The State College Borough is updating neighborhood plans with the help of two Penn State classes, Borough of State College Planning Department’s Meagan Tuttle said.
The Neighborhood Planning process started last year, Tuttle said, and will continue through 2013. The new plans will deal not only with roads and housing, but will also expand to deal with the environment and neighbor-to-neighbor relations, Tuttle said.
A Community, Environment, and Development class, CED 475, is developing and piloting a community asset map surveying tool to help the borough with the planning process, Tuttle said.
The class is a capstone course for the CED major and is partnering with the borough’s Planning Department to pilot a survey tool that the borough will use in the fall, Professor of Community, Environment and Development Clare Hinrichs said.
Community asset mapping is a tool to understand the strengths of people living in the community — such as music, gardening or foreign language — and improve neighbor-to-neighbor relations by connecting them based on their skills, Tuttle said.
Rather than focusing attention on problems in the community, the idea of community assets looks at resources on an individual level and informal organizations that can be mobilized for collective problem solving, Hinrichs said.
The class will be using different methods to deliver the survey in order to assess which receives the best response, Tuttle said.
Hinrichs found it interesting that since many students have lived mostly on-campus, they don’t know a lot about the issues and demographics of the borough’s neighborhoods.
“I think for our major this is a fabulous opportunity,” Hinrichs said. “It’s hands-on, practical experience and ours is a major where people are expecting to do community-based works.”
Another class that is part of the inter-college Sustainable Leadership minor will be conducting walkability audits to help the borough in Neighborhood Planning, Tuttle said.
This class, called Foundations of Leadership and Sustainability, or SUST 200, is the first in the newly approved Sustainability Leadership minor, Associate Director of the Center for Sustainability Susannah Barsom said.
The foundations course emphasizes both sustainability and leadership competencies that students should have upon completing the minor, Barsom said.
The borough developed the walkability audits to survey neighborhood sidewalks and bikeways and to assess the safety and quality of the walking experience, Tuttle said.
Students in the class will be completing walkability audits in the Highlands and College Heights neighborhoods of State College and will be asking residents of those neighborhoods to complete their own walkability audits, Barsom said.
“I think it has the potential to increase understanding between permanent borough residents and students,” Barsom said. “It gives students the opportunity to be more invested in the borough.”
The information these classes give the borough will be useful in informing the Neighborhood Plans and in implementing these tools on a broader basis in the fall, Tuttle said.