Award Spotlight: Planning lab awarded state grant for disaster mitigation

The Department of Urban and Regional Planning (DURP) has received an award of $348,898 through the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity’s Rebuild Florida General Planning Support Program.

Governor Ron DeSantis announced January 8 that nearly $20 million has been awarded to 37 counties, municipalities, educational institutions and nonprofit organizations through the program, which provides funding to develop or enhance state, regional and local plans to enable Florida to withstand future disasters.

The funds are allocated through a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s mitigation program formed in response to the 2016-2017 presidentially declared disasters.

The funds were applied for by the Mark & Marianne Barnebey Planning and Development Lab within DURP, which provides technical assistance and capacity to regional communities and institutions through studio and research projects for real-world clients. These projects provide DURP’s graduate students with a clinical, place-based learning experience.

The Lab is the lead organization in the program, but the application process and the resulting work are a team effort involving faculty from the Department of Geography and the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering in the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering. The Florida Counties Foundation is also a team member on the project. 

The partnership team proposed a project that aligned with several of the grant’s listed eligibility categories, including modernization and resiliency planning and the integration of mitigation plans with other planning initiatives.  

The purpose of the project, to take place over two years, is to develop a more efficient, streamlined and coordinated hazard planning process at the state, regional, county and municipal level. The project is focused on understanding and prioritizing the needs of socially vulnerable populations and assessing and ensuring the stability of post-disaster housing opportunities.  

Proposed outcomes also include improved use of existing resources, increased intergovernmental coordination and increased use of consistent and reliable assessment tools.

Where possible, student teams will be employed to support the project goals, ensuring that the next generation of planners and engineers are actively engaged in resilience work as part of their practical training.  

In addition, the Florida Counties Foundation will help develop and deploy training materials, ensuring the needs of Florida planners are adequately met through the project deliverables. 

With its history of award-winning student projects and services for communities throughout the state, the Lab was perfectly placed to fulfill the grant requirements. 

“The project is designed to put best practices in the hands of frontline planners and public administrators working to keep our state safe from natural disasters, both now and over the long term,” said Dennis Smith, DURP planner in residence and director of the Barnebey Lab. “Improving the process by which all types of hazard plans are developed, including the needs of our most vulnerable populations, will improve public safety, resource management and social equity for a more resilient Florida.” 

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