The Department of Planning and Landscape Architecture received a generous donation of the The Neighborhood Modeling System from Lucy Thompson (MS URPL ’81).
The Neighborhood Modeling System was created in 2000 by Rich McLaughlin, an urban designer/town planner practicing mostly in the Twin Cities (Minneapolis/Saint Paul). Rich was a founding partner of Town Planning Collaborative (TPC), an inter-disciplinary planning and urban design firm committed to the principles of the New Urbanism. Begun in 1995, TPC introduced the Twin Cities to New Urbanism, working with neighborhoods, municipalities and developers to create walkable, transit-friendly, mixed-use and sustainable greenfield and infill communities/neighborhoods. In addition, Rich was instrumental in forming the Neighborhood Design Center in Madison in the early 2000s.
Rich created the Neighborhood Modeling System to help professional and citizen planners, neighborhood residents, elected and
appointed officials, and others visualize alternative development scenarios based on density, and land use and building type diversity. The use of wood blocks – in various sizes and wood types to represent different building types and densities – was chosen to give people a tactile, literally hands-on experience in designing their neighborhood or community. The NMS has been used to envision future development on greenfield and infill sites, and at the neighborhood and community scales. In Minnesota, it was used for sites in Saint Paul (Hillcrest Smart Growth Opportunity Site, redevelopment of a dead shopping mall), Maplewood (Gladstone mixed-use infill neighborhood), Minneapolis (E. Lake Street urban corridor) and Chaska (Clover Fields greenfield development). In Dane County, the NMS was used to vision sites in Madison (infill), Fitchburg (greenfield), Stoughton (greenfield) and McFarland (greenfield).
Rich died of pancreatic cancer in 2006 at the young age of 52. As part of his legacy, his life partner, Lucy Thompson (URPL ’81), has donated the remaining NMS inventory to DPLA. It is her hope that the next generation of planners and urban designers will find the NMS a valuable tool in visioning new communities and neighborhoods, and that it will continue to inspire professional and lay planners to create communities that are diverse, sustainable and loved.