Planning & Design Center

The Planning and Design Center (PDC), founded in 2012, is the newest addition to the National Center for Smart Growth (NCSG) at the University of Maryland.  The PDC assists local, regional and state agencies in Maryland and across the nation on a wide range of projects. These include land use planning, urban design, integrated land use/transportation planning, economic analysis, agricultural preservation, housing and environmental issues. A particular strength of the PDC is its extensive modeling and visualization capabilities.

The PDC draws on the substantial expertise of the faculty and practitioners associated with the NCSG and throughout the University whose leading scholars can apply their expertise to planning for sustainability. Drawing on Maryland’s 50 years of experience in managing growth and on the national experience of its staff in award-winning work around the country, the PDC assists with comprehensive plans, smart growth audits, corridor planning, MPO scenario-based planning, and multi-modal planning.

The PDC routinely teams with others to add a national perspective to local problem solving efforts. For further information please contact Uri Avin, FAICP, Director of the PDC.

PDC Projects

  • Prince George’s County Zoning Code Rewrite
    NCSG was part of a team led by Clarion Associates in an ambitious rewrite to simplify and streamline an inefficient and confusing 1,000 page document for this large and growing County adjacent to Washington, DC. Uri led the code-general plan linkage and code testing and visualization aspects of this three-year project, beginning in 2014. Reducing inter and intra-departmental silos and adjusting Council micro-management of submissions part of the multi-stakeholder challenge.
  • Prince George’s County Subarea 4 Study
    NCSG participated in a team led by ERM that focused an 18 month update to a sector plan which addressed conflicts between industrial and residential uses in seven industrial areas within a large part of the County inside Washington Beltway; study also evaluated the economic potential of the areas and developed recommendations accordingly. Stakeholders include adjacent residential communities, industrial owners and tenants and Council members accountable to these areas. Tasks included updated a study of industrial trends by URSP faculty and connecting intervention options to the concurrently evolving zoning code rewrite.
  • Reforming the Planning System in Israel
    Uri coordinated the Israel Ministry of Interior (MOI) 2014 team’s US visit and Case Study of Maryland as input into a major overhaul of the top-down Israeli planning system to improve its efficiency and local control and to increase the supply and production of affordable housing. Interviews with URSP and NCSG faculty provided the MOI team with insight into Maryland’s state-involved planning regime and its evolution and challenges. The case study generated a joint paper by US and Israeli planners and contributed to legislative initiatives in Israel and increased collaboration between URSP and Israeli universities.
  • Climate Change Mitigation Analysis, Maryland Department of the Environment
    Uri supervised and participated in a final review of the Governor’s ambitious Statewide Climate Change Plan and developed options for additional land use/transportation mitigation measures and impact assessments on emissions. Analysis of the CAP’s potential to achieve targets was accomplished through statewide parcel-level modeling of mobile and building emissions. Stakeholders included the state Departments of the Environment, Transportation and Planning. Completed in 2013, the work has led to further testing by NCSG of the emissions impacts of transportation projects and has informed several papers by NCSG researchers.
  • Scenario/Sketch Planning Tools for Regional Sustainability, NCHRP Project 8-36, Task 117
    This applied research project primed by Cambridge Systematics with Uri Avin as PI is directed at enhancing planners’ understanding of software tools for regional scenario planning. Involves interviews with practitioners, 8 case studies of applied projects and recommendations for guidance in practice. This 18 month study, begun in 2013, assesses both current and emerging tools and how they relate to various approaches to scenario –based planning.
  • FHWA Guidebook for Performance Based Scenario Planning
    Related to the above project, is a 2014 contract as a subcontractor to ICF International in which Uri is providing guidance on the update of a national guidebook on how to relate performance-based planning, the new federal emphasis, to regional scenario planning, now elevated by federal guidelines as a desired approach for Metropolitan Planning Organizations.
  • Statewide Fiscal Impact Analysis, NCSG
    As part of an internal NCSG’s statewide planning and analysis efforts in 2012/2013, Uri helped develop an analytical framework for a study of statewide infrastructure costs for Maryland’s Roads, Schools and Wastewater Treatment Plants to assess their sensitivity to alternative land use patterns. Such analysis at a statewide scale poses difficult methodological challenges but represents a very important and neglected aspect of regional and statewide smart growth planning nevertheless.
  • Training Programs and Applications with CommunityViz, Maryland Counties
    Uri spearheaded the development of in-house capacity and certification in the application of this powerful GIS-based software and developed training program in its use for Montgomery and Howard County. Follow on work ensued with Howard County to apply CommunityViz to a subarea plan and site selection challenge in Southeast Howard County’s US1 commercial revitalization  corridor. Here NCSG and RCLCo evaluated various sites under various program and zoning assumptions including BRT support.


PDC Faculty and Staff

Uri Avin, FAICP, PDC Director and Research Professor
Gerrit Knaap, NCSG Executive Director and Professor
Jason Sartori, NCSG Associate Director