The Future of Municipal Planning: Is John Nolen Rolling Over in his Grave?

Are today's city planners fulfilling the promise of John Nolen? Howard Blackson explores a profession losing its influence, and ponders how to get it back.

1 minute read

April 9, 2013, 8:00 AM PDT

By Hazel Borys


"This is not the planning profession John Nolen built. A century later, our great recession has sparked a full re-evaluation of what a city’s urban planning department should be ‘doing’ for its citizens. The planning profession is being measured by its eternal conundrum between Forward Planning Departments that plan for future development projects and Current Planning Services that process today’s development applications."

"And, it appears that a few radical devolutions are taking place."

Blackson goes on to examine the role of planners as the rightful generators of:

  • Return on investment analysis
  • Research data on city making in the information age
  • Articulated future vision generated by public consensus in real graphic terms
  • Public investment guidance as well as private development regulation
  • Place-based, human-scaled, neighborhood-centric visioning, coding and implementation tools

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