11.947 | Spring 2004 | Graduate

Sustainable Economic Development


Course Description and Objectives

Increasingly, developers, business owners, policymakers, and citizens are addressing the environmental issues associated with economic development by incorporating sustainability goals in their development efforts. They seek planning, design and business strategies that prevent pollution and other environmental risks, beautify blighted landscapes and reuse vacant, contaminated sites in a sustainable manner while attracting new uses that further neighborhood economic development goals and increase the community’s capacity and resources to implement sustainable economic development.

This course explores the application of environmental and economic development planning, policy and management approaches to urban neighborhood community development. Through an applied service learning approach, the course requires students to prepare a sustainable development plan for a community-based non-profit organization. Through this client-based planning project, students will have the opportunity to test how sustainable development concepts and different economic and environmental planning approaches can be applied to advance specific community goals within the constraints of specific neighborhoods and community organizations. The project also emphasizes skills and issues involved in defining community goals, uncovering and gaining community knowledge, existing conditions analysis, formulation of planning agendas and integration of multiple components into a coherent and professional quality plan. Students are also encouraged to use the planning project and class discussions to explore how historic and existing social exclusion impact their work and to reflect on insights gained about their individual work styles and the planning challenges that they faced.

The class is organized into four phases:

  1. an introduction to sustainable development concepts and the two projects;

  2. completion of an existing conditions analysis for each neighborhood through student field work;

  3. analysis of existing conditions data and other information to formulate the proposed plan agenda; and

  4. preparation of the recommended plan based on further research, analysis, development and testing of proposals.

Class time is largely devoted to the client projects through discussions, exercises, and presentation of work in progress. Approximately one-quarter of the class sessions will be used to introduce economic and sustainable development concepts, environmental and economic analysis tools, and policy and practice areas. Fieldwork will include a day-long site visit to both neighborhoods on Session FT. In addition to the regular lecture sessions, an additional 2 hours per week has been set aside for project work, and students are expected to take advantage of this time. Students will collaborate with the client to undertake field research and hold a session to present their existing conditions findings and get feedback on the proposed plan agenda and ideas. In the last phase of the project, each team will schedule a working session to review the draft plan with the client in late April and then present the final plan to the client and/or larger community meeting in mid-May.

Course Requirements

Requirements for this course include:

Extensive Reading and Class Participation 25%
Final Plan and Presentation to the Client 50%
Grading by Teammates 25%

The final project grade includes evaluation of all work leading into the final project, including the six assignments and the mid-term findings report.


The primary deliverable to the client is the final project plan and supporting presentation materials. In addition to this final product, there will be two less formal deliverables designed to present findings, preliminary ideas and agendas, and proposed plan elements to the client and to receive feedback. These interim products include:

  • Mid-term client or community presentations to present findings, the proposed agenda or focus for the plan, and initial ideas;

  • Preparation of the existing conditions section of the final report; and

  • A late semester meeting or working session to get feedback on the plan elements.

Class Assignments

The six assignments provide an opportunity for students to apply the skills and methods discussed in class to their projects in Jackson Square and Fields Corner. These assignments are meant to encourage students to work together and work early.

Project Teams

The project teams will be created after the first week of class and will balance the self-indicated strengths of class members. The work required for the class will be highly collaborative. Though each team may develop a system that works for them, the following roles and responsibilities may be a useful allocation of team resources.

  • Project Manager: Serves as the liaison between the client and the project team. Provides oversight for the team and ensures productive meetings while keeping the team on schedule to complete required assignments.
  • Historian: Conducts background research for the existing conditions report.
  • Economic Development Specialist: Oversees the collection and compilation of economic data for the existing conditions report and provides well researched recommendations for the final report.
  • Physical/Land Use Specialist: Oversees the collection and compilation of physical data for the existing conditions report and provides well researched recommendations for the final report.
  • Environmental Specialist: Oversees the collection and compilation of environmental data for the existing conditions report and provides well researched recommendations for the final report.
  • Interview Coordinator: Creates the interview list and questionnaire and compiles results of team interviews. May also administer consumer and business surveys.
  • Archivist: Manages all documents collected and created by the team.
  • Graphics Coordinator: Collects all graphic documentation for the project and prepares them for inclusion in reports and presentations.
  • Editor: Reviews all team products for consistency and grammar.