Monday, February 7, 2022

Announcing My New Professional Adventure

Well, it’s a wrap! After 7.5 years with the City of Fresno and 23 years in local government, I have left my position as Assistant Director of Economic Development/Downtown Czar with the City of Fresno. On January 4 I entered Fresno City Hall as a public servant, and I left that evening as a private citizen. It felt scary and thrilling and weird.

I worked with a lot of good people and we did some really great things along the way. It was hard at times, grueling and frustrating occasionally, but also a lot of fun. It is really gratifying to see a place come to life when you have helped to make it happen.

Sure, there were some challenging folks, but I have worked with some great planners, engineers, elected officials, developers, and community advocates. They pushed me and made me better. They made me see parts of the picture that I was missing. Thanks to you all.

After many years away, coming back in 2014 to work in my hometown was a thrill. We did a lot of good for this place. Fresno is full of good people and potential, but it is the ultimate underdog. There is still a lot to do, but the good work will continue—my city is in good hands.

Even though I am a little sad to leave this phase of my career, I’m also really excited for what is coming next. 

For years I have dreamed about starting my own consulting business, and I have finally done it! The time just seemed right. So, it is with great joy that I introduce you all to ZACK URBAN SOLUTIONS.

As a consultant, I want to help folks create places that people LOVE. I’m going to offer a variety of urban planning services to municipalities and developers who want to create walkable, fun, and equitable places. My goal is to help clients develop a vision and make it a reality. Planning is awesome, but implementation of the plan is the key to making great urbanism, and implementation is my specialty. 

I’m a dreamer, but I’m also pragmatic. I want to help clients create a vision that is bold and innovative and which can actually be built. I worked in local government for over 23 years—I know what it takes to create plans that won't look beautiful and then just sit on a shelf; I want to create programs for my clients that are actionable and that work. 

I will draw on my experience to ensure that my client’s projects—whether they consist of a development plan for a single building, a specific plan to guide the revitalization of a whole neighborhood, or a master plan for an entirely new town—contribute to the creation of sustainable, vibrant, prosperous, and fair communities that bring joy to EVERYONE who lives, works, and plays there.

For smaller projects I will work alone, and for bigger projects I am really excited to partner with some of the great firms that are working in this space. I know a lot of amazing consultants, both former colleagues in local government and fellow members of the Congress for the New Urbanism, and I can’t wait to team up with them.

So who will be my clients and what services will I offer them? Well, want to work with both municipal governments and developers to create beautiful public spaces, abundant housing of every type, productive workplaces, convenient shopping, and exciting entertainment venues. 

For municipal governments, I think my experience in that sector can be useful for a lot of projects; I know what is like to live with a plan and implement it day in and day out. I can help cities create many different planning documents, including revitalization plans for downtowns, commercial corridors, and neighborhoods; parking management plans; general plans, comprehensive plans, precise plans, specific plans, and other long-range plans; form-based codes and zoning updates; transit-oriented development (TOD) plans; conceptual urban design and site plans; development attraction strategies; walkability plans and walking audits; tactical urbanism plans; historic preservation strategies; and economic development strategies.

For developers, I think I can offer a lot of help for certain kinds  projects. Developers get a bad rap, and sometimes that is not unwarranted, but we need good developers to build the housing, workplaces, and entertainment that our city plans envision, and some developers care about delivering attractive, sustainable, and equitable infill projects for their communities. I want to help that kind of developer make their idea come to life. I can help them deal with the unique challenges that come with infill development, envision the possibilities for unusual sites, and navigate mixed-use zoning codes, form-based codes, and entitlement processes. 

I believe that well-designed cities can improve our lives in dramatic ways. Good city planning can make it easy to drive shorter distances, or make some trips on foot or by bike, resulting in fewer miles driven per person, which reduces local air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions and also results in fewer traffic deaths and injuries; it can make cities more economically robust, bringing more customers within easier access of businesses and yielding higher tax revenues per acre for local governments; it can enable a stronger sense of community by facilitating positive interactions between neighbors; it can promote healthy lifestyles with increased physical activity; it can enable cities to grow while consuming less farmland and wildlife habitat; it can promote safety by creating well-defined public spaces and activating them with pedestrians and other “eyes on the street;” and it can facilitate social equity by providing abundant housing for all needs and desires, by improving access to economic opportunities, and by providing the option to shed the high cost of car ownership from those who cannot (or would rather not) bear the cost. I think as a consultant I can help cities and developers accomplish these things, and I am excited to get to get started! If you think I can be of assistance and you want to collaborate, please reach out.

The company website goes into all of this in greater detail, if you're interested: 

If you think I can be of assistance or if you want to collaborate, please reach out! 

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