The Center for Planning Excellence is shaking up the format of the 13th annual Louisiana Smart Growth Summit.
The Nov. 13-14 event, which will once again be held in the Shaw Center for the Arts in downtown Baton Rouge, will be more of a collaborative effort between organizers and participants. There will be afternoon-long workshops on issues such as resilience and neighborhood transformation. There are also plans to release white papers on topics such as what can be done to reduce flooding risks in parishes, outside of engineering measures.
Camille Manning-Broome, president and CEO of the Center for Planning Excellence, which sponsors the summit, said the format change reflects the urgency of the coastal and environmental changes facing Louisiana.
“This is a time where we don’t need to just talk, we need to have strategies,” said Manning-Broome, who took over the leadership of CPEX in June following the retirement of founder Elizabeth “Boo” Thomas. “This really is a time where we need to get real about things happening and focus on implementing strategies.”
About 500 people are expected to attend each day of the two-day conference.
Manning-Broome said she met with focus groups of developers and planners in Baton Rouge, New Orleans and Lafayette to come up with ideas to make the summit less static. “We started thinking about how the event had been in the past and what the needs are moving forward.”
To that end, Jason Roberts, the founder of the Better Block Foundation, will lead a two-hour workshop on Wednesday afternoon aimed at giving groups the tools to transform their neighborhoods. Roberts launched a nonprofit in Dallas to revive the city's streetcar system and landed a $23 million federal transit grant for the effort.
"He created a massive movement," Manning-Broome said. Better Block now stages "pop-up" redevelopments with bike lanes, outdoor seating and small businesses to show communities how they can create vibrant and sustainable neighborhoods. Better Block projects have been launched on Government Street and the Perkins Road Overpass.
Joyce Coffee, president of Climate Resilience Consulting, is leading a three-hour workshop on the opening day of the summit that will focus on closing the resilience gap. "This focuses on what we're going to do between today and when things get built," Manning-Broome said. "We're not going to get a new coast in the next 50 years and there's going to be significant environmental degradation that happens during that time."
Richard Rothstien, a research associate with the Economic Policy Institute and author of "The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America," will speak at the opening session Wednesday morning. Rothstien will discuss racial inequalities in housing practices in a panel discussion moderated by Chris Tyson, head of the East Baton Rouge Redevelopment Authority.
"We want to not just look to the past, but look to the future," Manning-Broome said. "We want to make sure the same land-use inequities aren’t part of how things are built in the future."
The agenda is at summit.cpex.org. Registration is $175 for one day or $225 for the full event if you register by Wednesday. Admission for students and professors is $40. Registration at the event is $200 for one day, $250 for the full event and $50 for students and professors. The conference is free for CPEX members and volunteers.