Graduate Students Help City of Chicopee Planners ‘Talk about Aldenville’

Reaching out to the public in large ways ...
Reaching out to the public in large ways ...
and small.
and small.

A group of seven second-year graduate students is working with the City of Chicopee planning department on a pilot study of the Aldenville neighborhood aimed at developing a vison for the city’s future.

Called “Create Our Chicopee: Let’s Talk About Aldenville!” the campaign is gathering opinions from people who live, work, shop or engage in a variety of activities in Aldenville in order to inform future city-wide planning and visioning.

With a population of about 7,000, Aldenville was chosen because it represents a microcosm of Chicopee, centrally located with comparable demographics to the city as a whole. The ultimate goal is to design a larger public engagement initiative that will query all Chicopee residents on the city’s amenities and to improve overall quality of life in Chicopee.

The students in the Regional Planning Studio of Darrel Ramsey-Musolf are working with city planning director Lee M. Pouliot and assistant planner Jack S. Benjamin.

Ramsey-Musolf said he designed the studio class to be “close to real life” to better help students prepare for their careers.

This is the fourth year that the Chicopee Planning Department and the university’s graduate planning studios have collaborated on a community planning and visioning project. Earlier projects were Memorial Drive revitalization in 2014; open space and food resources plan along the Chicopee River in 2015; and networks of opportunity, a citywide pedestrian and bicycle plan in 2016.

After designing the Aldenville questionnaire, students spent time promoting it throughout the city with posters and handouts and appearing at events ranging from flea markets to a middle school craft fair.

Survey takers respond to statements about Aldenville by choosing a range of reactions from “strongly agree” to “strongly disagree.” A sample statement: The parks in Aldenville are will maintained. Topics are neighborhood appearance; housing affordability; transportation; restaurants and retail; parks, recreation and open space; schools; and Aldenville public life.

Responders are also asked to prioritize a selection of seven strengths and seven conditions that most need improvement.

They are then shown photos of 34 identified locations, including businesses, parks and churches  and asked which they consider to be in Aldenville.

Finally, responders are asked to provide demographic information about themselves, including education and economic status.

In all cases, there is space for additional comment.

The survey, which can be taken by computer, smartphone or paper, closes Nov. 10. The class will present results in February. The survey is online at www.createourchicopee.com.