[from The Core Project blog]

AIA Sustainable Design Assistance Team (SDAT) plans initial visit February 28 

Organizers of The Core Project (www.the-core-project.org) announce that its application, entitled “SebastopolConnect,” has garnered a Sustainable Design Assessment Team (SDAT) grant from the American Institute of Architects. The AIA will contribute $15,000 to cover expenses and an estimated $250,000 to $300,000 in donated consulting time to help define a vision for Sebastopol’s Downtown Core and to create an achievable plan to implement that vision.Previous community forums in Sebastopol have yielded a wealth of information that will help jump-start the SDAT process. The Core Project compiled much of this input and included it in the application, which can be viewed here.Sebastopol, which is preparing to update the city’s General Plan, is one of only six communities nationwide to earn the prestigious grant.Says Core Project SDAT Steering Committee Chairman and local architect Paul Fritz,  “Downtown Sebastopol has a great deal of potential that has yet to be realized.  Recent development project proposals have shown us that the community is actively engaged in and concerned about the future of our town, yet we cannot always agree on solutions.  It is our hope that an inclusive, consensus-building approach like the SDAT will help mitigate current urban design problems and provide clear guidelines for future development.”On its reasons for selecting Sebastopol, the AIA’s Erin A. Simmons, Director, Center for Communities by Design notes, “The Sebastopol SDAT application made it clear that Sebastopol has a great opportunity to bridge the divisions in the community and bring people together on common ground in planning for their future at a critical juncture. The AIA is very excited to help the community develop that common vision.”

An advance team consisting of the SDAT project leader assigned to the Sebastopol program and two representatives from the national office of the AIA in Washington D.C. will visit Sebastopol at the end of February.

The group will then assemble a multidisciplinary team of up to five experts from across the US best able to address the issues identified in the preliminary findings.  The complete team will return later in the year to conduct intensive community forums and to prepare a final report. Before the experts leave, they will recommend immediate steps that can be taken to move the plan forward.  They will also provide follow-up guidance in the months after their final visit.

Sebastopol Mayor Michael Kyes lauded the The Core Project’s efforts and the timeliness of the program:  “I’m pleased that a group of citizen volunteers has taken the initiative to secure this grant for our community. The expertise of the AIA team will work well with our efforts to continue to move our community together in a sustainable manner that complements our unique qualities. The timing for this project couldn’t be better with an update of the city’s General Plan currently underway.”

The Core Project will invite the community to participate in the public forums and will announce the schedule in local print media and social media outlets including itswebsite and Facebook page as more details become available.  The organization must raise a minimum of $5,000 in cash and in-kind donations to help defray expenses above and beyond the AIA’s contribution during the team’s two visits.*  Anyone wishing to donate cash, goods, or services may email The Core Project at info@the-core-project.org for more information.

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ABOUT THE SDAT PROGRAM:  The SDAT program is a community assistance program that focuses on the principles of sustainability. SDATs bring teams of volunteer professionals (such as architects, urban designers, landscape architects, planners, hydrologists, economists, attorneys, and others) to work with community decision-makers and stakeholders to help them develop a vision and framework for a sustainable future.

The SDAT program is based on the AIA’s goal of helping communities create a sustainable relationship between humans, the natural environment, and place. By achieving balance between cultural, environmental, and economic systems, communities can sustain a place as a stage for human settlement. Find out more about the SDAT Program here.

ABOUT THE CORE PROJECT:  The Core Project (www.the-core-project.org) is a group of citizen volunteers whose goal is to explore how the physical presence of Sebastopol can become a more economically thriving and aesthetically vibrant place, reflecting the natural beauty of the region and the character of the community. In 2011 and 2012, the group hosted an international design competition that generated ideas from local and international entrants to vitalize Sebastopol’s Downtown Core. The overwhelming interest in and enthusiasm for the design competition demonstrated by the Sebastopol community provided the impetus for the group to undertake the SDAT grant application.Like The Core Project on Facebook or join the mailing list to stay informed and to learn how to be part of the SDAT process.

The Core Project SebastopolConnect SDAT Steering Committee:
Paul Fritz, Chairman
Lars Langberg
Amy Bush
Cary Bush
Mitch Conner
Lynn Deedler
Tina Grob
Sarah Gurney
Holly Hansen
Charles Marr
Janet Rodina
Eric Spillman

*To make a cash contribution supporting the SebastopolConnect SDAT program, make your check payable to The Core Project.  Note SDAT in the memo line, and mail to:
The Core Project
c/o 108 Art + Design
108 Petaluma Ave.
Sebastopol, CA 95472
The Core Project is NOT a 501(c)(3) organization.