Conference to highlight urban planning

GVL / Courtesy Yulia Conley
Allendale High School Students

GVL / Courtesy Yulia Conley Allendale High School Students

Natalie Lussier

All projects start with an idea and have the potential for success. For Yulia Conley and Corey Fox, their passion for urban planning will manifest into an event called the Global Cities Conference.

The event is a student-led, faculty-supported initiative that aims to introduce the West Michigan community to the broad subject of urban planning. Conley, president of the Urban Planning Association, and Fox, vice president of the UPA, have been collaborating with fellow members, along with high school students, to inform guests about cities on a global scale.

“Urban planning is…for young people to explore because, in the future, it’s predicted as many as 80 percent of people are going to move in the next few decades into cities,” Conley said. “Obviously, not every single city in the world is ready for that influx of population, and to accommodate them sustainably is really key at this moment.”

The keynote speaker for the event, Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell, will inform guests about urban planning on a local level. He will be present throughout the day and have a booth that allows guests to ask questions related to urban planning.

“He is going to be talking about Grand Rapids in the context of this globalization,” Conley said. “Not a lot of people probably think about Grand Rapids as a global city like Moscow, London or Abu Dhabi. He’s going to bring it home…all of these things that we’re going to be talking about at the conference does relate to Grand Rapids.”

Fox added that, despite the comparison between Grand Rapids to larger global cities that Conley listed, Grand Rapids harvests the potential to be among those someday.

High school students will give presentations on urban planning practices and sustainable development initiatives from six global cities including London, Moscow, Copenhagen, Hong Kong, Abu-Dhabi and Bogota.

A simulation game will also be among the main events. The game will pose a hypothetical city model that will display American-centered city problems. Attendees will be asked to give suggestions for solutions based on the knowledge learned throughout the day.

Another interactive activity being offered is one that will enable students to give suggestions on changing Grand Valley State University’s campus. Maps of different sections of the campus will be shown and students can express what they would like to see differently.

Interactivity is a key component to the event. Conley hopes that the conference will be a collaborative, participatory conference, and Fox added that he wants people to realize that their voices can be heard.

“We hope that people realize that the way that our cities are built, that any community is built, does not happen by accident and that we should all take responsibility for what we’re building and where we want to live,” Conley said, “Also, the fact that they can take action and they can actually change things – make a difference on a small level, on a government level, in their career, in their everyday life.”

The Global Cities Conference is a free event that will take place on March 21 in Room 1008B at the L. William Seidman Center located on the Pew Campus. For more information, contact Yulia Conley at [email protected].

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