Business for Breakfast June 13 Fort Worth Club

Business for Breakfast June 13 Fort Worth Club From left: David Stanford with Hahnfeld Hoffer Stanford; Karen Alschuler, with Perkins + Will in San Francisco; Michael Bennett from Bennett Benner Partners; and Leesa Vardeman with VLK Architects.

The Fort Worth Business Press Business for Breakfast event June 13 at the Fort Worth Club featured three local architects and one who flew in from California to talk about Architecture – Design Innovation.

Presenting sponsors were Pinnacle Bank and JTaylor. Jason Meyer of Cooksey Communications was moderator.

Panel members were David Stanford with Hahnfeld Hoffer Stanford; Karen Alschuler, with Perkins + Will in San Francisco; Michael Bennett from Bennett Benner Partners; and Leesa Vardeman with VLK Architects.

A few selected comments:

On successful cities:

Karen Alschuler: Scanning North America and the places that we've worked there may be four cities I would mention for different reasons that we could pick up some lessons and interesting things they have going on.

One would be Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. … But as it's grown and brought in new populations, new technology, a lot of the things you aim to add in Fort Worth it's been a combination, with all respect, of bright minds and big problems. It's a city that really cares about the existing population and who's there and opening up opportunity to the existing city and bringing in the new corporations.

Toronto is another amazing city that has opened its arms to international growth and said, come to Toronto … and that was one of the goals of the chamber that you recently reported.

San Francisco, where I live, we are always struggling with something, but we've been pretty successful with having technology employees and companies come. What's really interesting lessons for our era right now is that it's about people. Getting the best and brightest. …

And finally, I'd say Seattle. I'd say the most amazing thing about Seattle what needs to be done in a lot of other places is to come with the commitment to infrastructure, to build the systems and the mobility network that you need to support tremendous growth that they've had.

On involving clients:

Leesa Vardeman: We developed a strategy for VLK where we actually bring together a cross-section of stakeholders such as the students, teachers, administrators, and community members into the room to initiate our design process.

We have a gaming effort. The whole goal of the gaming effort is to get them talking to each other and to develop a common vocabulary for what they want for their communities because each community has a distinct desire to serve the students in their community. It's been very successful.

Michael Bennett: it's important when you're working in a historic neighborhood to understand the neighborhood and that involves a lot of hard work. There's not a magic bullet in that it's a matter of understanding the neighborhood, learning the history of the neighborhood. We almost become historians when we first start a project in an area like that because you want to delve into what made it that way because that's important.

David Stanford: I think it's important that we, as a city, understand that we have to create the future that we want to have, and the thing that worries me about Fort Worth, and keeping neighborhoods authentic, and that sort of thing, is that I don't think we're doing a good enough job of directing the growth that's happening to us at the moment. …

About Fort Worth:

Karen Alschuler: If you look at the numbers, we find across the country vital neighborhoods need about 20,000 people living within the square mile of the heart of the place, the center place you're trying to create. Downtown, if you take the square value, and you do the calculations for 2016, downtown has a little over 3,000 people living in. That's a long way from 20,000 people.

David Stanford: What excites me about Fort Worth is this is flat a great place to live. … I think it's going to be interesting to see what happens in the next 10, 15 years – how Fort Worth develops and gets more businesses in here and helps support all this stuff. … It's centrally located in the country. So it's easy to go visit 'em, but you always come back to Fort Worth and you're home.

Leesa Vardeman: I think there's a lot of exciting things happening that are really going to transform Fort Worth. … I love the cultural district. I think it's one of the most unique areas in the nation that draws all of our visitors. And we really need to strengthen that area locally so that folks can walk and enjoy what they're doing and have access to restaurants and amenities so that they can stay down there, too.

Michael Bennett: Since I moved here back in 2003, we've been adding about 30,000 people a year on average. If you assume 20,000 of those people drive, and if you assume a car takes a certain amount of space … that's 92 acres of cars that we're adding to our streets every single year in Tarrant County. …

And so, while transportation projects that build roads are great, there's no way we can build that many roads. … [T]oday, the guys that plan the roads are really the most powerful planners that we have in our city. And so we need to take that over. We need to direct that future and decide that we want it to be more walkable, we want it to be more like a European city.

To read a full transcript of the forum:

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