Citizens do charrette cha-cha-cha

For seven days, average citizens will become developers.

Heritage Partners is hosting a “charrette,” which is French for “come tell us what you want in this neighborhood.” In this case, the future neighborhood is west of Bruce Road near East 20th Street in southeast Chico.

The planning sessions, complete with preliminary plans set out alongside drafting equipment and office supplies, will be ongoing at 240 Main St. (the old Oser’s/Sports LTD building) from Dec. 3-Dec. 9.

The project’s design team is there to listen, said Tom DiGiovanni of Heritage Partners, which joined with Florida investors the Haile Group to contract to purchase the 247.5-acre parcel. It’s commonly know as the “Enloe property” after the hospital nonprofit that owned it and obtained environmental clearances for building several years ago.

DiGiovanni is best known for the Doe Mill Neighborhood: the brightly colored, close-together houses off Bruce Road.

This land will also be designed in a “traditional neighborhood development” (TND) style, meaning a mixture of single- and multi-family residential, office, civic, retail—even living areas above little shops.

“I’ve seen a lot of charrettes in practice, and in truth there’s always an element of the plan that comes out as a result of the input of the public,” DiGiovanni said. “It almost always makes the plan better [and] brings out the really great ideas.”

“We’ve got a great team coming,” DiGiovanni said, mentioning a large cast of characters that includes trailblazers in the TND world. They range from design competition winners to street designers to the town architect for Walt Disney-built Celebration, Fla. The team leader is Leon Krier, an architect and noted expert on town planning.

Cynics call the charrette process a way to get the public to design your project for free, but it’s becoming increasingly popular in the progressive development community as a way to gather community input early on, both to try to make the design fit the neighborhood and to stave off criticism that a plan was foisted upon an area.

The planning studio will be open from 10:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. daily, with plan reviews at 5:30 p.m.