Richmond 300: A Guide for Growth, Richmond’s city-wide master plan prioritizing equity and sustainability over the next 20 years, is a recipient of the 2021 Daniel Burnham Award for a Comprehensive Plan. The award is the most prestigious award a city planner can hope to receive in their career, and we are proud to share that the Richmond 300 project was led by one of RMHF’s 2019 Equity + Health Fellows, Maritza Mercado Pechin, AICP.
Maritza was specifically tapped to work on the master plan. She has led the team and project through an inclusive and equitable process, going to great lengths to ensure all of Richmond’s voices were heard during the development of the plan. Expansive and inclusive community engagement is often lacking in city planning processes, and it is an element that Richmond’s planning projects have not included in the past. Richmond 300 serves as an outstanding example for the breakthrough work that can happen when we elevate voices that have often gone unheard.
“The plan sought from the beginning to ensure that every type of Richmonder was included in the planning process, in order to make a plan in which everyone saw themselves and would benefit,” said Maritza, during an interview.
“We have these expansive problems that exist in our society. In Richmond, it’s poverty. It’s helping manage a changing climate. And the only way that you can start to tackle those huge problems is by bringing a lot of different perspectives together,” says Maritza. “We had said we wanted to reach those other corners of the city, but it didn’t happen with our first approach.”
When the team’s first approach to community engagement did not reach typically underrepresented parts of the community, including Black, Latinx and low-income residents, they paused the planning process and issued a call for community members to apply to serve on an engagement team. Engagement team members were paid to translate planning jargon into accessible language, share the plan and its importance in their own authentic voices, and gather input from their communities.
The team’s second approach to engagement worked and resulted in a comprehensive plan with a focus on environmental justice, walkability and economic growth. Widespread and inclusive community engagement helped to inform six “Big Moves” that the plan prioritizes in service of reaching its vision, including expanding housing opportunities, providing greenways and parks for all and reconnecting the city’s neighborhoods.
The prestigious honor of the Daniel Burnham Award is well-deserved. We are incredibly proud of Maritza’s leadership of the project and full of optimism for the realization of the Richmond 300 plan as it unfolds over the next 20 years to create a more equitable and sustainable city for all our citizens.