Top 50 Websites - 2003

Welcome to our 2003 list of the 50 best planning and development websites. We've listed the websites alphabetically within ten general categories. This list is based on nominations by PLANetizen readers and judged against a common set of criteria.

Welcome to our 2003 list of the 50 best planning and development websites. We've listed the websites alphabetically within ten general categories. This list is based on nominations by PLANetizen readers and judged against a common set of criteria.

Top 50 Websites 2003

Print This List
Print out a convenient printer-friendly PDF version of PLANetizen's list of Top 50 Websites. Pin it on your office bulletin board, hand it out at staff meetings, or make copies for students in your class. [PDF viewer required.]

Bookmark This Page

Don't forget to bookmark this page! For most web browsers, pressing the CONTROL and D keys together will bookmark this page.

Reprint This List In Your Publication

Contact us at [email protected] for permission to reprint this list in your print publication.

Data and Statistics

Economagic - Quickly access economic time series data useful for economic research.

Global Urban Observatory - Features a database with urban indicators, city profiles and statistics.

Out of Reach Database - Features an annually updated online database that calculates the 'housing wage' by MSA, county and state.

U.S. Census Bureau - The premier gateway to all things related to the U.S. Census, demographics and business data.

>> Back to category listing


Affordable Housing Design Advisor - A practical guide for designing and developing affordable housing.

Project for Public Spaces - Dedicated to preserving and exploring public spaces. Features an image database containing over a million photographs of public spaces. - A comprehensive database of the world's tallest buildings.

>> Back to category listing


Environmental Protection Agency - This comprehensive site gives an overview of EPA programs and news. Check out the Ozone animations for your area.

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development - A comprehensive overview of the ongoing housing, community development and economic development efforts supported by HUD.

>> Back to category listing

Industry and Professional

American Institute of Architects - The AIA is a membership organization for professional architects. The website features an "architect finder," as well as online courses.

American Planning Association - The APA is a membership organization for professional urban planners.

American Society of Landscape Architects - ASLA is the national professional association for landscape architects. The website features the association's publications and a "firm finder" to help locate landscape architects.

Congress for New Urbanism - Includes documented case studies of projects that reflect New Urbanist principles.

Cyburbia - Features a selective directory of Internet resources relevant to planning and urbanism and information on related mailing lists and newsgroups, and hosts an active bulletin board and image hosting gallery.

International Economic Development Council - The IEDC is a professional development organization for economic development practitioners.

Urban Land Institute - The ULI website is the premier membership real estate organization for developers.

>> Back to category listing


ArchNewsNow - Features architectural design profiles and a daily newswire of stories. - A national magazine on urban environments that features articles on design and planning issues, and includes a section on the latest products and design innovations.

Next American City - A new national magazine that explores the transformation of America's cities and suburbs.

Planners Network - Features an archived journal that covers a variety of urban planning related topics, including Planning Education, Living Wage and Globalization.

Smart City Radio - A weekly online radio show that discusses urban problems and solutions. Listen to archived shows online anytime. - A journal that features poetry, essays and reviews on the built and natural environment.

>> Back to category listing


Building Better Communities - Looks at community building from different approaches: planning and design, policy, funding and more.

Development Gateway - A comprehensive, international site dedicated to development of all types, which includes, AiDA, the largest online source of information on development projects worldwide.

The Enterprise Foundation - Contains information on the housing, community and economic development efforts of the Enterprise Foundation, and includes a comprehensive resource section for community developers.

Organization of World Heritage Cities - Contains information on World Heritage sites, preservation efforts and city profiles.

>> Back to category listing


Basic Resources for City and Regional Planning - One of the oldest selective bibliographic guides to basic city & regional planning reference sources from UC Berkeley, College of Environmental Design Library..

The Brookings Institution Center on Urban and Metropolitan Policy - A nonpartisan voice on critical urban policy issues that provides free, full-text online versions of all their reports.

Lincoln Institute of Land Use Policy - Includes conference updates and accessible research on land use policy.

National Transportation Library - A virtual library for the transportation community.

>> Back to category listing

Regional/Local Sites

Beyond DC - Developed and maintained by a student of urban planning, this site is a comprehensive and intimate view of D.C. and its environs.

Boston Indicators - Arranges local indicators, by topic, for the Boston area.

California Coastal Records Project - This project documents the changing California coastline with over 12,700 photographs that are easily accessible via a map interface.

Michigan Land Use Institute - Features a hybrid of environmental and community activism, and land use issues in Michigan.

Neighborhood Capital Budget Group - Contains useful information on TIFs, public school construction and other capital-related projects that affect communities in the Chicago-area.

Neighborhood Knowledge California - The NKCA site is the new national model for user-friendly mapping, data analysis and convenient access to timely, local data at the state level.

UK Planning Portal - A comprehensive database of plans and other public information, which also includes up-to-date planning news, for the U.K. and Wales.

>> Back to category listing

Special Focus - Useful resources on brownfields redevelopment and links to local and regional brownfields redevelopment efforts.

Building Technologies Program - Features information on energy efficient building types, as well as how to implement them. - Illustrates the detrimental impact of private automobiles on the built environment, with urban design examples, photographs and case studies, and offers alternative solutions.

Innovative Transportation Technologies - Features the latest in cutting edge transportation technology and design.

Local Government Commission - Features information on technical assistance in community design, economic development, transportation and other topics of interest.

Smart Communities Network - Includes an overview of sustainable development examples and definitions, and provides a portal to national sustainable development efforts. - Provides an overview of Smart Growth issues, posts the latest Smart Growth news and features a calendar of related events.

Smart Growth America - This comprehensive website, dedicated to promoting Smart Growth, features an image database, advocacy tools and a comprehensive collection of reports.

Surface Transportation Policy Project - Features a useful database of transportation data and research, by state. - Related to the Reason Public Policy Institute, the website offers a welcome perspective on market-oriented approaches to urban planning.

>> Back to category listing


Map Collections: 1500-2003 - Features historical maps of the U.S., arranged thematically.

TerraFly - An innovative online mapping tool that features aerial photographs with accompanying street labels for any place in the U.S., and enables users to "fly over" their neighborhoods.

>> Back to category listing

The 50th Site

If you have been counting, there are only 49 websites listed above. We are leaving the 50th spot vacant as a symbolic gesture to increase awareness of an important issue.

While conducting the research for this list, we discovered that the majority of planning and development websites we encountered did not meet web accessibility standards. Under Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1998, federal or federally-funded websites in the U.S. are legally required to be accessible to persons with disabilities. Even organizations not subject to federal requirements are making their websites more accessible because web accessibility provides significant benefits -- not just for persons with disabilities but for all users.

Whether it is for engaging citizens in the planning process, providing access to data, or for e-government transactions, the Web plays an important part in planning and development today. We encourage the planning and development community to improve web accessibility by adopting standards such as the Section 508 guidelines. Next year's edition of the PLANetizen Top 50 Websites will include web accessibility as a criteria for evaluation.

To learn more about web accessibilty and its benefits, see:

Special thanks to all the PLANetizen readers that sent in nominations and feedback!

News from HUD User

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

New Updates on PD&R Edge

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

"Rethinking Commuter Rail" podcast & Intercity Bus E-News

Chaddick Institute at DePaul University

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Planning for Universal Design

Learn the tools for implementing Universal Design in planning regulations.