16th year in 2011, DPZ Charlotte is a major leader in the practice and
direction of urban planning, involved in designing over 150 new and
existing communities in the Southeast region and North America.
DPZ Charlotte is the regional office of
internationally renowned urban planners
Duany Plater-Zyberk & Company, headquartered in Miami, Florida. DPZ
maintains another regional office in Gaithersburg, Maryland.
DPZ Charlotte's projects have received numerous awards, including a
National Smart Growth Award by the Sierra Club and a National Award for
Best of American Living Award from the National Association of
Homebuilders and Professional Builders Magazine. DPZ Charlotte is also
the recipient of the American Business Journal Green Entrepreneurial
Effort/Innovative Idea in 2008 and the National Outstanding Planning
Award called, "Making Great Communities Happen," from the American
The office is led by Tom Low, a charter member of the
Congress for the New Urbanism (CNU),
recognized by the New York Times as
"the most important collective architectural movement in the United
States in the past fifty years." The movement, currently over 4,000
strong, marked a turning point from the segregated planning and
architecture of post-war America; instead, they advocate and promote the
universal and time-tested principles of traditional planning and design
that have created the best-loved and most-enduring places throughout the
The firm's method of integrating master plans with project-specific
design codes and regulations is currently being applied to sites ranging
from 10 to 10,000 acres throughout the Southeastern region and North
A significant aspect of DPZ Charlotte's work is its innovative
initiatives; Light Imprint,
and Civic By Design; that
are integral to research and the firm's designs.
Light Imprint is a planning and development strategy that emphasizes
sustainability, pedestrian-oriented design, and environmental and
infrastructure efficiency. At the same time, the approach reduces a
community's infrastructure costs. LI implements transect-based
environmental methods that are not found in other strategies. LI is
available as a publication, Light Imprint Handbook: Integrating
Sustainability and Urbanism, and as a
Learning Cottage is an alternative to school mobile units and
factory style schools. This prototype is modeled on the great American
campus. The two-classroom Learning Cottage prototype cost falls between
the price of a typical trailer and permanent institutional construction.
The scope of the Learning Cottage includes designing campus plans,
alternative classroom plans and elevations, and plans and elevations for
gymnasiums and other administrative buildings.
Civic by Design fostered by DPZ Charlotte is the research on the early
twentieth century planning movement, specifically the work of planner
John Nolen. The techniques used by these civic planners reattach the
thread of historic continuity for current community design.
DPZ Charlotte's recent books, The Light Imprint Handbook: Integrating
Sustainability and Community Design and Civic By Design: John Nolen's
Lessons and the New Urbanism, written by Thomas Low, are textbooks that
describe both initiatives and their place and influence in new urbanism
and community design. These on-going efforts along with the depth of
experience in town making have earned DPZ Charlotte regional and
national recognition for their contributions to the American built
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Established in 1995, the Charlotte, North Carolina, office of Duany
Plater-Zyberk & Company is a major regional leader in the
practice and direction of urban planning. With over 30 projects
completed, DPZ Charlotte has designed new communities and created civic
vision plans for existing cities and towns throughout the Southeast and
in other parts of the United States.
Regional Director Thomas Low, AIA leads the DPZ Charlotte. The office opened in 1995. The office is located in
the Myers Park neighborhood, which was designed by John Nolen in the early twentieth century.
Projects completed by DPZ Charlotte range in size from infill
development covering a few city blocks to new communities covering
thousands of acres. Projects such as Cheshire in Black Mountain, North
Carolina, and Habersham near Beaufort, South Carolina, are good examples
of new towns. Even though both towns are good vacation spots, they
provide year-round residents with traditional, walkable communities.
Each project has a range of housing organized along the transect from
neighborhood edge to village center. The village centers have small
shops, restaurants, and post offices to encourage residents to gather
and meet one another. Here are some built examples:
Over the years, DPZ Charlotte's projects have received numerous awards.
In 2008, the Light Imprint Initiative received the Charlotte Region
Green Entrepreneurial Effort/Innovative Idea from the Charlotte Chapter
of the U. S. Green Building Council and the Charlotte Business
Habersham, South Carolina, received the National Award for Best of
American Lining from the National Association of Homebuilders and Professional Builders Magazine in 2005.
The Virginia Blue Ridge Chapter of AIA awarded its 2007 Honor Award for
Excellence in Urban Design to DPZ Charlotte for the City of Roanoke
Market Study (prepared in conjunction with SFCS, Inc., of Roanoke).
Following that, the Virginia Downtown Development Association gave its
Award of Excellence to the City of Roanoke, for the same Market
In 2006, the North Carolina Chapter of the American Planning Association awarded the North Carolina
Marvin Collins Award for Implementation for the community of Willow Oaks in Greensboro.
Southside, a neighborhood in Greensboro, is the winner of three awards.
They include a Sierra Club Top Ten Developments of 2005, a 2004
Environmental Protection Agency National Award for Smart Growth
Achievement, and a "Making Great Communities Happen" Outstanding
Planning Award from the American Planning Association, to City of
Greensboro, North Carolina, for implementation of the Southside Area
Development Plan in 2003.
Vermillion, located in Huntersville, North Carolina, received an Award
of Merit from the Charlotte Section of the American Institute of
Architects for Vermillion Phase I in 2001 and a Smart Growth Award by
the Sierra Club in 2000.
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In the last five years, DPZ Charlotte also launched three initiatives
that have received both national and international attention. Each
initiative has required research and study that has developed into
useful New Urbanist planning tools.
The Early Twentieth Century Neighborhood Planning Initiative seeks to
return successful early town and neighborhood planning techniques to the
development of modern towns and new neighborhoods. By focusing on the
work of American planners like John Nolen and the Olmsteds, this
initiative emphasizes the importance of providing public open space in
compact, walkable communities. One product of this ongoing initiative is
the publication of the book, Civic By Design: John Nolen's Lessons and
the New Urbanism, written by Low with Thomas Hanchett. One example of
the inspiration found in Nolen's work is the pinwheel square
incorporated into Vermillion, a DPZ Charlotte project in Huntersville,
The Light Imprint Initiative was introduced at an Open Space Workshop in
conjunction with the Congress of the New Urbanism held in Philadelphia
in 2007. Light Imprint is a New Urbanist planning approach that adds a
tool box of techniques to manage stormwater and natural drainage.
Interest generated at that workshop grew exponentially. DPZ Charlotte
began creating Light Imprint overlays for its projects in the planning
and construction stages. DPZ Charlotte assembled a team of experts, led
by Low, to publish a limited edition of the first Light Imprint Handbook in 2007. Following an intensive four-month period of international peer
review of the Handbook and the associated web site, the Light Imprint
team gathered again at DPZ Charlotte in August 2008 to edit and compile
version 1.3 of the newest Light Imprint Handbook: Integrating
Sustainability and Community Design.
The Learning Cottage Initiative grew from an informal dinner discussion
following a meeting of the Civic By Design Forum, which is chaired by
Low. Those attending the dinner were discussing the Katrina cottages
proposed as housing replacements for FEMA trailers. The question arose,
"Could a similar design replace mobile classrooms at local schools?"
Everyone agreed that mobile classrooms used to supplement classroom
space are visually unappealing, generally poorly sited, and signify
overcrowding. Ideas for a Katrina-inspired Learning Cottage were
sketched on paper napkins. The interest generated became the basis for
the School Design Workshop held on September 12, 2006. The Learning
Cottage was the subject of a Salon held at the Congress for the New
Urbanism in Philadelphia in 2007. Since then, DPZ Charlotte greatly
expanded the scope of the initiative by designing campus plans,
alternate classroom plans and elevations, and plans and elevations for
gymnasiums and administrative buildings.
The projects completed by DPZ Charlotte have not been limited to the
Carolinas. In October 2005, Low participated in the Mississippi Renewal
Forum. Along with two hundred community leaders and design
professionals, he worked to plan the rebuilding of eleven coastal
communities devastated by Hurricane Katrina. During the weeklong
charrette, Low led a team from Long Beach, Mississippi, a town severely
damaged during the storm. Other staff members from DPZ Charlotte worked
on several rebuilding efforts in New Orleans including a regional plan
for St Bernard Parish, a plan for the French Quarter, and a master plan
for Jackson Barracks.
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