Local is a word heard often in reference to buying local or supporting local, but a new team of city planners is focused on designing local. The goal serves as the namesake for the business that launched in May 2014.
Co-Founders Kyle Ezell, Amanda Golden and Josh Lapp are helping communities figure out what makes them special and designing around it.
“We’re really driven around the idea of community competitiveness and ensuring communities are designing locally,” Lapp says. In a world filled with homogeneous landscapes – same houses, same roads, “You really embrace what makes you, you, even if it’s not the latest, greatest thing ,” Lapp continues.
Designing Local achieves their mission through a variety of services.
“The number one focus is local design consulting,” Lapp says. “We’re working with communities to help them understand how to take local culture and uniqueness and inject that into the built environment.” That built environment can include all sorts of streetscape infrastructure, from buildings to parking garages, and sidewalks to lamp posts.
Cities love public meetings as a way to get stakeholder input, and Designing Local takes them up a notch with their public engagement services.
“We really try to think about these public meetings and make them fun,” Golden says. “We really try to do things that are out of the box that make people want to come.”
Providing food or wine always seem to be a crowd pleaser, but the team also seeks out unique locations residents might be curious about to hold the meetings. For example, Designing Local managed to get 50 people out on a snowy April day in Mansfield by hosting a public meeting in the ballroom of an abandoned Eagle’s Lodge. Everyone was curious about the inside of the long-forgotten structure.
Ezell’s skill set brings another unique service to the business.
“Kyle is a professor at OSU, so his skills lie in teaching,” Golden says. Ezell hosts workshops for cities on how they can start to reorient everything that they do around community competitiveness and making themselves unique.
Two other services – cultural heritage and tourism and arts and culture planning – get down to the nitty gritty of what makes a city unique. Cultural heritage and tourism focuses on how a city can utilize historic and cultural assets to drive tourism. Arts and culture planning takes an enveloping look at everything from public to performance art.
Designing Local takes a special interest in preservation, working with a number of clients on historic tax credits (which are sticking around in Ohio, by the way). Preservation will have a growing focus in the business as they partner with historic preservation firm Benjamin D. Rickey & Co. As the founders edge towards retirement, they are teaching the younger generation at Designing Local their skills.
Both Lapp and Golden are recent grads from Ohio State and had been searching for a way to get creative with urban planning. Among a myriad of industry meetings to try to figure out what direction to go, they set a time to meet with Ezell. The professor had written a book, Designing Local, and it captured exactly what Lapp and Golden wanted to do. Ezell needed someone to run with the ideas in the book, and they were ready to run.
In just over a year the firm has completed nationwide projects. An early win for a public art master plan in Duluth, GA gave the newly formed team confidence to throw their hat in the ring on all sorts of projects. They’ve also mastered an award-winning economic competitiveness plan in Athens.
What they would love to do next is more local work. Designing Local wants to bring their unique local flair to their home city. There’s places they drive past every day and think, “Wow, that could really be something.”
But whether it’s Columbus, or a city halfway across the country, “We don’t want anything we produce to be exactly what last client received,” Golden says.
For more information, visit designinglocal.com.