It takes a lot to get any commercial or mixed-use project off the ground. Not only do you need buy-in from all relevant stakeholders, you also need the support of the community that’ll use and interact with the finished project. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing!
Community engagement is actually a benefit for any project. It increases transparency and provides a better understanding of the community’s needs and aspirations, to empower better decision-making at the forefront of development. Developers can (and should) encourage community engagement through comprehensive Community Participation Plans (CPP)—also known as Public Participation Plans.
Here’s what you need to know about CPPs and how to implement one as part of a project.
What’s the purpose of a CPP?
A CPP is an indispensable part of the land development process. It’s central in creating accountability, as well as building trust and confidence with the community and all relevant stakeholders. Land developers rely on CPPs to provide transparency and accountability on projects.
Sometimes, even the simplest of projects can be the most controversial and challenging, especially when you’re working in or near established neighborhoods. Over the years, developers have found that a one-size-fits all approach doesn’t work when it comes to community engagement, that’s why they create comprehensive, personalized CPPs to address the unique needs of the communities where developments have been proposed.
Identifying community stakeholders
Before creating a CPP, developers need to identify all stakeholders in the community. By creating an inclusive approach—one that includes children, elderly, disabled, traditionally non-represented groups and even those who speak English as a second language—land developers can ensure that diverse voices have a say in the projects that impact them.
When the time comes to engage the community about an upcoming development, all stakeholders should feel included and enjoy an equal opportunity to have their voice heard as it relates to the impact of that development.
How to engage the community
When it comes to executing on a CPP, developers can engage the community in a variety of appropriate, inclusive and constructive ways. By working with clients to develop public engagement strategies, land developers can inform communities about the goals of a project and process requirements—all while discussing aspects of potential community concern or interest.
CPPs often include several strategies for engaging the community. Some of the most effective ways land developers can solicit feedback from communities include:
- Public meetings. A public meeting is a great way to get valuable feedback from a large portion of the community, giving interested individuals a chance to have their say. Meetings can take various forms, from small group discussions to formal presentations with question-and-answer sessions.
- Forums. Developers can host forums to exchange ideas and views on a potential project. Hold forums online or in person to create an open dialogue among community members, community officials and all other stakeholders.
- Workshops. Hosting an afternoon or weekend workshop is a great way for developers to foster a connection with the communities they serve. Workshops can go very in-depth on topics, and developers can include a variety of activities including visits to proposed sites; meetings with designers and builders and more.
- Open houses. An informal open house is a great way to let the community view displays and interact with developers and designers. Developers can host an evening open house that allows busy people to attend at a time that suits their schedule.
- Surveys. Surveys can be an excellent tool for gathering important data and feedback community members have regarding a given project. Developers can even consider implementing anonymous surveys to collect the most candid, honest comments.
- Roundtables. A roundtable is a great way to share ideas among small groups—ideally of 12 or fewer attendees. Roundtables allow each group member to participate and share equally.
- Panels. A panel discussion involves two or more panelists who are experts in the topic, like the client, land developer or other key stakeholder. A panel moderator often drives conversations by asking thought-provoking questions. A panel is a great option if you’re explaining a complicated, in-depth project.
Community engagement is critical
It’s all too common for communities to feel some apprehension about a proposed development. These anxieties can range from fears about added density to new zoning changes, aesthetic appeal and other concerns.
Development teams must engage people who already live or work in the proposed area of development very early in the process—ideally even before formal plans are presented. By gathering feedback early, developers can incorporate community benefits into every project. Whether that means repositioning retail space to accommodate a new grocery store or include different levels of housing affordability into a mixed-use project, developers and clients should engage with communities to make community-driven decisions that lead to a successful project.
Trust in your developer to facilitate the CPP
Any development has an impact on the community it’s built in. Partnering with a developer that’s experienced in creating and facilitating CPPs—and acting on the engagement and ideas they result in—can lay the groundwork for a development that provides meaningful benefits for entire communities.