Metroplan, the central Arkansas regional planning organization, is introducing a new "Better Communities Lecture Series" at 6:30 p.m. Monday and 8:30 a.m. Tuesday in the Jeffrey Hawkins Conference Room at 501 W. Markham St. in Little Rock.
The public will have the opportunity to hear Joe Minicozzi of Urban3 speak at either time on city planning issues, and both lectures are free to attend.
Urban3 of Asheville, North Carolina, is a consulting firm created by Asheville real estate developer Public Interest Projects. Urban3 is pioneering geo-spatial respresentation of econmic productivity, according to a news release.
Minicozzi's lecture is titled "Understanding Market Forces in Regional Development."
Metroplan Executive Director Tab Townsell said Friday morning that 111 people had already registered to attend the events. There were 10-11 spots left for the morning session and about 35 spots left for the evening session, though walk-ins are welcome.
The organization requests that those planning to attend call ahead.
He described the series as a "sidebar" to the Interstate 30 crossing discussion and said there is a need to elevate planning concepts in the region with something like this.
"Part of the reason for this is that we look at the big decision points, like the 30 crossing, and say 'There's a lot of contentions to whether we want to do this, whether we don't want to do this, and what are the long-term implications of making this decision?'" Townsell said. "But what a lot of people don't really consider is that this decision being thrust upon us is also the result of many, many smaller decisions made at various micro levels ... decisions that we haven't perhaps given the full weight of analysis to."
He also said the timing is right for this series. "It's the old saying. Strike while the iron's hot. These issues are topical; let's talk about them. Let's not talk about them when these issues have cooled or been stalled on a back burner and are out of sight, out of mind. Teach in the teaching moment."
So the goal of the series, Townsell said, is to educate, raise awarness to the importance of community planning and other related topics, and expose decision makers and influencers to a different way of thinking. Another hope is that the series will encourage cities to plan better, which would make it easier for the region to plan better, he said.
Townsell also said Metroplan is seeking sponsors for future events in the series. He would like the lectures to be "aspirational" and cover transit, downtowns, rail transportation and other topics.
Metroplan also has speakers in mind that its staff members have heard present at national and regional conferences, Townsell said.