Spaces & Places 2018 convened more than 100 participants from 17 states, DC and Toronto at the Albert and Tina Small Center for Collaborative Design in New Orleans, Louisiana on Saturday, April 21st for the second annual free event. This year’s theme— Community-Led Initiatives: Equity, Inclusion, Crisis—brought local and national leaders together to celebrate, catalyze and amplify initiatives led by and with Black and Brown communities across planning, design and activism.


The afternoon workshop began with a framing discussion moderated by Antoine Bryant (NOMA, Moody Nolan, Houston Planning Commissioner) with panelists: Germane Barnes (Opa-Locka Community Development Corporation Designer-in-Residence), Kimberly Driggins (City of Detroit Planning and Development Department), Diane Jones Allen (DesignJones) and Shin-pei Tsay (Gehl Institute).


Urban planner James Rojas kicked off the breakout discussions by leading participants a mini Place IT activity, an interactive community building tool that uses storytelling, objects, art production and play to encourage underserved communities to participate in urban planning processes. New Orleans leaders from organizations including BlightsOut, Jane Place Sustainability Initiative, Colloqate, DesignJones, and Crescent City Community Land Trust then led participants in discussion on prescient topics ranging from creating and maintaining generational wealth, to design justice, to placekeeping, to tools for residential and commercial affordability. The workshop was immediately followed by a reception to the tunes of DJ and urban planner Natty Boom.


The organizers of Spaces & Places are part of a grassroots network of urban planners, policymakers, and designers formed in 2016 to amplify work on the issues affecting communities of color that are too often not fully recognized or addressed by professional urban planning and design communities. That effort, with WXY Studio and Gehl Institute’s support, resulted in Spaces and Places of Protest: The Cost of Social Injustice in Communities of Color, a convening held in conjunction with APA’s 2017 National Planning Conference in New York. Spaces & Places 2017 featured a discussion on diversity in the urbanism fields, models for self-determination in planning and designing with communities of color, and a collaborative networking workshop to discuss the role of protest and change in America’s cities and regions. The free event attracted over 150 participants from across the United States, yielded a number of results including the formation of BlackSpace, a black urbanist collective, and the creation of a special social justice session track at APA’s 2018 National Planning Conference.



From New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward to DC’s Anacostia and the numerous black and brown communities across the United States, the legacies of racism and inequality present significant challenges to making the US great for all of its people. The injustices that these communities face are by design—from the lasting effects of racialized zoning and redlining to de facto and de jure segregation and inadequate access to transportation and public spaces for the diverse communities that have helped shape the United States. Urban policy, planning, and design all impact these contexts and have the potential to transform housing and economic development, public services and spaces, change and opportunity, quality of life and opportunity. America’s history and present show that urban policies, planning, and design too often happen to these communities, and not by and with these communities, thereby exacerbating or at least continuing the systemic social and spatial inequalities that have compromised our nation’s promise and progress.


Spaces & Places 2018 convened a growing network of urbanists in New Orleans to continue and augment our collective efforts, abilities, and agency to plan and design with our communities for improved equity and quality for our people and environments.



  • BUILD NEW FRAMEWORKS FOR EXCHANGE. Foster an inclusive environment for community dialogue and collaboration that moves away from dominant modes of extraction and builds horizontal frameworks for exchange that create new possibilities for how agendas are set and who is involved in the conversation.

  • CELEBRATE, CATALYZE AND AMPLIFY. Highlight community-led initiatives in New Orleans led by and with Black and Brown communities as the springboard for discussion that prioritize developing the content, concerns, and character that we are missing or given short shrift in the mainstream urban policy, planning, and design fields.

  • PLAN WITH, DESIGN WITH. Convene local and national leaders and practitioners from different fields (policy, planning, design, engineering and technology, arts, culture and heritage, economic and real estate development, research and education, health and social sciences, etc.) for dialogue structured around formal and informal activities that prioritize conversation over presentation and meant to validate participants’ experiences.

  • DEVELOP NETWORK FOR FOLLOW UP ACTION. Discuss how accountability is held, and momentum is maintained with follow-up action in community engagement exchanges.














 In-Kind Supporters

  • APA Housing and Community Development Division

  • APA New York Metro Diversity Committee

  • Gehl Institute




  • Aldea Coleman, Policy Advisor, North Carolina Department of Transportation

  • Amina Hassen, Urban Planner, WXY Studio & BlackSpace

  • Antoine Bryant, Project Manager, Moody Nolan & Commissioner, Houston Planning Commission

  • Carlton Eley, Senior Environmental Protection Specialist, U.S. EPA

  • Catherine Nguyen, Senior Project Manager, New York City Economic Development Corporation

  • Cristina Ungureanu, AICP, Urban Designer & Planner, WXY Studio

  • Dasjon Jordan, Masters in Urban Planning Candidate, MIT

  • Germane Barnes, Designer-In-Residence, Opa-locka CDC & Lecturer, University of Miami

  • Justin G. Moore, AICP, Executive Director, NYC Public Design Commission & BlackSpace

  • Kristen Jeffers, Urbanist & Author, Kristen Jeffers Media

  • Lynn M. Ross, AICP, Founder & Principal, Spirit for Change Consulting, LLC

  • Nicole H. Bennett, AICP, Carolinas Planning and Environment Manager, WSP USA

  • Sonja Ewing, AICP, Park Planning Supervisor, M-NCPPC, PGC Parks