“They brought in a consultant from the University of Washington and had a series of town meetings to try to decide how to reinvent themselves,” is a line that I use in every one of my BoomtownUSA talks. Those of you who have seen it, know that it is when I’m talking about the transformation of Leavenworth, WA from a down-on-its-luck, dying town into a bustling agurb® that has recreated itself as a Bavarian village.
Imagine my surprise when someone walked up to me after my talk last week at NAIOP in Seattle to tell me, “My Dad was the consultant that you were talking about in your Leavenworth story. I’m not sure that he really thought they were going to be able to make it, but it was what the local citizens wanted to do and he was there to help them facilitate their vision.”
Chuck Wolfe, who is a land use and environmental lawyer, also teaches classes at UW, carrying on the legacy of his dad who was the founder of the Urban Planning Department at UW and eventually became Dean of the College of Architecture. Chuck later emailed me more information on his dad, “in the 50’s and 60’s he spent a lot of time with small towns in Washington authoring plans and consulting on what would be now called “visioning”. The towns included many of the towns you have probably passed through, including Moses Lake, Royal City and, as noted, Leavenworth. I remember when he was going over to Leavenworth for meetings. I think some of his colleagues and/or students may also have participated. I was 5 or 6. As I recall the theme town may have been presented in concept and things may have ended up more “kitschy” than the academics suggested….”
As I flew back from WA I reflected upon the message from this meeting and emails. Is it a message to bring in the experts to get things rolling? Is it, you need to figure out things for yourself? Is it, have a passion for what you do? Or is it, just do it?
I’m not sure. I’m still contemplating. What do you think?