James A. LaGro Jr.

Position title: Professor

Email: jalagro@wisc.edu

Phone: (608) 263.6507

102 Music Hall

Photo of James LaGro Junior

Professor LaGro is not accepting new doctoral students for the 2024-25 academic year.

Research Interests
Placemaking, public health, sustainable development, water resources, urban design, environmental planning, downtown revitalization, landscape ecology, green infrastructure  land use policy, governance capacity, sustainability transitions, urban open space systems, urban resilience


The causes and consequences of land use dynamics and landscape change – especially within the built environment – are Professor LaGro’s primary research, teaching, and outreach interests. His current work focuses on community livability and sustainability, with an emphasis on effective smart growth strategies for retrofitting and/or redeveloping urban and suburban neighborhoods.

LaGro’s graduate degrees, from Cornell University, are in landscape architecture (MLA, 1982) and natural resource policy and planning (PhD, 1991). Prior to earning his doctorate, he worked in private practice as a professional land planner. A licensed landscape architect in Florida and New York, his project experience includes medical and educational facilities in the Northeastern United States, multi-family housing projects in Switzerland, and planned communities in the Southeastern U.S. and the Caribbean.

Professor LaGro frequently teaches service-learning courses, including Site Planning (URPL 601) and Urban Design: Theory and Practice (URPL 611). He also teaches an undergraduate design studio in the Department of Landscape Architecture. His recent book – Site Analysis: A Contextual Approach to Sustainable Site Planning and Design – published by John Wiley & Sons was selected by Planetizen (an online planning and development network) as one of the top planning books in 2008.

Professor LaGro was Chair of the Department of Urban and Regional Planning from 2002 to 2008. For several years, he served on the Science Council of the Wisconsin Initiative on Climate Change Impacts (WICCI) and on the U.S. Region’s Executive Committee of the International Association of Landscape Ecology (www.landscape-ecology.org).

LaGro was a member of several working groups assembled by “The Heinz Center for Science, Economics, and the Environment” in Washington, D.C. This Heinz Center work led to “The State of the Nation’s Ecosystems” assessment. LaGro also served as a 2008-09 AAAS Science and Technology Policy Fellow in Washington, D.C. with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s National Center for Environmental Assessment – Global Change Research Program (https://www.aaas.org/programs/science-technology-policy-fellowships).

LaGro is currently the Editor-in-Chief of Landscape Journal (https://uwpress.wisc.edu/journals/journals/lj.html) the academic journal of the Council for Educators in Landscape Architecture (CELA). He also has a 2021-22 Landscape Architecture Foundation (LAF) Fellowship for Innovation and Leadership (https://www.lafoundation.org/what-we-do/leadership).

Professor LaGro is not accepting new doctoral students for the 2022-23 academic year.


LaGro, J., Jr. 2020. Urban open space systems: Multifunctional infrastructure, pp. 71-81. The Routledge Handbook of Urban Resilience. Burayidi, Allen, Twigg, & Wamsler, eds. New York: Routledge.

Charron, L., Joyner, H.R., LaGro, J., Jr., & Walker, J.G. 2019. Development of a comprehensive scorecard for healthy, active rural communities. Landscape and Urban Planning, 190 (103582): 1-6.

LaGro, J., Jr., B. Vowels, and B. Vondra. 2017. Exurban housing development, onsite wastewater disposal, and groundwater vulnerability within a changing policy context. Landscape and Urban Planning, 167: 60-71.

Spahr, C., A. Wells, B.D. Christens, E. Pollard, J. LaGro Jr. et al. 2016. Developing a strategy menu for community-level obesity prevention. Wisconsin Medical Journal, 115 (5): 264-268.

Gocmen, Z.A. and J. LaGro, Jr. 2015. Assessing local planning capacity to promote environmentally sustainable residential development. Journal of Environmental Planning and Management, 59(8): 1513-1535.

LaGro, J., Jr., M. Ginder-Vogel, J. Harrington, W. Likos, S. Loheide, C. Remucal, and A. Brown. 2014. Green Infrastructure for Stormwater Management: Toward a Model Campus by 2025. Madison, WI: Department of Urban and Regional Planning, University of Wisconsin–Madison. 118 pp.

Castle, M.A., Tan, N. and LaGro, J.A. 2015. Evaluating capacity building to foster climate change adaptationOpen Journal of Social Sciences, 3, 81-90.

LaGro, J. 2014. Pathways to Regional Sustainability: Best Practices for Wisconsin’s Capital Region. Madison, Wisconsin: Department of Urban and Regional Planning, University of Wisconsin–Madison.

LaGro, J.A., Jr. 2013. Site Analysis: Informing Context-Sensitive and Sustainable Site Planning and Design, 3rd ed. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley & Sons. 365 pp.

Pyke, C., Warren, M. P., Johnson, T., LaGro, J., Scharfenberg, J., Groth, P., & Main, E. 2011. Assessment of low impact development for managing stormwater with changing precipitation due to climate changeLandscape and Urban Planning, 103(2): 166-173.

Walker, W., D. Liebl, L. Gilbert, J. LaGro, Jr., P. Nowak, and J. Sullivan. 2010. Adapting to Climate Change: Why Adaptation Policy is More Difficult than We Think (and what to do about it). Madison, Wisconsin: Wisconsin Initiative on Climate Change Impacts Working Paper. 22 pp.

LaGro, J.A. Jr. Land Use Implications of Wastewater Treatment Technologies: Lessons from the Great Lakes Region. In: W.M. Marsh. Landscape Planning: Environmental Applications. 5th ed. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons. 2010: 143-145. View Essay

LaGro, J.A. Jr. 2009. “Climate Change and Public Health,” in Green Community, S. Piedmont-Palladino and T. Mennel, eds. American Planning Association and the National Building Museum.

LaGro, J.A. Jr. 2009. “Invest in Nature’s Infrastructure.” Planetizen: Urban Planning, Design and Development Network. View Publication

LaGro, J.A., Jr. 2008. Site Analysis: A Contextual Approach to Sustainable Land Planning and Site Design. John Wiley & Sons, Hoboken, New Jersey.  View Table of Contents | View Chapter 1

LaGro, J. A., Jr. 2005. Land Use Classification. Encyclopedia of Soils in the Environment, 322-328. Elsevier, Oxford.

LaGro, J. A., Jr. 2001. Site Analysis: Linking Program and Concept in Land Planning and Design. John Wiley & Sons, New York.

Ohm, B.W., J.A. LaGro, Jr., and C. Strawser. 2001. A Model Ordinance for a Traditional Neighborhood Development. University of Wisconsin Extension. 38 pages. View Article

LaGro, J.A., Jr. 2000. Landscape Ecology. Encyclopedia of the Life Sciences (online). McMillan Reference Limited, London. 7pp.

LaGro, J.A., Jr. 1999. Research capacity: a matter of semantics? Landscape Journal, 18(2): 51-58.

LaGro, J. A., Jr. 1998. Landscape Context of Rural Residential Development in Southeastern Wisconsin. Landscape Ecology, 13, 2: 65-78. View Article

LaGro, J. A., Jr. 1996. Designing without Nature: Unsewered Residential Development in Rural Wisconsin. Landscape and Urban Planning, 35: 1-9. View Article

LaGro, J. A., Jr. 1995. Toward Policy-Relevant Education and Research in Landscape Ecology. Bolletino del Museo di Storia Naturale della Lunigiana, 9 (Supplemento): 43-53.

LaGro, J. A., Jr. 1994. Population Growth Beyond the Urban Fringe: Land Use Policy Implications. Landscape and Urban Planning, 28: 143-158.

LaGro, J. A., Jr. and S. D. DeGloria. 1992. Land Use Dynamics Within an Urbanizing Non-Metropolitan County in New York State (USA). Landscape Ecology, 7, 4: 275-289. View Article

LaGro, J. A., Jr. 1991. Assessing Patch Shape in Landscape Mosaics.  Photogrammetric Engineering and Remote Sensing, 53, 3: 285-293.

Pimentel, D., M. Hunter, J. A. LaGro, Jr., R. Efroymson, J. Landers, F. Mervis, C. McCarthy, and A. Boyd. 1989. Benefits and risks of genetic engineering in agriculture.  Bioscience, 39, 9: 606-614.

LaGro, J. A., Jr. 1988. Comment on “The analysis dilemma,” Landscape Architecture, 78, 2: 10-12.


Green Infrastructure for Stormwater Management: Toward a Model Campus by 2025
Collaborative research for this report was funded by a 2013-2014 Sustainability in Research and Education (SIRE) grant from the University of Wisconsin–Madison’s Office of Sustainability.

Capital Region Sustainable Communities
With a $2 million Department of Housing and Urban Development grant, the Capital Region Sustainable Communities consortium is:

  • preparing plans for regional transit & development corridors
  • preparing Future Urban Development Area (FUDA) plans for sustainable urban growth
  • closing gaps in local and regional plans related to equity, housing, & transportation
  • demonstrating sustainable development through catalytic projects
  • selecting sustainability indicators and measuring progress towards goals

Class Projects:
Sauk Trail Elementary School; Northside Elementary School; Elm Lawn Elementary School; Kromrey Middle School; Briefing memo to the School Board

“Alternative Urbanization Scenarios for an Agricultural Watershed Design Criteria, Social Constraints, and Effects on Groundwater and Surface Water Systems.” 
A multi-disciplinary team of campus faculty and state and federal government scientists completed this research and hydrologic modeling project. The project was funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

“A Model Ordinance for a Traditional Neighborhood Development”
This project involved collaboration with planning professor Brian Ohm and graduate student Chuck Strawser. Flexible design guidelines were developed for this project. The model ordinance was adopted by the Wisconsin State Legislature in the summer of 2001. This project was funded by the Legislature.


My courses often include a physical planning and/or design project within one of the Madison-area communities.  These projects promote civic engagement and build collaborative campus/community partnerships through public service, service-learning, and community-based research. The Morgridge Center for Public Service on campus promotes service learning within local, national, and global communities (www.morgridge.wisc.edu).

LA 561 – Housing and Urban Design
Spring Semester
4 credits

An application of landscape design principles and problem-solving methods to housing and urban issues with attention to physical site design, land-use controls, and the relationship between housing and associated land uses. The built environment is continuously changing through multiple land development-and redevelopment-decisions. Public policies on housing, transportation, mortgage financing, and taxation, in conjunction with changing demographics and lifestyle preferences, are just some of the factors that influence the evolving structure and function of the built environment. Landscape architects can play important roles–through design, civic engagement, and policy advocacy–in making our cities and suburbs healthier and more sustainable. Studio projects focus on the central city and/or suburbs.

URPL 590 (new course/temp #) – Urban Open Space Systems
Spring Semester
3 credits

Urban open space systems are deceptively complex, with public and semi-public open spaces varying in size, shape, design, and context. This course examines the structure and function of urban open space systems from both theoretical and planning practice perspectives. The redevelopment (or retrofitting) of parks and open spaces can help cities become healthier and more attractive, equitable, and sustainable places to live, learn, work, and play.

URPL 601 – Site Planning
Spring Semester
3 credits

Site planning is a multi-phased process of site selection, project programming, site inventory and analysis, conceptual design, design development, and construction documentation and administration. This course provides an introduction to site planning (and the site plan/design review process) for students interested in the structure and function of the built environment.

Class Projects:
Urban Design District 6 – Corridor Plan and Guidelines (Madison – 2008)
Garver Feed Mill Redevelopment (2004)

URPL 611 – Urban Design: Theory and Practice
Spring Semester
3 credits

This course surveys both classic and contemporary literature on urban design theory.  Emphasis is placed on enduring principles and practices that contribute to walkable, visually attractive, and socially, economically, and environmentally sustainable built environments.

Class Project:

Closing the Housing Gap in Dane County (2018)
Vision 2040: The City of Madison’s Park System (2013)

URPL 912 – Planning Workshop
The Department’s planning workshop provides training in planning practice. This workshop also serves an outreach function by connecting communities across Wisconsin with the University’s resources for addressing applied planning problems.

Fall 2009 – Sustainable Madison Community
Final Report

Spring 2002 – Commuter Rail in Dane County: Analysis and Planning for Transit Oriented Development

Student Resources

Urban Planning, Design and Policy Resources

Dane County – Better Urban Infill Development (BUILD) Program

United States

Healthy Places by Design

Affordable Housing Design Advisor

Low-Impact Development Center

Metropolitan Policy Program (Brookings Institution)

Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center

Planetizen: Urban Planning, Design and Development Network

Project for Public Spaces

Smart Growth Online

International Institute for Sustainable Development

Millenium Ecosystem Assessment

Graduate Fellowships

American Planning Association

Ford Foundation Pre-doctoral Diversity Fellowships

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Star Research Fellowships