Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 1 session / week, 1.5 hours / session

In-class Workshop and Discussions: 1 session / week, 2.5 hours / session


Students should have taken 11.401, 11.301J or 11.328J before taking this course.

Overview of the Client and Project Focus

The Spring 2009 class will work with the St. Claude Avenue Main Streets Association in New Orleans to formulate plans for the revitalization of the St. Claude Avenue area into a regional food distribution market serving businesses and a diverse population of residents and visitors. The St. Claude Avenue Main Street District runs from Elysian Fields Avenue to Press Street. It is contained within the National/Local Historic District of Faubourg Marigny. The area consists of a mix of small storefront and residential buildings interspersed with a few large structures, a number of bar/music venues, and two art galleries. The streetscape's centerpiece is the St. Roch market, one of about two dozen such market buildings owned by the city as a part of a city-wide market access plan. Until the levee breaks and flooding of August 2005, the market was a point of access for locals to buy fresh food and sea foods. The market's fate is seen as mirroring the fate of the surrounding area. The building is currently targeted as one of the city's recovery areas and $600,000 has been earmarked for restoration.

Additional background on the St. Claude area and the project. (PDF)

Class Project

Each neighborhood Main Street district will serve as a separate client for a team of six to ten students. Each district team may divide its planning work into smaller sub-teams of three to four students. Throughout the semester, these teams will present their work for discussion and commentary by the entire class with client input. The Main Street district's role as client will include:

  • Facilitating student research by providing background material, serving as liaison to community members and organizations, and integrating student work into their planning process
  • Providing guidance on the district's goals and priorities
  • Assisting student efforts with district volunteers if necessary
  • Providing feedback on the proposed agenda and draft plan elements

The three stages of the class project are the following:

Baseline Analysis to Document Existing Conditions and Identify Priority Areas for Detailed Planning

In this first phase, student teams  will collect and analyze data to better understand existing physical and economic conditions in the business district, local visions and goals for the district among stakeholders, existing activities and plans, and key future opportunities. This work will include: (a) reviewing existing data, regulations and studies; (b) surveying and mapping existing environmental and physical conditions; (c) conducting an inventory of existing properties and businesses; and (d) conducting demographic and economic analysis to create profiles of the district's market and key business sectors.

Based on the findings from this preliminary analysis, student teams will recommend an improvement agenda with priority opportunities and issues to address in their revitalization plans. After reviewing these findings and recommendations with the client and agreeing on the planning agenda, student teams will conduct more detailed research, analysis and design work to help formulate proposals around the selected agenda.

Detailed Research, Analysis and Planning in Priority Areas

In this second phase, student teams will undertake more in-depth research, analysis and design in priority areas to better understand the requirements needed to realize goals and opportunities, assess existing resources and assets, identify critical obstacles and resources gaps to address, and define other factors that shape effective strategies and interventions to generate the Main Street district's desired revitalization goals.

While specific research tasks will depend on the priority issues chosen, tasks may include conducting interviews with key stakeholders, surveying district customers and businesses, researching applicable zoning and regulatory obstacles, investigating design options, identifying best practices used in comparable neighborhoods/districts, and analyzing potential resources for implementation. Based on this detailed research, each student team will develop findings and recommendations for their final plan.

Formulation of Recommendations and Preparation of the Final Plan

In the final phase, each student team will review the results of its analysis and research, develop initial proposals for key elements of the plan and integrate these recommendations into a draft overall business district revitalization plan. After a review of this draft plan with the entire class and the client, each team will revise its plan for a final public presentation and written report. Students will present the final plan to the client and an invited audience sometime during the final two weeks of class. The final report will be due one week after the last day of class.

Reflective Practice

Reflective practice is an ongoing goal of the class. Written exercises and class discussion will be used to help students understand how they think and learn in the course of action and deepen understanding of some of the core issues of planning practice. Students will be expected to keep an on-line journal where reflection assignments will be completed weekly. These assignments are geared to explore issues faced by planners during the planning process as well as document student professional growth and experiences working in multi-disciplinary teams. Many of the reflection exercises will focus on the following themes and questions:

  • How are you combining your values, education and actions in complex situations in the professional work of the class?
  • How are you learning from experiences? How are your experiences shaping your view of what it means to be good planner and what you need to be effective as a planner?
  • What are the key issues, opportunities and challenges in planning for commercial districts and how are these similar to and different from other planning problems?

Class Requirements

This class is a workshop and will meet twice weekly. The first session will be 1-1/2 hours in length and will be devoted to lectures and some discussion. The second session each week will be 2-1/2 hours and are reserved mostly for in-class work time and site visits. This schedule does not apply to the first two weeks of class, which will be mostly lecture with some discussion.

Class requirements include extensive reading, ongoing assignments related to development of the plans, active class participation, field trips and site visits to the team project area and active involvement and contribution to the team project.


Active participation and contribution to class discussions 15%
Attendance 10%
First short assignment 10%
Group project (develop an urban design/economic development plan) 65%


Team members will be asked to evaluate and grade each member of the group (including themselves) based on individuals' active participation in the project and contribution to the team. These evaluations will be considered during the grading process.