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PLANNING: Habitat for Humanity - Leonard Reid, Sarasota, Florida

"When Dr. David Brain and Mr. Jerry Sparkman recommended a charrette as the most effective approach to the design of this project, I really didn’t understand the amount and quality of work that could result from a single intense week of work. Nor did I understand the potential significance of engaging the community in a charrette process. In the end, the charrette was successful far beyond our expectations.” 

Mike Jacobson, Former Executive Director, Habitat for Humanity Sarasota

The Leonard Reid project is a new mixed-income, mixed-tenure, mixed-use neighborhood on approximately 15 acres that was assembled on Leonard Reid Road by Habitat for Humanity. The site represents an extraordinary opportunity: a substantial parcel available for development within a five to ten minute walk from the North County Public Library, a community center, a possible WalMart (or other major retail development on Dr. Martin Luther King Way), a major park and recreational facility, and Emma E. Booker Elementary School, and Booker Middle School. 

The project is a partnership that involves two development partners: Goodwill Manasota GoodHomes as well as Habitat for Humanity. By combining the different approaches of these partners, the new neighborhood would accommodate an unusually wide range of incomes, from approximately 40% to 140% of the area median income. In addition, there was the opportunity to include Children First childcare facilities on site, as well as other neighborhood-oriented amenities. At the first meeting with the partners, Dr. David Brain and Jerry Sparkman proposed a charrette process, following the NCI model of dynamic planning. A collaborative process that included the stakeholders from the beginning, they argued, would be the most efficient and creative route to a good design, while helping to build community support at the same time. 

During the pre-charrette phase of the process, the team met with neighbors and neighborhood groups, potential residents, county planning staff, community leaders, and business interests. The charrette itself took place in May, 2007, in a studio set up in the Tempo News Building located adjacent to the project site. During the course of a week, the team held general public meetings, daily lunchtime meetings with interested members of the public, a mid-charrette pin-up, focused meetings with neighbors and specific stakeholders, and technical meetings to enlist the assistance of representatives from SCAT, county zoning officials, Newtown redevelopment specialists, experts on green building and sustainable development, staff from the county library, affordable housing builders, and real estate professionals.