MRP Alum Awarded Planner of the Year by Northern New England APA Chapter

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Kate McCarthy. photo / Vermont Natural Resources Council

Kate McCarthy M.R.P. ’10 was named Planner of the Year by the Northern New England Chapter of the American Planning Association (NNECAPA) at its annual conference in November.

McCarthy is the Sustainable Communities Program Director of the Vermont Natural Resources Council, a non-profit environmental advocacy group in Montpelier, Vermont. In the program, her work focuses on strategies to achieve sustainable and compact community building and to provide provisional services to these communities, including transportation, housing, and employment accessibility.

In addition to this recognition by the local APA chapter, in 2018 McCarthy was featured in Vermont Business Magazine’s 40 Under 40 Rising Stars, which aims to recognize young leaders in Vermont for their professional experience and contribution to business growth in their respective communities. As an M.R.P. student, McCarthy also served as president for the Organization of Cornell Planners (OCP) student organization.

Ed LeClear: Planning in University Communities: Balancing Innovation and Preservation

a downtown street lined with shops

photo / provided

Date and location: November 22, 12:20 p.m. in Abby and Howard Milstein Auditorium, Milstein Hall

Ed LeClear (M.R.P. ’10) is the planning and community development director for the borough of State College, Pennsylvania. Prior to joining the borough, LeClear was the community development director for the Cumberland County Housing and Redevelopment Authorities and a community planner with the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development. He began his career in downtown revitalization working for the Pennsylvania Downtown Center.

A native of Northeast Ohio, LeClear received his B.A. from Miami University (Ohio), a master of science in urban studies from Cleveland State University and a master of regional planning from Cornell University. LeClear is a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners and provides service to the profession as a board member of 10,000 Friends of Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania Municipal Planning Education Institute, and the Pennsylvania Chapter of the American Planning Association, for which he serves as chair of the legislative committee.


University communities are dynamic places for planners to apply their craft across nearly every specialty in the profession. Whether it is cutting edge climate resiliency work, economic development, multimodal transportation planning, affordable housing, or critical zoning enforcement, working as a planning professional in a college town requires that you do it all. University communities are laboratories for innovation but are also often resistant to change, particularly in terms of land use. This colloquium’s discussion will focus on specific techniques and tools being used in State College (home of the Pennsylvania State University), to balance innovation and preservation, particularly in this era of a booming purpose-built student housing market. Come for an interactive discussion with a CRP alumnus working in local government for more than 15 years (with a few scars to prove it).

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CRP out in full force at the ACSP 2019 conference

People seated at round tables in an event space

photo / Kay Meyer Photography

The Department of City and Regional Planning (CRP) was well-represented at October’s annual conference for the Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning (ACSP) in Greenville, South Carolina. CRP faculty and Ph.D. students engaged in a variety of different events, ranging from paper presentations to participation in panel discussions.

“It was inspiring and gratifying to see the significant participation by Cornell at this year’s ACSP annual meeting,” said department chair Jeffrey Chusid. “Eleven members of our faculty, as well as 11 CRP Ph.D. students, delivered presentations on their research, while a number of them and other Cornellians engaged in panels and other discussions about the future of the planning field. The intellectual life of the department is thriving.”

For Ph.D. students, the experience presenting their research to a broader audience outside the department provided insight into areas of exploration for furthering their work and introducing them to other academics in the field.

“My initial approach to the ACSP conference was broad. I wanted to see a wide variety of sessions throughout the conference tracks,” Ph.D. candidate Dylan Stevenson commented. “Doing so offered me a glimpse as to how different planning ‘circles’ communicated and the ways in which planning subfields attempt to tackle the same problem.”

CRP faculty and alumni were among the recipients of faculty awards at the conference. Assistant professor Nicholas Klein was recognized as one of the Top Reviewers for the Journal of Planning Education and Research (JPER). In selecting a Top Reviewer, editors examine the quantity, quality, and timeliness of each candidate’s reviews.

Additionally, Courtney Knapp (CRP Ph.D. ’14), associate professor at Pratt Institute, received the Paul Davidoff Book Award for her publication Constructing the Dynamo of Dixie. The award recognizes an outstanding book regarding participatory planning and positive social change, opposing poverty and racism as factors in society and seeking ways to address social and place-based inequalities.

The 2020 ACSP conference will be held in Toronto, Canada.

Alum Q&A: Elyse Belarge M.R.P. ’19

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Elyse Belarge (center) at the VHB White Plains office. photo / Leslie Kahan Photography

A recent graduate from the regional planning program, Elyse Belarge M.R.P. ’19 is currently working as a planner for Vanasse Hangen Brustlin, Inc. (VHB), a multidisciplinary engineering consulting and design firm, at their White Plains, New York office. Belarge has been involved in several projects across the Hudson Valley, Westchester, and Long Island areas, including projects outside the state. Since joining the firm this past summer, projects she’s been involved with have focused on land use and community development, zoning, and environmental reviews.

While at Cornell, Belarge was involved in several different academic organizations. She served on the Board for the Organization of Cornell Planners (OCP) as social chair, where she planned and coordinated department functions including the OCP Auction fundraiser. 

Recreationally, she led several cross country skiing and day hiking classes through Cornell Outdoor Education. Within the department, she captained West Sibley FC, the planning intramural soccer team, for two years.

Belarge recently reflected on her time at Cornell and what experiences she’s been able to apply to her position as a planner in an engineering firm:

Q: What kinds of projects are you currently involved with at VHB?

Belarge: I’m currently part of a team working on a Consolidated Plan and Analysis of Impediments to Fair Housing Choice (AI) for Nassau County, New York. This includes going to committee and stakeholder meetings to hear what agencies and organizations who work in housing and related fields think the county needs to focus its efforts on over the next five years. I’m assisting with drafting reports on the Affordable Housing and High Opportunity Area (HOA) studies that will inform the AI project as well as future applications for development in the county. 

Q: What courses do you think have been relevant to the projects you’re working on now?

Belarge: Definitely Graphic Communications (I’m one of two people in my office who know the software). Professor Booth’s law class and Professor Frantz’s Environmental Impact Review class have both been closely related to the studies I’m focusing on. 

Q: Were there any other experiences at Cornell that informed your work as a planner?

Belarge: I’m a big advocate for Design Connect and getting the project management experience from that opportunity. I worked on two tactical urbanism projects through Design Connect. My first project produced a tactical placemaking handbook that would be used by residents of Tompkins County. The second was a weekend-long pop-up park called ‘Eddy Gate.’ The goal of that project was to assess the wants and needs of users in this public space by the Collegetown entrance of Cornell to inform potential future park designs for the neighborhood.




Kenneth Reardon: Making Waves Along the Mississippi: The South Memphis Revitalization Action Project (aka SoMeRAP)

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Kenneth Reardon, (Ph.D. CRP ’90)

Date and location: October 31, 4:30 p.m. in 115 West Sibley Hall

Ken Reardon is a professor and director of the M.S. in Urban Planning and Community Development program at the University of Massachusetts–Boston where he pursues research, teaching, and outreach in support of resident-led revitalization in economically distressed communities. Reardon received his B.A. in sociology from the University of Massachusetts–Amherst, master of urban planning degree from Hunter College (CUNY), and Ph.D. in city and regional planning from Cornell AAP. He has served as a tenured planning faculty member at the University of Illinois, Cornell University, the University of Memphis, and the University of Massachusetts. Social Policy Press published his newest book, Building Bridges: Community and University Partnerships in East St. Louis, in August. Reardon has received the AICP President’s Award, Dale Prize for Excellence in Urban Planning, and Lynton Award for Engaged Scholarship in recognition of his community planning efforts in underserved communities


In the fall of 2007, Reverend Kenneth Robinson, pastor of the St. Andrew’s AME Church in South Memphis, invited University of Memphis (U of M) planners to collaborate with his congregation in devising a comprehensive development plan to reverse the decline of this historic African American neighborhood. Using a highly participatory planning approach, U of M planners engaged a broad cross-section of the community in forging a plan that overcame significant municipal government opposition to successfully implement transformative child development, food security, and open space improvement projects in the community. These outcomes improved local conditions while challenging the city’s historic “top-down” approach to planning.

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Fall Field Trip 2019: Philadelphia

group of people standing across the street from a historic-looking building

Students being asked to observe and determine whether a building is historically original or a new construct. photo / Nicole Nomura

First-year students in the MRP and MA-HPP programs traveled to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for the annual Cornell University City and Regional Planning fall field trip. This year’s trip was led by Department Chair Jeffrey Chusid and Assistant Professor Nicholas Klein, who highlighted that city’s achievements and challenges in regard to planning and preservation.

Students were introduced to elements that make up a contemporary city, including infrastructure, transportation, housing, governance, economics, and urban design, as well as people and organizations that participate in the making of the city in public and private realms.

Through walking tours and panel presentations, students were exposed to ways of seeing, studying, and critiquing the city in a rigorous fashion, while learning about the perspectives, skills, and knowledge base found in CRP at Cornell.

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