Member Spotlight: Lauren Wirtis
Introducing Lauren Wirtis!
Lauren is a recent addition to the IAP2 USA community, becoming a member in January of 2017! We are also excited to announce that Lauren is our 2017 Intern. Welcome to the IAP2 USA community!
Lauren became a planner because she is passionate about P2. She is interested in what people think about the places they live, what changes they would like to see, and how to get more people involved in their communities.
Lauren recalled a time she took part in a series of open houses that were engaging the community around ways to reutilize a 35-acre waterfront property. During one meeting, community members had the opportunity to talk to Lauren about ideas they thought had been left out of the redevelopment options. Some of these ideas were included in the presentation at the next meeting. People were excited to see their ideas up on the screen. One woman in particular approached Lauren saying, “That was my idea! That’s the thing we talked about!” She showed up to every meeting for the rest of the project.
At the end of the day, “it’s that moment where people feel like they are making a decision about their own lives. A shift in their perception of their own abilities.”
Lauren is a Planner at Maul Foster & Alongi, an environmental consulting firm helping communities with brownfield remediation and redevelopment in the Pacific Northwest. Like many areas across the U.S., former mills and industrial development sites in the Pacific Northwest were tied to rivers and waterways. Now shut down, these sites create unique challenges to sustainability and economic development in local communities. As a planner, Lauren helps these communities figure out how to investigate these sites for contamination and develop short- and long-range plans for remediation that include the community vision and lay out the ordinances the communities can adopt to inform future development. “Participation in decision-making should be accessible, honest, and truly impact the outcome.”
“As a planner in community development, I see my role as the facilitator and interpreter,
translating between the world of public policy and the experiences of everyday life.”
In Lauren’s experience, the biggest barriers to quality P2 are funding and time. Being efficient without sacrificing the end product is a tenuous balance. “I don’t bill for a minute more than necessary. Funding is hard to come by. Design standards are high, and we work hard to meet those standards without losing anyone in the process.” The amount of time and funding it takes to reach a truly representative group of a local community is, unfortunately, not always feasible. This can leave people feeling like they weren’t fully engaged or listened to, and being able to amplify the voice of those who have historically been silent is empowering to the community, and rewarding to those facilitating the conversation.