The Smart Growth Lineup

The Partners for Smart Growth Conference runs from Tuesday through Thursday, Dec. 15-17 at our beloved Austin Convention Center.

Tuesday: Invited opening speakers include successful new-model South Carolina developer Jim Chaffin, chairman of the Urban Land Institute; our mayor, Kirk Watson; our governor, George W. Bush; and New Jersey governor Christine Todd Whitman, who has shown in the Garden State that "Republican" and "sustainability" do not cancel each other out. Following a general session on "Why Smart Growth Matters," Michael Dell is slated to address "Livability in the New Economy" over lunch.

Afternoon breakout sessions include "Getting to Yes in the NIMBY World" and "Smart Growth Partners: Not-So-Strange Bedfellows." The day wraps up with "Enhancing Existing Neighborhoods" sessions on transportation and affordable housing. The de rigeur "networking reception" follows.

Wednesday: The day opens with a discussion of "visual preference surveys," a popular tool of urban planners, in which citizens are very methodically asked to choose specific urban-design elements that reflect their diffuse community values. Austin, naturally, will be the urban environment in question. Following more "Smart Growth on the Ground" breakout sessions with topics like "Density Is Not a Four-Letter Word" and "Breaking the Single-Use Mold," lunch will feature Ray Suarez, host of NPR's Talk of the Nation, previewing his upcoming book The Old Neighborhood: What We Lost in the Great Suburban Migration. The afternoon features regional roundtables; scheduled speakers at the closing session include (maybe) Vice President Al Gore, who, judging from his recent dilation on the subject at the Brookings Institution, is into Smart Growth in a very big way.

Thursday: It's Fun With Central Texas day, where the conferees (and expected local attendees like you) focus on our problems. Discussion topics include more examination of the visual preference survey, preserving quality of life, regional cooperation, our existing Smart Growth initiatives, building business-progressive-neighborhood coalitions, and overcoming structural barriers to smart growth. The "Where Do We Go From Here?" wrapup session features local luminaries, ULI president Chaffin, and maybe Gore, unless he shows up on Tuesday or Wednesday instead.

Other speakers who fit in here somewhere include planners like the by-now-familiar-to-Austinites Peter Calthorpe, creator of the New Triangle Square; John Fregonese, author of Portland's model-for-everyone-else regional plan; and Ron Young, chief planner for the State of Maryland. Business types hail from places like Bank of America, the National Associations of Realtors and of Home Builders, and the Silicon Valley Manufacturing Group (backers of that region's elaborate affordable-housing initiative). The public-interest sector contingent will include reps from the Sierra Club, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the Affordable Housing Development Corporation, the American Farmland Trust, the Center for Excellence in Sustainable Development, and the Surface Transportation Policy Project.

Want to go? Registration for the whole magilla is a healthy $265 for public/nonprofit sector folks (which would presumably include neighborhood associations), and $450 for private sector people. The Central Texas Day-only registration, though, is only $60. Registration is being handled by ULI at 800/321-5011. Deadline to avoid additional late-registration charges is Tuesday, Dec. 8.


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