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LeBleu and Parker win Alabama APA Leadership Awards

Charlene LeBleu, Associate Professor and Chair of the Master of Landscape Architecture Program in the School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape Architecture, and Grayson Parker, a graduate student in the dual degree Master of Landscape Architecture and Master of Community programs, have won leadership awards from the Alabama Chapter of the American Planning Association. LeBleu will receive the “Kenneth J. Groves Distinguished Leadership Award for a Professional Planner,” and Parker will receive the “Distinguished Leadership Award for a Planning Student.” They were presented their awards at the Alabama APA conference in October. The Alabama APA Awards program “recognizes contribution of individuals, agencies, organization, local governments, or private companies within the State of Alabama who have completed outstanding programs or projects, or have made notable contributions to the planning profession.”

The Kenneth J. Groves Distinguished Leadership Award for a Professional Planner, established in memory of the former Director of Planning and Development of the City of Montgomery, “honors an individual for his or her significant/sustained contributions to the planning profession through distinguished practice, teaching, or writing.” Nominated by her peers for this award, LeBleu is a Fellow of the American Society of Landscape Architects and a graduate of the CADC’s dual degree Master of Landscape Architecture and Community Planning program. She has been on the Auburn faculty since 2004.

The Distinguished Leadership Award for a Student recognizes an “exceptional individual for an outstanding project that shows significant attainment in the study of planning while enrolled as a full-time student.” Parker’s “Hometown Walk” project, nominated by Visiting Assistant Professor Elise Cormier, was completed for Cormier’s Spring 2015 Landscape Architecture Studio III, which collaborated with LaFayette, Alabama to develop schemes for a recreational master plan “to foster playful, healthy, and connective recreational outlet.” “Hometown Walk” is an inter-generational community greenspace that serves as a pilot project to promote community, work within local culture, and enhance sustainable city services with an economically feasible approach.

"We are very proud of the work our landscape architecture faculty and students do to make Alabama communities better places to live, work, and play,” says David Hinson, Head of the School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape Architecture. “It’s wonderful to see Charlene and Grayson recognized by the Alabama APA in this way."

Grayson Parker's Hometown Walk Presentation by StudioAPLA

Press Release Text:

Auburn, Alabama –  The Alabama Chapter of American Planning Association is proud to announce Mr. Gray Parker as the 2015 recipient of the Distinguished Leadership Award for a Planning Student.  Through its annual awards program, the Association recognizes notable contributions and achievements of professionals, elected or lay persons, the media, and state planning students throughout Alabama.  Mr. Parker is a graduate student at Auburn University’s School of Architecture, Planning, and Landscape Architecture, and anticipates graduating in May 2016 with dual master’s degrees in Community Planning and Landscape Architecture.  Through a Spring 2015 collaboration between Auburn University and the City of LaFayette, Alabama, Mr. Parker developed a city-wide recreation master plan for LaFayette.  Plan highlights include a detailed design for “Hometown Walk”, an inter-generational community greenspace that enlivens under-used land near popular eating and shopping establishments and elderly housing areas.  With a collection of active and passive experiences such as walking trails, overlooks, plazas, and stormwater gardens, “Hometown Walk” serves as a pilot project to promote community, work within local culture, and enhance sustainable city services with an economically-feasible approach.  An Alabama-native, Mr. Parker has contributed to healthy planning in his own hometown of Birmingham through internships with Operation New Birmingham, Sloss Real Estate, and South Central Alabama Development Commission.  Following graduation, Mr. Parker looks forward to continuing to work with communities on design and planning projects involving multi-disciplinary teams and public input, to positively affect the future of our cities and regions. 

About Hometown Walk – Hometown Walk tests recreation planning principles as a pilot to bring community, regional, and environmental planning into future public space projects in LaFayette, Alabama. This site application is envisioned through the lens of environmental planning, taking into consideration local natural resources, impervious surfaces, utility corridors, railroad beds, and agricultural lands. Transferrable to other projects, the approach demonstrated in Hometown Walk translates into best management practices for sustainable planning projects for LaFayette’s streetscapes, bike trails, parks, and restored creeks. Proposed enhancements to hydrological flows and non-vehicular transportation support long-term city growth and the health of residents.

The recreation plan and site design work together to offer diverse, multi-generational interaction opportunities for residents via shopping, proposed rail trail, and social restaurant locations.  The site design for Hometown Walk includes a natural area to promote whole body health; a series of spaces around a central focus; a collection of active and passive experiences to engage diverse user groups through overlooks, plazas, a system of jogging or boardwalk trails with meaningful connections, and attention to transitions between the site and surrounding land uses. Views from the existing nursing home into the proposed site are critically important for elderly residents not able to venture outside.

Importantly, the proposed site design and recreation plan work within the existing cultural vernacular of LaFayette, to maintain the familiar and functioning places within this community.  The recreation plan and stormwater park design inspire dialogue about the potential for public space in LaFayette to improve the lives of citizens and enrich social interactions in this welcoming town.

About Gray Parker, Planning Student – Gray Parker demonstrates significant potential as a future planning professional.  With a diplomatic and personable communication style, this Alabama-native interacts seamlessly with a broad variety of people.  He communicates his ideas with enthusiasm through highly-developed writing skills and engaging oral presentations.  Mr. Parker exhibits the ability to cross-reference information from a variety of sources, including class field trips, news reports, and independent readings, and to apply this new information to his planning and design studies.  While pursuing dual master’s degrees in Community Planning and Landscape Architecture, Mr. Parker maintains an open curiosity with a clear focus towards a planning career.

At Auburn University, Gray serves in leadership roles for community and professional groups:

  • Lead, Public Relations Team, Student ASLA Chapter, Auburn University (2015-16);
  • Host, International Student Buddy Program, Auburn University (2013-14);
  • Social Chair, Student Planning Association, Auburn University (2013-14).

Beyond academic requirements, Gray has deepened his understanding of the planning profession through internships and training opportunities:

  • Planning Intern, South Central Alabama Development Commission (May 2014 - 2015);
  • Intensive Economic Development Training Course, Auburn University (Summer 2014);
  • Planning/Urban Design Intern, Sloss Real Estate (August 2011 - December 2011);
  • Community Development Intern, Operation New Birmingham (December 2010 - 2011).

Gray’s Acceptance Speech:

I would like to thank Elise Cormier, Louis Davidson, and Charlene LeBleu for their input and encouragement to have students explore planning and design potentials for small towns in Alabama. Working with the City of LaFayette allowed for thoughtful discussions with citizens, classmates, and city officials to analyze, explore, draw, and learn about this vibrant town and its future recreational visions.  Thank you to Alabama APA for this award, and for your efforts to enhance the visibly of our profession in Alabama and the Southeast. This award is helpful in reminding me of the continued growth and enthusiasm about planning in our state, and I hope to be part of any progressive work environments that are actively pursuing challenging projects that believe in the endless possibilities that can be achieved with visionary designs and active public engagement.