People Matter: Dale Stewart
Two weeks ago, employees from LandDesign’s Charlotte office built a learning garden for Idlewild Elementary School, designed as part of a firm-wide partnership with REAL School Gardens. The organization is a labor of love for LandDesign Partner Dale Stewart who is creating a lasting and positive impact on two of the most compelling issues that […]
Two weeks ago, employees from LandDesign’s Charlotte office built a learning garden for Idlewild Elementary School, designed as part of a firm-wide partnership with REAL School Gardens. The organization is a labor of love for LandDesign Partner Dale Stewart who is creating a lasting and positive impact on two of the most compelling issues that matter today: education and the environment.
I think the kids are our future.
Even before Dale was a father of four with two grandkids and more on the way, environmental stewardship projects that benefit children have long held a special place in his life. “I think the kids are our future.”
It all began 30 years ago with a competition by the YMCA of Greater Charlotte to create a new wilderness camping experience for its summer program. LandDesign won the competition, in part by deftly determining the location of the undisclosed 2,000-acre site. “I think they were impressed, in part, by our sleuthing skills.”
The new camp, which now serves 300 kids a week, typifies Dale’s passion and LandDesign’s mission. “This is one of the places we’ve helped create that truly matters; to our community and to the kids who go there and the memories they create for a lifetime.”
Land Stewardship Matters.
Early in his career as a civil engineer, Dale developed an attitude of servant leadership, focusing his community involvements on advancing environmental stewardship, from member of the first board of directors for the Catawba Lands Conservancy to the board of the Conservation Trust of North Carolina. Later, he was involved in the creation of the Catawba River District (CRD) that sought out and enticed developers to create sustainable projects. “Our goal was to spur land development that was more respectful of the natural environment.”
When the recession hit, the CRD organization pivoted from development to environmental education, transforming to the Green Teacher Network. Working with Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, they created learning gardens and orchestrated teacher workshops. “The idea was to engage kids in an experiential education that got them out of the classroom and gave them exposure to how food actually grows, and to inspire teachers to use the gardens.”
In July 2016, the organization merged with Washington, D.C.-based REAL School Gardens, a nationally-recognized nonprofit that creates learning gardens at low-income elementary schools and provides teachers with the resources to incorporate the outdoor classroom into their overall curriculum to improve academic achievement and lift up poor performing schools. Dale is now on the national board of REAL School Gardens and serves as board chair for the Carolinas Region.
Community Service Matters.
At about the same time, LandDesign began offering a new benefit of one paid day off a year for employees to give back to the community and, as a firm, chose to partner with REAL School Gardens to deploy all of its assets, from design expertise to sweat equity.
At LandDesign, we apply our skills and knowledge in service to both our clients and the community to create places that matter.
The firm’s skill-based pro bono support includes designing the outdoor garden classrooms and working closely with REAL School Gardens’ design/build team, to providing office assistance, event support and social media development.
Last month, employees from the Charlotte office joined other volunteers for a day-long “Big Dig” at Idlewild Elementary, a high-poverty, high achieving neighborhood school of 1,100 students that was recently named the best magnet school in the nation. The outdoor garden they built will help Idlewild students for years to come learn how to grow vegetables and eat nutritionally while supporting the school’s STEM and language arts curriculums.
Dale views LandDesign’s partnership with REAL School Gardens as a legacy project for the firm. “At LandDesign, we apply our skills and knowledge in service to both our clients and the community to create places that matter. That means not just turning dirt and building the next project, but creating successful schools that improve the quality of life for an entire community.”
Long term relationships and mentoring staff matter.
Beyond his social good, Dale is a soft-spoken, yet powerful, force for creating relationships and people that matter for LandDesign.
Your sense of satisfaction in your career is going to be greatly enhanced if you become engaged in your industry and community.
“One of the things I’m pretty proud of in my career, and encourage our staff to aspire to, is cultivating long-term client relationships.” He points to his association with the Harris family and Crescent Resources that, over 30 years, has produced projects such as Ballantyne and Phillips Place, a groundbreaking project in the mid 1990s that was among the first true mixed-use developments. Currently, his work with Crescent Resources and Lincoln Harris includes a 1,400-acre regional development involving one of the last greenfield sites in Charlotte-Mecklenburg County.
Dale shares the wisdom he’s gained from his 40-plus year career to help others at the firm mature in theirs. “You can make a perfectly good living by sitting in your office all day and turning out plans. But, your sense of satisfaction in your career is going to be greatly enhanced if you become engaged in your industry and your community. Not only will you be making the community a better place, but you’ll meet and forge relationships with a lot more people you may never have met otherwise.”
New Intern Class Kicks Off Their First Week with a Design Charrette
By: Emma Davis, Marketing Intern New people, new office, new project, and for some, a new city. This is what our newest class of interns took on as they started their first week at the Charlotte office. After some introductions, a tour of the office, and a trip around surrounding Charlotte neighborhoods, the […]
By: Emma Davis, Marketing Intern
New people, new office, new project, and for some, a new city. This is what our newest class of interns took on as they started their first week at the Charlotte office.
After some introductions, a tour of the office, and a trip around surrounding Charlotte neighborhoods, the interns went right to work on a current project in the Design District of South End. The intern class was split into two teams, each composed of seven individuals of varying fields. From civil engineers and landscape architects to urban planners and marketing majors, the interns had to bring their skills together to create a final product.
Within a three day span, the interns were responsible for creating an identity for the site, analyzing the site inventory and surrounding area, and generating detailed plans for the project’s design. Each day of work was followed by a critique provided by the charrette managers and other staff members. The experienced designers gave the interns insight to the strengths and weaknesses of both the project design and presentation. From the given advice, the interns were able to focus on what they needed to accomplish in order to improve upon their initial design concept.
Thursday arrived, and the teams hurried to complete all tasks in order to give the client and designers throughout the office a clear presentation of their unique plans for the project. Site maps, vignettes, precedent photos, objective outlines, and master plans covered the walls as the interns prepared for their presentations.
The interns were eager to show off their designs and compilations. This project would be their first chance to showcase their skills to the LandDesign staff. How did they do? Jeff Mis, a charrette leader, commended the group, “These interns were fantastic to work with, and the civil and landscape designers worked extremely well together. It is a strong group we have!” The interns not only proved their ability to create exceptional products, but also their ability to work with others of a variety of disciplines.
While the charrette could have been viewed as an intimidating task, both teams demonstrated that they were up for the challenge and ready for a summer of interdisciplinary work experience with LandDesign.
To see the final charrette presentation, check out our Facebook Live post.
People Matter: Bike to Work Spotlight
Alison participates in National Bike to Work Day each year with co-workers in what she describes as “a bike gang of landscape architects rolling deep through the streets of Alexandria.” Bike-friendly places matter. Bike To Work Day is part of a national movement to make America bike friendly. What does that mean? It means […]
Alison participates in National Bike to Work Day each year with co-workers in what she describes as “a bike gang of landscape architects rolling deep through the streets of Alexandria.”
Bike-friendly places matter.
Bike To Work Day is part of a national movement to make America bike friendly. What does that mean? It means a strong bike culture that welcomes and celebrates bicycling along with creating safe and convenient places to ride and park. In honor of the occasion, meet two members of LandDesign who are local trailblazers for the bike-friendly movement and help carry the torch for our firm’s bike culture.
- Alison Peckett is a landscape designer in the firm’s Washington, D.C. office. A positive attitude matters. Being socially and environmentally conscious matters.
- Matthew Weschler is a civil engineer designer in our Charlotte office. Travel and adventure matter. Complete neighborhoods matter. Freedom of expression matters.
What sparked your passion for bicycling?
For Alison, it certainly was not the repetitive bike rides around her suburban neighborhood cul-de-sac as a child! As an urban designer and environmentalist though, she’s studied the influence that innovative transportation planning can have on cities and the important role bikes play in community design. “I’m fortunate to live and work in Washington, D.C.; a city that promotes a bike-friendly lifestyle.”
Conversely, Matt grew up in a neighborhood on top of a really tall hill. “One of his favorite activities was riding to the top of my neighbor’s driveway and racing my friends to the bottom of our street. I still feel that thrill when I’m coasting down hills in Charlotte.”
What type of bike do you own?
Matt owns a Kona Dew Deluxe, a lightweight nine-gear hybrid bike with hydraulic brakes that he describes as “a nice commuter bike.”
Nothing so fancy for Alison who owns an old vintage red Schwinn road bike that is her main source of transportation. “A wise bike mechanic once told me the key to a good city bike is finding something that is dingy enough that no one wants to steal it, but also decent enough that you can use it to zip around town. Once you achieve this equilibrium, you’re golden.”
Alison also has a bike share membership (a short-term bicycle rental program). “Most mornings, I walk to a bike share, bike share to the metro station, then take the metro to work. It seems kind of nutty to most people, but it is this seamless synergy of all these modes of transportation that makes living in the city so fun.”
What is your most memorable/interesting bicycling trip?
For Alison, it was a bucket-list solo bike trip through Berlin, Amsterdam and the tulip fields of Holland. “I essentially planned the entire trip around this one single activity.” Alison was struck by the region’s biking culture where bike lanes were seamlessly integrated into every roadside and neighborhood, allowing her to navigate through several small towns to her dream destination: Keukenhof, the largest tulip park in the world where more than 7 million flower bulbs are planted each year.
Matt’s most memorable bike trip is still before him. “While it’s high on my to-do list, I have yet to undertake a bike-packing trip.” In the meantime, he enjoys interesting monthly group bike rides with fun themes as a “Sushi Roll” biking tour of Charlotte’s sushi restaurants and the “Tour-de-Dough” ride to some of the city’s many fine donut shops.
How are you active in support of making Charlotte/DC-Alexandria a great bicycling community?
Matt supports car(e)free streets including volunteering for the recent Open Streets event in his Elizabeth neighborhood. The event featured local nonprofit groups, government agencies and businesses all aimed at educating the public about efforts to make Charlotte a friendlier place for people to walk and bike. “The streets were closed to all vehicular traffic, and opened up for pedestrians and cyclists to roam free. It was inspiring to meet so many people working on this critical problem.”
Alison helps organize the Potomac ASLA’s Landscape Architecture Bike Tour that takes riders throughout D.C. to experience several notable design landmarks around the district. “This is always a fun event to see the city by bike and share the importance of what we do with the larger community.” She also participates in National Bike to Work Day each year with co-workers in what she describes as “a bike gang of landscape architects rolling deep through the streets of Alexandria.”
Bike friendly communities require a welcome and supportive infrastructure, including well-connected bicycling networks, quiet neighborhood streets and shared use trails. What bike-friendly aspects of your community do you enjoy most and why?
Allison believes bikes are an indicator of the vibrancy of an urban area, and Washington, D.C. does not disappoint. “Within minutes, I can be riding through the lush forested canopy of Rock Creek Park and then suddenly be among the monuments on the National Mall.”
She is also the rare person who loves her commute to work, often joined by co-worker Lisa Biddle. “We always look forward to beautiful days when we can hop on our bikes and ride to work along the Mt. Vernon Trail; a greenway that winds along the Potomac River. No matter how your day goes, you always know it will end with a beautiful ride home, especially the approach to city with the Washington monument and Jefferson Memorial illuminated in the background. I definitely don’t take for granted that I live in a city that allows me to do this.”
Matt also commutes to work on two wheels using a bike path behind his house, often stopping to enjoy the cooler air and quiet separation from heavy traffic. Sometimes, he takes a detour on the way home, hopping on the Little Sugar Creek Greenway, one of LandDesign’s iconic projects. “Even though it runs right through the heart of midtown Charlotte, it still feels like a break from the city’s constant movement.”
In her work at LandDesign, Alison is finding that more clients are realizing the value of “bikability,” including several municipalities that have strict requirements for bike infrastructure and parking. “There is a strong relationship between the urban projects we design and their accessibility by biking or other alternative forms of transportation.”
“Biking has the power to create mobility and accessibility for everyone as an efficient and affordable means of transportation. Our role as landscape architects is directly tied to this, where we play an instrumental role in helping transform cities into more socially inclusive and viable places to live.”
New Maury Playground Will Spur Student Success
What started as a 2014 project for us, Maury Playground is officially open for the Matthew Maury Elementary School and community! Landscape Architects, Gabriela Cañamar Clark and Susan England, had the pleasure of attending the balloon-filled ribbon cutting ceremony on Friday, April 21. In between rain storms, students helped cut the ribbon along with […]
What started as a 2014 project for us, Maury Playground is officially open for the Matthew Maury Elementary School and community!
Landscape Architects, Gabriela Cañamar Clark and Susan England, had the pleasure of attending the balloon-filled ribbon cutting ceremony on Friday, April 21. In between rain storms, students helped cut the ribbon along with Superintendent Alvin L. Crawley, and all were very excited and grateful to be seeing the results of everyone’s hard work. Sean Haviland, landscape designer, was unable to attend the ribbon-cutting, but also played a key role in the design.
This project was a measure of true collaboration amongst the City, School Board and local community. Though a public school, all the design fees and a large portion of the construction budget came through donations and the tireless efforts of parents, teachers and school staff, volunteers, community members, and even the students who organized lemonade stands. Maury Elementary has a strong academic learning environment, with a commitment to making sure everything they do leads back to the students’ success. The playground contributes to this goal, allowing the relationship between academic success and student’s social and physical development to intertwine as they learn to create relationships.
LandDesign provided landscape architectural services, ensuring the original vision was taken through the City of Alexandria approval process. A detailed design was provided through implementation of a full program: multipurpose turf field and court, play space, bio-retention facilities, and the learning garden which includes an amphitheater, pathways lined by vegetable and flower beds.
The learning garden is the first REAL School Garden endeavor in Virginia. REAL School Gardens is now a collaborative partner of LandDesign with more opportunities to change children’s lives for the better. The program allowed for parents, students and Maury staff to review the garden designs, making sure it is tailored to the school’s unique needs. REAL School Gardens works closely with teachers, training them in ways to integrate outside learning into their classrooms, ensuring students are able to engage.
“The learning garden will help every student at Matthew Maury Elementary School succeed academically by creating a strong foundation for learning in Math, Science and Language Arts in ways they will remember, relate to and be able to apply long term. Kids learn best when they are learning in ways that are real, stimulating and hands-on,” said Jeanne McCarty, Chief Executive Officer of REAL School Gardens.
A Tale of Two Tree Saves
Saving trees was a major priority in establishing the vision of LPL Financial’s new campus on the outskirts of Kingsley Town Center in Fort Mill, South Carolina. The site was designed with the intent that employees be able to engage with nature and walk within the trees without realizing they are surrounded by development. The […]
Saving trees was a major priority in establishing the vision of LPL Financial’s new campus on the outskirts of Kingsley Town Center in Fort Mill, South Carolina. The site was designed with the intent that employees be able to engage with nature and walk within the trees without realizing they are surrounded by development. The end result is a greenway-adjacent campus with over 10 acres of tree save area, about 30 percent of the total site.
The Sealed Air headquarters located at the Lake Pointe Corporate Center in Charlotte, North Carolina also boasts about 30 percent tree save acreage, totaling over 12 acres. The vision for the Sealed Air campus was that of tree houses cut within the existing vegetation across the campus. Very early on in the project, the team flagged trees that were important to preserve throughout the campus during construction.
LandDesign landscape architect, Eric Pohlmann, summed up the tree save efforts for both projects, “The tree save concepts were ideas generated early on with the teams for both projects and really continued to be owned by the clients as decisions were made during the design and construction process.”
The LPL Financial headquarters has obtained LEED Gold certification through design elements such as the 99% regionally native and drought-tolerant plant palette, the use of permeable pavers for hardscaped areas, and a 20,000 gallon cistern that captures runoff from the parking deck.
The Sealed Air campus is more than 60% open space, and of that, only 8,000 square feet is ‘water thirsty’ sod. The project is pursuing LEED Gold certification, and will likely be certified thanks to these elements, and the additional design effort taken to preserve 12 acres of woodlands onsite, use of crushed gravel throughout the site to maximize permeability, and the 50% reduction in irrigation demand due to the drought-tolerant plant selection.
Dallas Multi-Family Project Recognized with Best Outdoor Living Space Award
LandDesign is proud to announce Discovery at the Realm, our luxury apartment project in Dallas-Fort Worth, has won two Dallas Builders Association Awards: Best Outdoor Living Space and Best Architectural Design-Multi-Family Community, Apartment or Condominium. In collaboration with 505Design and BB+M Architecture, we had the opportunity to work with project developer, Bright Realty, to bring their unique […]
LandDesign is proud to announce Discovery at the Realm, our luxury apartment project in Dallas-Fort Worth, has won two Dallas Builders Association Awards: Best Outdoor Living Space and Best Architectural Design-Multi-Family Community, Apartment or Condominium. In collaboration with 505Design and BB+M Architecture, we had the opportunity to work with project developer, Bright Realty, to bring their unique vision for phase one to fruition. “It’s always an honor to receive recognition for our work but we couldn’t have done it without our teaming partners,” said Rhett Crocker, CEO and President of LandDesign. “There’s something special that happens when you get a group of designers and visionaries together to create a living space that challenges the status quo.”
Something like Discovery at the Realm. An urban oasis in the next frontier of the Metroplex’s development. A gathering place with friends, where a cohesive design blurs the lines between interior and exterior living spaces. These multi-family apartments are more than meets the eye – they’re only phase one of the newest lifestyle option within the Castle Hills Community, a master-planned community of more than 2,600 acres. The project’s 400+ units are part of three distinct buildings which are unified through modern design elements, careful space planning, inspired landscape features and desirable amenities.
As the landscape architect and civil engineer consultants on this project, LandDesign was responsible for the entire exterior realm of the project. Varied topography across the site was used to create a variety of features and seating options all organized around a central stormwater lake featuring a 65-foot long boulder waterfall. A “clean + contemporary” aesthetic was carried throughout the project with a touch of Texas Hill Country for an experience that feels authentic, yet new. To further that appeal, mature trees were brought in to lend immediate permanence as well as resident comfort, while outdoor spaces were sited and designed to take advantage of natural protection from wind and sun provided by the buildings.
Activity in the community is encouraged with a variety of places such as the on-site Club serving craft beer and wine, unique courtyards with grilling stations, fire pits, lounge areas and more. Walkability was paramount throughout the design process, with a variety of pedestrian options to connect the amenities, from meandering trails to the urban-feeling lakeside promenade. Add to that a sparkling resort-style pool and pavilion as well as an easily-accessible dog park, and it’s hard not to choose this residential sanctuary as the Best Outdoor Living Space. The thoughtful planning and design of this project proves that a traditional suburban apartment setting can be more than just that. A place that matters.
Everything’s Bigger in Texas: LandDesign Attends ASLA TX Conference
By: Emma Davis, Marketing Intern That’s a wrap! LandDesign took on the ASLA Conference in Austin, Texas. Heth Kendrick from our Dallas office alongside Beth Poovey and Jake Petrosky from our Charlotte office shared their expertise, speaking Tuesday and Thursday respectively. Heth Kendrick kicked off LandDesign’s involvement in the conference, speaking on […]
By: Emma Davis, Marketing Intern
That’s a wrap! LandDesign took on the ASLA Conference in Austin, Texas. Heth Kendrick from our Dallas office alongside Beth Poovey and Jake Petrosky from our Charlotte office shared their expertise, speaking Tuesday and Thursday respectively.
Heth Kendrick kicked off LandDesign’s involvement in the conference, speaking on how Transit Oriented Development is a catalyst for city planning, great design, and land use development. Kendrick teamed up with Tom Yantis, Assistant City Manager for the City of Leander, Texas, and Jack Wiersenski, a representative for Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART). Together, they collaborated to share the possibilities of designing complex projects with a variety of spatial tools, thus linking the roles of analyst, planner, and designer to create successful products.
Beth Poovey and Jake Petrosky followed up Kendrick’s “performance” with their presentation on Thursday. With experience designing and collaborating on projects such as the Charlotte Rail Trail and the Little Sugar Creek Greenway, they were able to successfully speak on bicycle facility design and the integration with urban development. Their presentation included how to conduct economic impact analysis and key engineering principles for future trail and transportation projects.
Thanks to Heth, Beth, and Jake, LandDesign was able to share its creative insight and inspire future projects. We look forward to being involved with future ASLA Texas Conferences and the opportunity to collaborate with other talented firms.
People Matter: Ashley Clark
A professional colleague once summed up Ashley Clark this way. “Cat herder. Smart as a whip. Cool as the other side of the pillow.” Unlike some, Ashley had no idea what she wanted to be when she grew up. “I had way too many interests! I loved art, but also math. I liked to […]
A professional colleague once summed up Ashley Clark this way. “Cat herder. Smart as a whip. Cool as the other side of the pillow.”
Unlike some, Ashley had no idea what she wanted to be when she grew up. “I had way too many interests! I loved art, but also math. I liked to make things and appreciated quality materials.”
During high school, she considered communications, design and business programs until her calculus teacher and mentor recommended architecture school. “At the time, I had no idea what a gift it was for someone to understand that an education in architecture could expose me to all of these things.”
I struggled to understand the studio culture. We were supposed to be learning how to design places for the community, but there was a lack of interest in engaging the community.
As a first-year architecture student at University of North Carolina at Charlotte, Ashley quickly became frustrated by the culture of students who stayed up all night in the studio, absorbed by their projects. “I struggled to understand the studio culture. We were supposed to be learning how to design places for the community, but there was a lack of interest in engaging the community.”
At the same time, the American Institute of Architecture-Students (AIAS) was beginning a movement to advocate for a healthier studio/life balance and working with schools to monitor the health of its culture as part of the accreditation process. It would be Ashley’s first foray into the role of cultural change agent, but not her last.
“By graduation from architecture school, it was clear I wanted to pursue a non-traditional career path that would allow me to communicate the value of design.”
Ashley’s first job after graduation had her working directly with the leadership of an architecture firm to support client development, presentations and communication efforts. It set the foundation for her career as a marketing professional within the AEC industry.
She also continued her leadership growth with the AIA – with a focus on advocacy for non-traditional career architecture graduates – advancing from the Associate Director for AIA North Carolina to the AIA South Atlantic Regional Board, and eventually, the AIA National Executive Committee as the Associate Director.
There, she was part of a strategic planning process to change the structure of the national organization to provide better representation for the profession and better services for its 80,000 architect members. Ashley’s role involved advocating for and elevating the collective voice of emerging professionals who represent one-third of the AIA’s membership.
Ashley’s advocacy and volunteer leadership did not go unrecognized. In 2012, she became the first architecture graduate to receive UNC Charlotte’s Outstanding Young Alumni Award. She is also a recipient of the AIA National Associates Award, the highest honor given to an Associate member.
The opportunity to leverage my collective experiences as an advocate for great design and even better people is extremely satisfying.
At LandDesign, Ashley has found a place where she can share her passion within a culture that allows her to contribute. “I am so fortunate to have a position that allows me to sit at the intersection of communications and strategy for the firm.”
Ashley manages the firm’s marketing communications, including LandDesign’s 2014 rebrand, and has guided and supports the firm’s strategic vision through both large and small initiatives. She also works on a number of projects that support the firm’s strong culture, a nod to her college roots that prompted her early involvement with the AIA.
“The opportunity to leverage my collective experiences as an advocate for great design and even better people is extremely satisfying. And, it just proves that you never know how the opportunities you have to engage the profession will come back and impact your career.”
On her bucket list? Completing a home renovation with her husband who is also a non-traditional career architect. “We are fixing up a beautiful old southern home, room by room. It has incredible bones, but we are modernizing it and doing most work ourselves from reconfiguring spaces to running new plumbing and electrical. Between that and our 4-year-old, there’s not much room for other hobbies; though I’ve been trying to make time to get outside and work on my golf game.”
People Matter: Jeffrey Mis
On the occasion of his one-year anniversary with LandDesign and the start of spring, we’d like to introduce you to our favorite horticulturist. Family matters. Jeff Mis and his brother were raised in a multi-generational family in the blue collar “Region” of northwest Indiana outside of Chicago. His mom is the dean of students […]
On the occasion of his one-year anniversary with LandDesign and the start of spring, we’d like to introduce you to our favorite horticulturist.
Jeff Mis and his brother were raised in a multi-generational family in the blue collar “Region” of northwest Indiana outside of Chicago. His mom is the dean of students at an inner-city Catholic school and his dad is a retired Marine, turned chemical operator. Much of his youth involved the family caring for his maternal grandparents who passed away at a young age.
I wanted to choose a career that would honor my parents and grandparents, and do something that was going to help people.
“My parents and grandparents always instilled in us the value of a college education. But, where I grew up, going to college was a luxury. No one in my family, except for a cousin, had ever attended college.” Through scholarships and working full-time throughout college, Jeff was able to attend Purdue University.
“When I started college, I wanted to choose a career that would honor my family and do something that was going to help people.” Civil engineering was the direction he decided to take.
After one semester in the Engineering program, Jeff quickly realized he didn’t connect with the other students and didn’t feel the drive and passion he had hoped for. Then, came a chance meeting with a friend from home who was in the Landscape Architecture program.
“I’ll never forget, we were sitting at a Greek restaurant on campus. I was studying for an engineering final, and she was working on a final project for landscape architecture. I looked at what she was doing; making beautiful art that was functional, and I trying to run a program that would calculate the number of crystal sizes on the back of a stop sign.” Dawn broke for Jeff in that moment.
The very next day, he visited Purdue’s Landscape Architecture program and met with the professors there. “Two hours later, I realized that I could combine my desire for creating the infrastructure like parks and greenways, and have the creative outlet that wasn’t there for me in civil engineering.” The rest is history.
Early mentors planted the seed and cultivated his passion for horticulture design.
Jeff’s first job was with Hoerr Schaudt Landscape Architects in Chicago. He considers Doug Hoerr and Peter Schaudt early mentors who planted the seed and cultivated his passion for horticulture design. His work ranged from the Michigan Avenue medians that changed the way people look at downtown Chicago to multi-million dollar lakefront estates.
From there, Jeff went to work for Craig Bergmann Landscape Design, a high-end residential landscape architecture firm that also played a significant role in his career development. “Craig and his firm exponentially grew my level of horticulture knowledge and plant understanding.”
“It was mind-blowing to me the fantastic projects I was exposed to at such a young age. They were dreams come true.” In 2016, Jeff joined Land Design. It was a decision that changed the trajectory of his career.
Jeff strongly believes his understanding of plants and spatial organization that he gained from designing residential landscapes is critical to the work he does today. “Doug Hoerr once told me that if you can’t design a 10×10 patio, how are you going to design a 10-block by 10-block master plan? Creating a beautiful residence is no different that creating a beautiful greenway.”
Among the LandDesign projects that are benefiting from his horticultural focus are the Stevens Creek Nature Preserve in Mecklenburg County and the Cross Charlotte Trail along the Little Sugar Creek Greenway. “Now I’m working on legacy projects for all people instead of legacy projects for a family.”
Jeff has enjoyed sharing some of his work with his 95-year-old paternal grandfather. However, he deeply regrets that his maternal grandparents aren’t around to see what he has accomplished. For indeed, he is living their legacy; a dream where their grandson is using his college education to make his mark on the world.
The Livable City Revolution
By: Stephanie Marino, LA Designer. Originally posted on DeepRoot. Around the globe, cities are rediscovering their industrial land. Once sustained by industry, in some places, much of this urban infrastructure has closed down, with only the bones remaining. Today, cities are drawing all types – techies, bankers, artists, and immigrants alike – but space […]
By: Stephanie Marino, LA Designer. Originally posted on DeepRoot.
Around the globe, cities are rediscovering their industrial land. Once sustained by industry, in some places, much of this urban infrastructure has closed down, with only the bones remaining. Today, cities are drawing all types – techies, bankers, artists, and immigrants alike – but space is limited. As urban land becomes more precious, communities reconsider the possibilities in once blighted areas and are finding new ways to accommodate the growing population and interests of city dwellers.
This resurgence has been triggered by a shift in cultural attitudes towards the city – one in which we celebrate the history and joys of city living, and find possibility in rubble, infrastructure that has fallen into disuse or disrepair, and formerly ignore brownfields
From small and often temporary pop-up parks, to the revitalization of entire riverfronts, landscape architects are playing an increasingly critical role in reclaiming abandoned urban spaces and transforming them into public commons. This investment is more significant than pure aesthetics; it contributes to larger goals such as environmental justice, social equity, and community resilience. Often, no matter the scale, a single project intends to ameliorate an entire array of issues.
Boston’s Lawn on D is an excellent example of how small-scale interventions can dramatically shift community livability. The Lawn on D was conceived as a way to temporarily activate an underutilized space on D Street, anchored by the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center. Formerly an urban fill site that blocked views and precluded access, the 2.7-acre space today is a platform for innovation. The design team, led by Sasaki, established a vibrant, flexible space to be utilized for endless programming possibilities.
Essentially an urban experiment intended to test configurations and programming, the space is a hub of activity for community events. Bright moveable furniture, interactive art installations, and engaging programming draw users in and invite them to make the space their own. The active and inclusive space provides this up-and-coming community with a space to come together. The flexibility of the space is key to its success, allowing for changes to be made to fit the future needs of the community.
In Aalborg, Denmark, an entire 30+ acre sustainable city district, Godsbanearealet, boasts being Aalborg’s first sustainable and carbon neutral quarter, and one of the largest climate adaption projects in Denmark. Rainwater management and flood control are built into the city’s masterplan, with green roofs, basins, and canals installed throughout the city district to store and collect rainfall. Recreational spaces, affordable housing, and retail are mixed together to make up this livable district.
Inspired by the areas former use as a freight train terminal, the city’s name is roughly translated to “freight train area.” Instead of straying from the site’s industrial past, the designers, POLYFORM Architects, embraced it and made a space that resonates with a unique cultural identity. Building upon the values of the area, the design seamlessly integrates the historic rail. This project is part of a gradual conversion of all freight railways in the area, and shows how a brand new, high-performance landscape can be integrated into derelict and abandoned railway land.
Hudson River Park is a 550-acre riverside park on the west side of Manhattan. The park includes 13 public recreation piers, a five-mile walk along the riverfront, and a tree-lined bicycle path. While the land was previously bustling with commerce, over time the shipping activity diminished and the piers fell into a state of disrepair. After years of industrial decline, the park arose from a 1997 master plan by landscape architecture firms Matthews Nielsen and Quennell-Rothchild. The goal was to create a people-centric, accessible greenway, making the riverfront a core part of the city again. Running adjacent to eight diverse neighborhoods, this plan aims to reclaim the waterfront for the public, a trend that has spread to many other waterfront cities.
Several projects have sprung from the master plan, including Pier 25, which features ample play activities, such as sand volleyball, mini-golf, and a multi-purpose turf field, as well as Segment 5, whose broad lawn allows for community gatherings, while playful hills provide views to the waterfront. Each parcel of the park uniquely speaks to the needs of the residents of the adjacent community.
Other features include a sports complex, playgrounds, water features, a dog run, and an abundance of lawn space. The park is also an estuarine sanctuary, designed to provide coastal fish and wildlife habitat, while the marine organisms filter and clean the water. Additionally, the park provides recreational and educational opportunities, such as kayaking and canoeing, expanding overall access to the waterfront. Hudson River Park acts as a park connector network, linking many recreational sites and landmarks as it runs along the edge of the Hudson River. While currently only 72% complete, the park is already an integral part of the lives of many New Yorkers, provided needed outdoor recreation space in one of the densest cities in the country.
Size Doesn’t Matter
Recent investments in infrastructure have resulted in inventive solutions to city issues of crowding, pollution, and blight at every scale imaginable. This investment is vital to creating sustainable, thriving, and equitable communities. Such community revitalization projects reconnect people to their beloved cities and help keep cities healthy places to live.
- Travel and Leisure, “Industrial Urban Green Spaces”
- Sasaki, “The Lawn on D”
- Landezine, “Godsbanearealet: A Pioneer Climate Adaptation Project”
- Sangberg.com, “Godsbanearealet“
- Mathews Nielsen Landscape Architecture: Hudson River Park Pier 25
- Michael van Valkenburgh Associates, “Brooklyn Bridge Park”
- The Dirt blog, “Landscape Architects Remake Cities”
People Matter: Cassidy Michaux
I feel a sense of responsibility, knowing that the design decisions we make will have a very real impact on the Earth and people’s lives. Balance and the environment matter. Cassidy Michaux was born outside of Philadelphia. His father was a landscape architect and pragmatist; his mother a “hippie who preached living a life […]
I feel a sense of responsibility, knowing that the design decisions we make will have a very real impact on the Earth and people’s lives.
Balance and the environment matter. Cassidy Michaux was born outside of Philadelphia. His father was a landscape architect and pragmatist; his mother a “hippie who preached living a life of respectful conservation and conscious engagement in environmental stewardship.” Together, they instilled in Cassidy a practical and aspirational balance reflected in his work as a designer.
At the age of five, his parents decided to leave Pennsylvania and seek out a new home in the country. “They took us on a backpacking trip through Virginia and Kentucky, camping our way through national parks and eventually settling on a 100-acre farm in rural West Virginia.” Using his father’s carpentry skills, the family built their own house.
Pennsylvania and his family’s farm were worlds apart, exposing Cassidy to a wide range of how communities function. “I would spend summers visiting cousins in Philadelphia. We would call up friends and meet them down the street for a pick-up basketball game or whatever. Our community back home was 100 percent car-reliant where it was an event simply to visit your neighbors and friends.”
Inspiration matters. That exposure also informed Cassidy’s design work. “I have a deep respect and passion for creating compelling frameworks that facilitate interaction between people and places, and feel a sense of responsibility, knowing that the design decisions we make will have a very real impact on the Earth and people’s lives.”
After one semester as a pre-med student, Cassidy went on to earn a Bachelor’s degree in Landscape Architecture from his father’s alma mater, West Virginia University, where he graduated Magna Cum Laude. His aha moment came during his second semester when he realized how broad the field of landscape architecture is, providing variety and encompassing all of his interests. “This profession is just great. It allows me to work on everything from a big master plan project or urban infill design to something as intimate as building a bench on top of a planter wall.”
We’re constantly working with a variety of scales and putting ourselves at ground level to understand what it feels like as a pedestrian, and then creating a framework that defines that space.
Cassidy joined LandDesign in 2014. One of the projects he’s been involved with from the beginning is The Lincoln, a 260-unit multifamily complex near a new Wiehle Metro station in Reston, Va.
The project is intended to serve as a gateway that transforms the area into a transit-oriented mixed-use neighborhood with enhanced public spaces and pedestrian connectivity that lead residents directly to the Metro station. Cassidy worked on developing the concept and narrative for three public pocket parks for the complex, themed in a sequence to transition pedestrians from the organic form of traditional Reston to the more urban form closer to the Metro stop.
“This is where I really get to express my passion for balance and designing places that make everyone feel welcome. We’re constantly working with a variety of scales and putting ourselves at ground level to understand what it feels like as a pedestrian, and then creating a framework that defines that space.”
Curiosity matters. “I’m constantly asking why and questioning the status quo when it comes to design concepts to achieve a client’s vision and goals.” Cassidy get that from his mom. “Plans are the means and methods to make the vision and concept come together.” The balance of his dad’s influence in action.
People Matter: Allison Merriman
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I, I took the one less traveled by. And that has made all the difference. – Robert Frost Allison Merriman’s career path is not the typical journey of a registered landscape architect. But, it has made all the difference to the perspective she brings to her role at […]
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I, I took the one less traveled by. And that has made all the difference. – Robert Frost
Allison Merriman’s career path is not the typical journey of a registered landscape architect. But, it has made all the difference to the perspective she brings to her role at LandDesign.
In high school, Allison loved science, biology and art, and first learned about landscape architecture while browsing through college catalogs. While it sounded intriguing at the time, she ultimately decided to enroll in the Plant Sciences program at Clemson University.
After graduation, Allison worked at a retail garden center in Winston-Salem that also offered landscape design services. The experience renewed her interest in landscape architecture and led her to take jobs in architecture and land planning before joining an emerging young landscape architecture firm where her experience grew along with the firm’s size for more than a decade.
A foray into residential development expanded Allison’s experience, where she helped to craft projects’ visions and work closely with all disciplines from design and construction through sales and leasing. In 2009, she decided to return to landscape architecture and launched her own practice until five years later when Mark Kime and Beth Poovey approached her about an opportunity with LandDesign that was too good to refuse.
Each experience of my career has provided a different perspective on our profession and influenced how I approach a project.
Allison’s work at LandDesign is a combination of public and private sector projects where she performs conceptual design, rezonings, construction documents and administration, and more. They range from multifamily projects, hotels and a public park to several projects for the University of North Carolina’s Charlotte campus including a health and wellness center, new science center building, and an admissions and visitor’s center.
“Each experience of my career has provided a different perspective on our profession and influenced how I approach a project.” Her first job at the emerging landscape architecture firm taught Allison the skills of the profession and what it takes to run a small business. Her time spent with the residential development company gave her the opportunity to view projects from the other side of the table. And working on her own during the recession taught her to rely on the basics: work hard, be responsive, solve problems and be fearless.
I started running in college for the same reason a lot of people did. My roommate and I were eating too much pizza!
The journeys Allison takes in her personal life are as winding as her career path. And, they come in 26.2 mile increments alongside her husband. She has run more than 14 marathons in 20 years in locations as far flung as London and Big Sur in California to the storied Marine Corp Marathon in Washington, D.C. Her first race was the iconic New York City Marathon. She has run in it six times and hopes to make it her swan song marathon in 2017 if the race’s lottery system prevails in her favor.
People Matter: Engineer Spotlight
Last week, the National Society of Professional Engineers celebrated National Engineers Week; an opportunity to demonstrate that engineering is more than just solving problems using math and science and to elevate the public dialogue about the need for more kids to consider a career in engineering. We asked several of LandDesign’s young professionals to […]
Last week, the National Society of Professional Engineers celebrated National Engineers Week; an opportunity to demonstrate that engineering is more than just solving problems using math and science and to elevate the public dialogue about the need for more kids to consider a career in engineering.
We asked several of LandDesign’s young professionals to share their thoughts on careers in civil engineering. Meet Tareq El-Sadi, David Gastel and Aly Moniaci.
- Tareq El-Sadi is a civil engineering designer in our Dallas office. Being a handyman around the house matters. Well-rounded upbringings matter. Resolving issues matters. Mentoring matters.
- David Gastel is a civil engineer in our Orlando office. An FSU graduate, he believes that hard work and transforming ideas matter.
- Aly Moniaci is a civil engineering designer in our Charlotte office. Faith, family and JOY are what matter most to Aly. Along with Texas Tech athletics!
What kind of things did you like to do growing up that led you to a career in civil engineering?
Aly was always fascinated by buildings. “Growing up, I loved using blocks and such to build and create. I was also an athlete, so I grew up being part of a team.” Math also interested Aly. She excelled in those classes more than others and didn’t mind the homework because she enjoyed it so much. “My dad encouraged me to be an engineer. I knew that civil engineering offered a wide span of options, plus none of the other engineering choices got me as excited about the work the way civil did.”
Like Aly, David enjoyed building things when he was a kid, especially 3D puzzles of the Taj Mahal and the Sears Tower in Chicago. He also relished figuring out solutions to problems, especially ones that others couldn’t solve. “I also constructed a model train city every Christmas with my father. This taught me everything from creativity and presentation to electrical (it lit up!) and structural; even painting.”
Tareq is a third generation civil engineer, following in the footsteps of his father and grandfather. “When I was young, my father would bring me to work with him.” The two would visit project sites including massive industrial facilities such as water desalination plants and power plants as well as smaller projects like hospitals and office buildings.
“As a kid, I was amazed to see a project go from an idea on paper to a completed project. I knew I wanted to be a civil engineer when I realized my father was leaving an imprint that would benefit his community and society, as well.”
Can you share a project that illustrates how civil engineering’s creativity and teamwork is making a difference in the world?
Tareq believes every project he’s been involved with has made a positive difference in the world. “Our work on single family subdivisions has created living spaces for families. Medical office buildings provide space for physicians to practice and provide healthcare to those who need it. While each project has its own set of difficulties, as engineers we are always looking for creative ways to effectively resolve those challenges.” He noted that often a complex project is successful because of teamwork and the collaborative efforts of all the disciplines involved including civil engineers; landscape architects; mechanical, electrical, plumbing and structural engineers; architects and geotechnical engineers.
Aly chose The Village at Commonwealth, a multi-family community in Charlotte. “Due to the site’s confines – including utility lines that were already installed within the roadways – it took creativity to figure out where to locate all of the utility infrastructure and still meet the city’s guidelines.” The project team included the client, landscape architects, the architect and civil engineers. “It took constant communication by everyone involved to stay on top of all the changes and make sure they didn’t conflict with that was previously designed. There is no way this job would have been successful without the whole team working as one to make it come to life.” The multi-use site includes apartments, single family townhomes, a co-working space and a coffee shop, all adjacent to a park. “We created a place for people to live, work and play all within walking distance.”
David considers the North Carolina Research Campus the most influential project he has worked on. It includes cancer research centers, parks, medical office buildings and college classrooms. “There were a lot of people involved in various parts of engineering to help make the project happen. It had an early impact on my engineering career.”
What would you tell today’s young people to encourage them to consider a career in engineering?
David sees STEM careers (science, technology, engineering and math) as the wave of the future. “I think a lot of schools and parents get that. I would encourage them to expose kids to the various aspects of engineering and let them discover what ignites their passion for making a better world.”
Perhaps reflecting on his father and grandfather, Tareq views the engineering field as timeless and believes the need for more kids to consider engineering is really a need for more people to consider making society better. “Engineering is essential for basic life needs such as providing potable water distribution systems, water treatment facilities, wastewater treatment, transportation, electricity and the list goes on and on.”
Aly also points to the limitless need for engineers, with infrastructure like roadways and utilities always requiring updates. Plus, her enthusiasm for the profession is contagious. “The best thing about engineering is that you get to use your creativity and knowledge to create spaces and buildings that others will use for a very long time. It is not just about sitting at a desk and drawing up the same plans all day, every day. I always love driving by a project that I have worked on and watch it being built and when it opens to the public.”
Finally, we asked Aly, David and Tareq to list the top 3 reasons they love engineering.
- I am always learning, and no two days are the same. Every space is different, so I have to think of new ways to make it work, and I am always learning from everyone around me.
- I really enjoy the teamwork aspect. I am constantly communicating with others on a project team and collaborating with architects and other consultants.
- There are so many opportunities to grow as a person. I am always being challenged to reach beyond my comfort zone. It keeps me on my toes.
- The experience of getting to work in new places and see new things.
- The satisfaction that comes when we complete a project. There’s nothing like it.
- The challenges that keep me engaged.
- Interacting with other engineers and architects and collaborating to produce the best results we can.
- The “magic” of transforming an idea on paper into a reality.
- Knowing that the work I do has a positive impact on society.
People Matter: Jason Granado
Jason comes by his aptitude for architecture naturally. His father and grandparents were involved in the carpentry and construction fields. They even built the South Florida house where Jason grew up. “I was always fixing things and building things.” His high school interest in automotives – “taking cars apart and putting them back together” […]
Jason comes by his aptitude for architecture naturally. His father and grandparents were involved in the carpentry and construction fields. They even built the South Florida house where Jason grew up. “I was always fixing things and building things.”
His high school interest in automotives – “taking cars apart and putting them back together” – led Jason to pursue a degree in mechanical engineering. But, while working part-time in an auto shop, he realized the work was not as much fun as the hobby. Then, a chance opportunity to shadow a friend’s father who was an architect proved to be serendipity.
In his senior year, Jason started over, taking prerequisite classes at a community college before transferring to Florida A&M University where he graduated Magna Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Science degree in Architecture. Wanting a more urban setting for graduate school, he chose Virginia Tech’s satellite campus in Alexandria, Va. and opted for a Master of Landscape Architecture degree.
There’s the way an architect thinks, and there’s the way a landscape architect thinks. They approach the same project with two different points of view.
“What drew me to architecture was not so much design work, but my tangible urge from childhood to build things. I knew how to stack bricks and put on a roof.” Landscape architecture gave Jason the chance to broaden his understanding. “You’re no longer thinking about one building, but entire city blocks and large open spaces.”
Serendipity once again intervened to bring Jason to LandDesign. While grocery shopping with his wife who is also an architect, they ran into Matt and Gabby Clark. The chance introduction led to a job offer a few weeks later.
His dual degrees give Jason a unique perspective on the work he does. “There’s the way an architect thinks, and there’s the way a landscape architect thinks. They approach the same project with two different points of view.”
We’re rebuilding a city and literally shaping the landscape, both physically and metaphorically.
Jason considers himself a utility player at LandDesign, applying his twofold abilities to projects like Tyson’s where he is involved in everything from the entitlement process to construction document detailing. “We’re rebuilding a city and literally shaping the landscape, both physically and metaphorically. People are now staying in Tyson’s. Living here and working here. It’s no longer a transient community. LandDesign has been a big part of changing that and it’s pretty amazing.”
I’m still learning every day from my peers. It is so powerful and meaningful.
Making and mentoring matters.
While in graduate school, Jason taught wood shop and metal shop. “I loved every moment of it.” Today, he continues to teach the crafts of wood and metal making as a volunteer with TechShop, a workshop and fabrication collaborative that provides access to the tools, equipment, education and other resources for everyone from artists and entrepreneurs to tinkerers and DIY enthusiasts.
His philosophy on mentoring is that the benefits include both teaching and learning.
“It is so important, especially in our field, to learn both old and new skills from each other, and to pass them down and allow people to become the greatest apprentice they can be. I’m still learning every day from my peers. It is so powerful and meaningful.”
Good whiskey matters.
Outside of work, Jason’s newest hobby is aerial photography. He’s also a whiskey aficionado who enjoys it best while sitting on the balcony with his wife and watching life go by. He believes you can tell a lot about a person by what they drink. “To me, a good whiskey is smooth and laid back with a lot of thinking involved in making it. And, I think that’s the type of person I am.”
People Matter: Kathy Riley, PLA
Kathy Riley first fell in love with urban environments as a young child living outside of San Francisco. “It wasn’t the FAO Schwarz toy store, Ghirardelli Square and its chocolate factory or Golden Gate Park that got me excited about trips into the city. It was a narrow courtyard between two buildings that had a […]
Kathy Riley first fell in love with urban environments as a young child living outside of San Francisco. “It wasn’t the FAO Schwarz toy store, Ghirardelli Square and its chocolate factory or Golden Gate Park that got me excited about trips into the city. It was a narrow courtyard between two buildings that had a pizza place and a street magician.”
I am a true believer that the places you live and environments you experience form who you will become.
Growing up, her father’s career moved the family to other iconic cities including Atlanta and Austin, Texas. “I am eternally grateful for the various places we lived, with each city offering amazing urban experiences and creating fond memories.”
“I am a true believer that the places you live and environments you experience form who you will become.” For Kathy, it was a landscape architect. “As a child, I’m sure I would have found it way cooler to work at the San Francisco pizza place.” Instead, her family’s time spent in different cities lead her to major in Landscape Architecture at Clemson University.
“My story is exactly what excites me about what we do at LandDesign. To have the opportunity to create places that inspire lasting memories, not only for a young child, but for people of all ages. I feel a great responsibility to do it with thought and care.”
It’s an exhilarating career where no two projects are the same and every day presents a new challenge.
Kathy joined LandDesign out of college in 2006, spending her first eight years in the Charlotte office before relocating to Dallas to help establish the firm’s new office there. Her work involves site planning, design development and regional planning for a variety of projects.
“In the decade I’ve been with LandDesign, I can’t think of one project type I haven’t worked on.” Those projects include planning for the Sugar Point port-of-call, a waterfront development in Barbados, to the University Research Park area plan in Charlotte. “It’s an exhilarating career where no two projects are the same and every day presents a new challenge.”
Her newest challenge includes being involved in outside activities that are increasing LandDesign’s presence in the Dallas market, working alongside Heth Kendrick, PLA, ULI, ASLA and Brian Dench, P.E., directors of the Dallas office. “Heth has amazing persistence and organizational skills, and I’ve learned so much from him as we continue to gain new opportunities from clients all over the Dallas-Fort Worth region. It’s hard to believe in the few short years we’ve been here just how many people we have met and the relationships we are building.” Her relationship-building also extends to ULI North Texas where she is involved in the ULI Partnership Forum that serves as an opportunity for young professionals to exchanges ideas and learn from local developers and city officials on an intimate level.
Kathy enjoys being back in one of her home states of Texas. “My husband and I love to ride bikes around White Rock Lake and run on the Katy Trail. I am my happiest when I’m outside on a pretty day.”
College football is also a favorite pastime. Her husband is on the coaching staff at Southern Methodist University. And, her beloved Clemson Tigers just won the national championship in a thrilling upset over Alabama that is certain to go down in the history books as one of the greatest games in college football.
People Matter: Mellissa Oliver
Mellissa Oliver knew by the time she was in middle school that she wanted to work in the AEC field, inspired by the grandness of built environments and a love for art. Growing up in Greensboro, North Carolina, she remembers taking car rides with her mom, and “looking out the window and seeing all […]
Mellissa Oliver knew by the time she was in middle school that she wanted to work in the AEC field, inspired by the grandness of built environments and a love for art.
Growing up in Greensboro, North Carolina, she remembers taking car rides with her mom, and “looking out the window and seeing all these great structures – tall buildings and bridges.” By high school, Mellissa had decided to study civil engineering. “I just knew that I wanted to be a part of something that creates places that we, as individuals, would use, but also would endure for a long time.”
Pride in what you do matters.
Mellissa joined LandDesign’s Charlotte office in 2013, working under Nate Doolittle, primarily on projects in the Uptown Charlotte area. She enjoys the challenges that come with designing projects with limited urban space. “How are we going to create something on this small piece of land that both benefits the community and provides a place they want to enjoy?”
There are many people involved in a project, and when we all come together to make it happen, it’s just wonderful.
It seems car rides are a reoccurring muse in Mellissa’s career. Discussing what excites her the most about her work, she tells about driving around Charlotte with her in-laws.
“They came for a visit and we were driving to dinner. On this one street, there were three projects I was involved in. Now, I realize there are many people involved in a project, and when we all come together to make it happen, it’s just wonderful. But, to be able to tell my husband’s parents I was part of creating that was an amazing feeling.” Just like she imagined it would be all those years ago, driving around Greensboro with her mom.
Getting involved in the community matters.
From a young age until now, mentors and role models have been important influences in Mellissa’s life and she is passionate about paying it forward.
It’s something that my heart tells me to do.
Three years ago, she began volunteering with the ACE Mentor Program of Charlotte, working with students from Ardrey Kell High School. ACE is an after-school program for young people interested in exploring career opportunities in architecture, construction and engineering. Each year, teams compete to present their final projects.
“I remember the first year, sitting in the audience and watching all the teams present their projects. At the end, they announced the winner. It was Ardrey Kell. Driving home that night, I just kept thinking, ‘They won!’ I was so excited.”
CREW Charlotte is another organization that is benefitting from Mellissa’s commitment to volunteerism. In December, she received the organization’s annual Rising Star award that honors an up-and-coming member who has made an impact in the organization.
René Whitesell was Mellissa’s first mentor – an assigned lunch buddy in elementary school – and the two have remained close. Driving home from the ACE competition. Mellissa called René in tears, overwhelmed to be part of her students’ success, just like René was there for her. “It’s something that my heart tells me to do, and René was a big part of that.”