All posts by Chris Moore

About Chris Moore

Chris is DTJ’s CEO and is instrumental in the vision and growth of DTJ’s national and international design practice. He specializes in concept visioning, master planning and site specific planning and landscape architecture with a unique ability to blend architecture and landscape architecture into a complete, livable environment. Chris is committed to designing quality residential, resort, and mixed-use places that are strategically positioned within the global market.

Is your Master Plan Healthy?

Is Your Master Plan Healthy?
Policies that Shape Today’s Communities

Do you wonder if food will become a metric that municipalities will use to guide future development patterns and lands uses?

It appears that 2 topics have collided to shape land use policies in metropolitan areas – access to healthy food and physical activities

Access to healthy food is being statistically evaluated and defined as food deserts.   Food deserts have been defined by the USDA as “parts of the country vapid of fresh fruit, vegetables and other healthful whole foods, usually found in impoverished areas”.  Most definitions combine proximity (how far), access (mode of transportation) and income (affordability) to determine if a food desert exists.  http://americannutritionassociation.org/newsletter/usda-defines-food-deserts

The American Planning Association (APA) has partnered with the American Public Health Association (APHA) to anchor Plan4Health, a recent initiative that supports localized partnerships including schools, park and recreation departments and universities. The purpose is to “increase access to healthy food or increase opportunities for active living where residents live, work and play”http://plan4health.us/

Public health is the underlying goal through “health in all policies (HiAP)”.  The strategy is to prioritize the topic of health through of variety of topics.  The available tool kit provides guideance for policy decisions to have a “neutral or beneficial impacts on the determinants of health”http://plan4health.us/health-in-all-policies-resources/

The initiative includes both nutrition and physical activities – the converging topics that will shape the future landscape.

Both topics have physical space and land use requirements for a community or neighborhood plan. For example, nutrition directly relates to ideas of urban agriculture, farmer’s markets and grocers that provide healthy (and affordable) food.  Physical activities are being driven for the desire to incorporate complete streets, specifically addressing safe conditions for all modes of transportation.  Other forms of physical activities from trails, sports, playgrounds and recreation facilities, have been a component to planned communities for decades.    https://smartgrowthamerica.org/program/national-complete-streets-coalition/

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The convergence of nutrition and physical activity mean that developers need to carefully consider how these ideas can be integrated into the framework of the community plan. These topics are not additive to an existing land use strategy, but are integral ideas for the next generation of healthy living. 

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Whether through a voluntary master planning strategy or forced compliance, developing an appropriate, market-driven solution for healthy living is required.

 

 

Livable Densities

Innovative urban solutions provide a strategic advantage for developers. 

Successful infill neighborhoods create an urban oasis – maximizing the value of small, prized spaces within the context of higher density environments.  These types of spaces which are suitable for urban densities can also have a positive impact within densified fringe locations. 

DTJ’s integrated approach, emerging from our international experience, allows the site design and approvals to be a strong market differentiator for your project.DTJ’s unique combination of integrated services allows the initial planning solutions for intricate and complex sites to be accepted by the market and approving agencies.  Strategic knowledge includes: 

  • Creation of an Urban Oasis – Working abroad has influenced the value and opportunities of small, unique spaces.  Examples of our Asian work demonstrate that intimate outdoor gathering spaces can substantially add to the value of an infill site.

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  • Integrated Architecture – DTJ’s planning practice has a deep understanding of how buildings relate to streets, context and one another.  Planning without architecture in an infill context is a waste of valuable resources. 
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  • Market Acceptance/Public Partnerships – Balancing public approvals with market viability is critical to the success of infill properties.  Broomfield’s previous attempts at selecting development partners for their Civic Center stalled until a viable plan was proposed – solving both public requirements and development goals. 
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  •  Crafting Livable Environments – Infill locations rely on context to be viable.  Many current locations need living environments that achieve densities above 20 units/acre.  Finding ways to incorporate cool amenities at Overture helped to make a perceptibly dense environment more livable. 

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Understanding how to differentiate an infill property is a DTJ advantage; let’s talk about how your infill neighborhood can be more livable.

Planning for the Bottom Line

 

Planning for the Bottom Line

Planning pays, it doesn’t cost.  Experienced developers understand that cost-effective infrastructure and competitive fees benefit the bottom line.  DTJ’s planning services are targeted to achieve your goals. 

We recognize that the appropriate level of capital investment is critical for all types of development. Strategic planning actually results in cost savings, by capitalizing on unrealized land value, identifying potential areas of conflict and meeting strategic project benchmarks.  These savings have a beneficial impact to both hard and soft costs. 

The investment in planning services should consider the following:   

  1. Is there a potential unrealized value for the property?
  2. How can planning help to minimize unnecessary construction costs? 

Unrealized Value – If a property is studied strategically – beyond basic lot yield – there should be additional value created that would have been left untouched in a standard design.  This additional value often exceeds the initial costs associated with strategic and knowledgeable planning services.   

  • Premium Real Estate – premiums go beyond the individual lot.  In many communities, a builder is able to achieve a 20% higher base value compared to comparable communities.  The planning services were micro-percentage of this additional value.24x36 layoutPremium Analysis
  • Market Differentiation – a position in the market should relate to how closely the community meets (or exceeds) buyer expectations.  Understanding buyer expectations provides a way to differentiate – solidifying market position and eliminating the need for lengthy approvals.McKay Landing

Areas of Conflict – Planning should also identify areas of conflict – minimizing unnecessary construction costs. 

  • Infrastructure – Understanding how to make infrastructure an amenity early in the process helps save money.  At Centerra, open space corridors were appropriately sized early in the planning process.  This eliminated the need for walls, fencing and landscape that would have been a common engineering solution. Lakes at CenterraCenterra Lake Club 12
  • Grading – Alley-loaded product doesn’t accommodate grade as easily as conventional product.  Establishing lot and block criteria helps to minimize site walls – even on a minimally-sloped site.  On more difficult sites, walls and grade transitions can be built into the solution instead of an engineering afterthought. Shea section
  • Architecture – A deep understanding of products and how they relate to the street, open space edges and site can reduce costly site improvements.  Product knowledge will help gain a strategic market advantage. Shea elevations

DTJ’s passion is to provide an appropriate level of capital investment for all types of community design. Let us show you how our approach is cost competitive.

Food and Fiction – Bringing Agriculture to the Resort

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Food sustains and inspires. It contributes to our health and well-being; it shapes our interaction with family and friends and it influences our daily lifestyle.

Food introduces us to new ideas. It changes with the seasons and opens doorways to experience new cultures. Many times, we choose our leisure activities around food. Consider your last trip away from home – either business or pleasure. Did you seek out a great restaurant, a new drink or dessert?

We are exploring the opportunities of food in a new resort located outside of Shanghai, China The concept is simple – the direct connection to food and farming has been marginalized in China; therefore we are creating a resort experience that reconnects the increasingly urbanized country to the benefits, experiences and trends associated with healthy, gourmet farming.

The purpose of this resort is rooted in the education of its visitors. Strategically, the sequence of destinations and associated experiences is carefully scripted depending on the profile of each visitor. Days are highly programmed with guided or self-guided tours, a variety of destinations and leisure activities that encourage social interaction.

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It is with this in mind, I have included three stories describing how each type of visitor might experience the resort. Consider this a day – or week – of someone’s life visiting the farm.

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Families

The Wen family is a multi-generational family that left the house early in the morning. They have been driving for over two hours and have finally arrived for an exciting day on the property. It’s their first time to the agricultural resort and they can barely wait to explore all the activities that they recently learned about from their friends. The resort is one of the few places that appeals to younger children, parents and grandparents.

As they leave their sedan behind, they casually cross the canal bridge and arrive at the interpretive center. Their senses are stimulated by the colorful produce, smell of sweet basil and the sound of trotting horses from the nearby equestrian path. Their taste buds are enticed by sweet honey at the adjacent market and hands refreshed by the cooling water of a nearby spring.

After learning about the importance of the sun’s role in agriculture, the family hops on bicycles to take a leisurely ride to the children’s adventure garden. The kids explore and interact with the larger-than-life insect sculpture garden – learning the importance of a healthy and integrated ecosystem.

On the family’s return, they stop by the market to purchase fresh produce; recently dried herbs from the fields and a local bottle of wine for their upcoming anniversary celebration. They are already planning their return visit during the upcoming harvest festival.

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Executives

In preparation for the annual corporate retreat, the marketing director knew it was important for the executive team to get their hands dirty. The idea came after a visit to the agricultural resort with her family. She saw a small group in the nearby vineyard pruning and tying the vines. She had learned that the team ate breakfast together before caring for the new Pinot grapes imported 2 years ago. The team raved about how they learned the importance of patience and discipline during their 3 day retreat.

The itinerary was full, but was also filled with activities that connected the team to each other and to the land. Each member of the team awoke with the rising sun glistening off the nearby mountain and a view of the citrus fields from their private patio. They had a fresh breakfast in the café before their first meeting in the event pavilion. The speaker was a celebrity chef, named Benjamin, who had recently opened his third farm-fresh restaurant. They were each inspired by his practical and honest approach to food.

After a full day of meetings, a tour of the winery and craft brewery and a visit to the Artisan Studio; they were ready for another adventure with Chef Benjamin. He would walk with the group through the adjacent fields to share his ideas for the dinner meal. They would learn about heritage tomatoes, fresh herbs and the new variety of lettuce that had been planted by a local group of students. The team was engaged in the menu and participated in the artistic preparation of the meal. They dined on the patio, underneath the lights and enjoyed a meal in the simplicity of the farm.

On the final day of the retreat, the team knew the importance of training and mentoring the next generation of leaders. They were corporately committed to sponsoring a group of nearby students who wanted to learn about the importance of food and business.

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Youth

The class had prepared for their return to the farm for the last 2 weeks. During their corporately sponsored trip in the spring, they were provided with several plots of land that they were responsible for designing, planting and eventually harvesting.

Their initial semester was focused on the importance of water quality, soil nutrients and proper plant selection. The scientific side of the process was seamlessly combined with an agricultural business model. The mathematicians in the class were intrigued with the calculations involving planning and distribution to the local markets and on-site resort restaurants. They would soon be able to test their predictions against the actual yield and see how the chefs were incorporating their produce selections.

They arrived at food camp early in the evening. Part of the week-long activities included stories around the campfire, rooming with friends and a variety of team-building events within the Adventure Camp. Ropes courses, zip lines and obstacle courses were intermixed throughout the forested property. They could get to the classroom by boat, foot, bike, shuttle or horseback – all modes of transportation that were popular throughout the entire resort property.

Each day brought new experiences both in the classroom and in the fields. They participated in the harvest, distribution and marketing. They were particularly excited about the new addition of cooking and hospitality classes. Each student was expected to create their own menu, learn how to prepare the food and serve it to supporting patrons. Previous graduates had moved on to pursue dreams of being scientists and business professionals with a special emphasis in food.

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Through all of these stories, food is the great unifier and this agricultural resort is the platform that contributes to the well-being of the current and future generations.

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Great Site Design (Part 2)

How Strategic Community Designers Understand the Importance of a Site Visit in the Digital Age

Early in my career in was told that “the feet remember- the backside forgets”. Translation – if I simply sit in the car and look out the window, I will only remember a fraction of what is important about a site.

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Here’s Part 2 of my Top 10 list of why a site visit is critical, especially in the digital age.

  1. Share your Findings – Even though a Client’s time is precious, I find that most Clients are passionate about seeing the opportunities. When I can articulate priorities on site, it helps to establish a common language for the entire design process.
  2. Sunshine – Never underestimate the power of shade, especially in the Sunbelt States. After being on site for several hours, I gained a good reference of how people will use the outdoor community amenities. I also realized the need for protection from the elements, especially sunshine.
  3. Listen – What will people hear in the morning, daytime and evening? I’m a firm believer that a little water can go a long way in connecting people to the place. It’s was great to hear a trickle of stream water cascading over limestone ledges in the Hill Country.
  4. Visualize the Buyer’s Journey – A potential buyer will experience several first impressions on a site. Paper design provides a potential route, views and amenities to help “sell” the community. During my walk, I made slight adjustments in the plan that maximized impact of the design’s intent and buyer journey.
  5. Be Surprised – You never know what you will find, or what finds you. My recent visit surprised me with a variety of wildlife including lizards, deer and even a wild turkey! I was reminded that strategic preservation and enhancement of open space corridors allow a shared environment between animals and residents.

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My personal design philosophy strives to pull the best solution out of the site. This is reinforced by understanding the physical conditions of the site and then combining the opportunities with a market-driven strategy for the solution. This is always improved with a successful site visit.

While the digital age allows a better starting point for a good site plan, it should never substitute how well the feet remember the site.

Great Site Design (Part 1)

How Strategic Community Designers Understand the Importance of a Site Visit in the Digital Age

 

Early in my career in was told that “the feet remember- the backside forgets”.

Translation – You will give a client the best service by getting out of the car and walking a site instead of viewing it from the windshield of a car. If I simply sit in the car and look out the window, I will only remember a fraction of what is important about a site.

I was reminded of this quip on a recent visit to a new Active Adult site in the Hill Country outside of Austin. I thought I knew the site well since I had access to aerial photography, imagery and up-to-date base information for the site. I was quickly humbled and realized that there were additional intricacies that influenced the layout – ultimately generating a better design approach.

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Here’s Part 1 of my Top 10 list for why a site visit is critical, especially in the digital age.

  1. Feel the Topography – I have a clearer understanding of how to land product and amenities on a site and how much grading is really necessary by walking a site.
  2. See the Views – Views are critical premiums for the Active Adult, Luxury and Resort buyer. Just because a house has a view on paper doesn’t mean that it’s a great view premium.
  3. Prioritize the Trees – I like trees as much as anyone else, but some trees are better than others. An aerial makes every tree look equally important, but once I have seen it in relationship to the greater context, it’s easy to make a proper judgment about the quality and effect it will provide to the overall neighborhood experience.
  4. Understand Walkability – This is critical for a steeper site. Just because there is a line on the map for a trail, it isn’t necessarily appropriate for certain residents. Make sure there is a pedestrian system that fits both site conditions and user ability.
  5. Be Open to Change – What looks good on a plan may be experienced differently on site. This can come in several scenarios, but if I’m not seeing the real environment through my eyes and feet, I may miss an opportunity.  

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While the digital age allows a better starting point for a good site plan, it should never substitute how well the feet remember the site.

 

Positioning of a City

How Park Design is a Catalyst for Branding

A park design is more than a physical plan. This is obvious to most designers, developers and municipalities. What might not be so obvious is the opportunity for the design approach can be used as a catalyst for marketing a new district.

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During a recent presentation to the review panel for a new Riverfront Park, I made the case that “the vision for the park was more than a park design. It will be the way in which the new district will market itself to prospective investors and users.” This approach gave the review panel criteria to evaluate the solution that went beyond a response to site constraints, layout, activities, character, new technologies or other recent park trends. Creating a brand for the park and adjacent district allowed the solution to proclaim a larger message.

Here’s a highlight of the message:

Tap into History

The site is located in an area that is well-known for textiles. The design team built on the idea of using textiles, patterns and thread as an inspiration. This manifested itself as the “Tapestry Along the Yangtze River”, including threads of culture, ecology and art.

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Culture

The culture of the area is represented as a thread. It is illustrated in the big idea of the park and in the details of paving, plant patterns and architectural elements. The thread unifies all the destinations within the park. Its beginning is the Thread Tower, which becomes the icon for the entire district. The tower symbolizes the past of the textile industry and the future of new technology. The Thread Tower, along with the supporting elements and activities become a clear demonstration of the brand for the new district.

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Ecology

The influences of the Yangtze River and its circuitous journey are an inspiration for the park space. It is another thread that unifies the site. It gives meaning and purpose to each zone throughout the park. Four distinct zones are highlighted including an upper plateau, canyons, lakes and delta. This gives purpose to how the existing internal waterway can be shaped and how it lends itself to the natural route of bio-filtration.

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Art

Art is the third thread. It is represented by architecture, activities, landforms and technology. As a thread that unifies the park, it is represented differently in each zone. In the plateau zone, art is more simplified and contemporary – allowing the expansive spaces and simple palettes to create drama and interest. Throughout the canyons, the art thread responds to dynamic landforms and natural elements. The lakes zone allows long and pastoral views to architecture and sculptural installations. The fourth zone is the delta – a sanctuary where the art thread is native and wild.

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The concept of threads is inspired by culture, ecology and art. These threads create the foundation of the physical design, activities and elements throughout the park. More importantly the threads invites others to be a part of a greater story. It is an important element that ultimately attracts investors, visitors and residents to this important region.

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The threads of culture, ecology and art combine to create a “Tapestry along the Yangtze”.

Apposite Approach

An Apposite Approach to Resorts

While attempting to define authentic, I came across the word “apposite”.  I believe Gateway_Canyons_Resort_201309_163it uniquely defines the emerging efforts to depict the soul of a resort.  It’s the desire of owners, operators and visitors to experience the resort in a way that is “highly pertinent and/or appropriate” to the environment and setting. 

On the Hawaiian island of Kauai, the resort community of Kukui’ula demonstrates that “there’s affection for plantation-style architecture, modestly beautiful, logical and lyrical. And there’s the element of breath underneath it all, the little thing they call aloha.”  Recognizing the subtle combination of architecture and landscape goes a long way to weaving together the built environment and activities of the specific locale.  Visitors are keen  to places that are new to the market, yet have a celebrated heritage and origin of something much deeper.

Gateway_Canyons_Resort_201309_42Gateway Canyons has done a notable job, through amenities, experiences, events and place-making to create a destination that is fitting to the environment.   Oftentimes the uniqueness of an experience is seen through simple tools – color and  texture.  “Each day of your visit begins in golden light as the sun illuminates  ourGateway_Canyons_Resort_201309_62---Copy2 towering peaks of granite and sandstone in shades of amber and ochre.”  Part  of the  visual success and attraction to the resort has been the appropriate use of related colors and textures in architecture and plantings that complement the drama of the surrounding canyon. 

In the continuous offensive of brand and style, today’s resorts must seek to be apposite, especially within the built environment.