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Arlington benefits from Urban Design Center

February 8, 2011

The City of Arlington is experiencing a significant amount of development activity, primarily due to the opening of the new Cowboys Stadium, the success of the Texas Rangers, the expansion of the University of Texas at Arlington, and the selection of Arlington as the site for Super Bowl 2011.  In order to capitalize on this surge of reinvestment, the City’s Community Development and Planning Department collaborated with the University of Texas at Arlington (UTA) School of Urban and Public Affairs to create a unique planning studio staffed with six graduate students studying architecture, landscaping, and urban planning.  This joint effort, called the Arlington Urban Design Center, creates public awareness about the importance of sustainable urban design and its impact on quality of life, the environment, and economic investment; and provides high-quality urban design solutions at no cost to its clients. 

During its first year, the Center completed approximately 30 projects. The City’s and University’s financial commitment, along with $46,500 in grant funding and private donations, allows staff to provide services free of charge.  The ability of the students to use their personal and school equipment and software significantly reduces the amount of investment needed for the program and allows the Center to function with very low overhead.  In addition, Center staff educates users about sustainable development techniques such as solar energy, porous paving, rain harvesting, and energy efficient building materials.  

The program is distinctive in that it provides clients with direct access to professional design staff and guidance on development proposals, creating a range of mutually beneficial outcomes:  

  • Students benefit extensively from real project experience.
  • New students are attracted to UTA because of the unique, hands-on opportunity to be part of a successful Design Center.
  • City departments are able to utilize students’ skill sets for public projects and studies, and
  •  Businesses, neighborhoods, and residents benefit from the availability of free professional services. 

The Arlington Urban Design Center provides a model to follow for creative collaboration with local partners, and has become a strong advocate for how the planning process shapes the physical, social and economic environment of Arlington.