Side Street Planning launches operations in Columbus

City planning is something that doesn’t happen overnight. So it seems like a natural fit for a city planner to spend some time working in the industry before launching their own business in the field.

After 15 years of planning experience for both pubic and private clients, Jason Sudy was ready to leave MSI Design to launch Side Street Planning, his new firm which specializes in city strategies, neighborhood planning and city policy audits.

In addition to his work at MSI, Sudy is an adjunct faculty member in the City and Regional Planning Department at The Ohio State University and an eight-year member of the Italian Village Commission, which oversees development within this urban Columbus neighborhood.

We recently spoke with Sudy for a quick Q&A about his new entrepreneurial effort:

The Metropreneur: Can you tell us a bit about your decision to launch your own business after so many years in the profession?

Jason Sudy: I’ve been interested in starting my own planning firm for some time. There is a real optimism and interest in urban issues and cites in general now, and I’m eager to chart my own course. Cities are looking for new ways to position themselves for lasting improvements and private developers are recognizing the value in urban redevelopment. I even see it in the students I teach at Ohio State, where today’s planning students have a better grasp of the overall possibilities than in the past.

Also, the entrepreneurial spirit of Columbus has been a real inspiration to forge out on my own. There are so many people here in professions ranging from technology to professional services to creative services to entertainment to restaurants that have started amazing businesses of their own. In typical Columbus fashion, the small business owners I know have embraced my efforts, offering advice, ideas and encouragement. While I’ve just gotten underway, I already feel like part of a larger entrepreneurial community here who are “in it together.”

[M]: What sort of advantages will your startup business have that you would not have had working for a larger firm?

JS: I have two primary advantages. The first is the ability to be nimble in responding to emerging trends in the profession. We live in a world where access to data and information is evolving rapidly as each of us with a smart phone or a tablet can tap into vast resources. There are free apps available now that share more raw info about cities and populations than weeks of research would have accomplished years ago. But the real question is how we harness that information, how we target the collection of new data and, most importantly, how we use what we know to improve our cities. With Side Street planning, we’ll be exploring this relationship between understanding cities and practical implementation of real-world improvement strategies.

My second advantage is price. By focusing on urban planning and by assembling targeted experts to assist our core team as needed, our overhead costs are lower. This allows us to offer the top skills of seasoned professionals at fees more in line with the post-recession budgets of both municipal and private clients.

[M]: Why is right now the right time for starting this business?

JS: There is optimism building in cities, and with both private development and city staffs following the economic changes of the past several years. While the economic downturn was a large-scale challenge, it also had the upside of reforming some habits and perceptions of urban areas. The unrealistic expectations of the housing bubble, the relentlessness of urban sprawl, and the adherence to outdated approaches to development have at least been shaken, if not fundamentally altered in the minds of city decision makers.

These changes present opportunities. The philosophy behind Side Street Planning is to embrace this new approach, which is really an approach that planners have been advocating for some time. My idealistic side says that this is time when we can make a lasting difference in shaping our cities. My practical side says that there seems to be a good deal of work emerging for firms like Side Street as cities understand this new reality.

To learn more about Side Street Planning, visit