was not restricted to just city planning professionals. The association also runs a national Student Planning and Design competition at the conference every year. This year’s competition asked students to create a planning and design guide for the New Nicollet Redevelopment site, formerly the Nicollet KMart

The University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School Design and Planning Team was a finalist and won second place in the nation after presenting their plan.

Jem Thompson, a graduate student at the University, led the Humphrey team through the competition and said it was a “really exciting opportunity” to create a plan for a site close to home and learn skills unavailable in classrooms.

Thompson added that students bring a unique perspective to the planning field because they are still engaged in the learning process.

“Students, despite having less real-world expertise, are probably more informed about the cutting-edge developments in the field than someone engaged in the city position,” Thompson said. “They’ve got their expertise in one niche area, but it might not be exposed to some of the things that we offered up.” 

Shardlow said that aside from professional development, the conference was a way to take stock of the quality work being done by the local and national planning community.

“It’s great to get a sense of, ‘Oh yeah, these are really talented people who are really dedicated and do this work because they care about Minneapolis,’” Shardlow said. “We’re all rooting for each other to help each other do our jobs, meet the moment and serve the people of Minneapolis.”

View Comments (1)
More to Discover

Accessibility Toolbar

Comments (1)

All The Minnesota Daily Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • Katie
    May 6, 2024 at 7:04 am

    Please find Marlena Myle’s newly release All Arts documentary “Realms of Resilience” by Marlena Myles (a great Urban planner) on her website. Enjoy and pass.

    Thanks soooo Much