Odis Jones has been partnering with cities around the country for many years, particularly in the Midwest. Not only has he been on the contractor side of city development, he’s also hired city planners to assist with revitalization projects.

If you’re looking to hire a city planner for your community, Odis has five criteria to help you find the right consultant for your growing city or town looking to revitalize their downtown cores, subdivisions, or surrounding parks and conservations.

Consult a resume, portfolio, or track record.

Experience is a major consideration when looking for assistance to rebuild your city or neighborhood. The top-quality planners have an extensive resume, along with quality references.

Every neighborhood, town, city, and region is different. A city planner that specializes in large metro development may not be as competent for smaller cities or neighborhoods (and vice versa).

Before hiring a consultant, advises Odis Jones, make sure that you’ve engaged members of the community so that you can clearly communicate expectations to a prospective city planner. The right individual will be able to understand the deeper needs of your area and bring just the right perspective to your efforts.

When working with an agency, make sure they send actual planners – not just salespeople.

Odis Jones manages his own city planning business, Cobblestone Development and Consulting. After working with many city development agencies and salespeople, Odis decided to build his own agency. Knowing that his years of experience working side by side with these experts has helped him gain an understanding for what makes a great city planner. Community revitalization and growth, according to Mr. Jones, requires experienced city planners. A sales-driven firm is likely to overlook many critical details in the city planning process.

Make sure that the planner knows how to build relationships within the community.

At the end of the day, your community leaders will have to reach a consensus on who to hire and what projects to initiate. There is bound to be conflict, misunderstanding, and unexpected obstacles during the revitalization process.

Good city planners are comfortable with conflict resolution, answering difficult questions, and backing up plans with compelling data, says Odis Jones. The consultant you select for your community should be able to build relationships easily among those residents with the most influence.

Ask a candidate if they have experience repurposing existing buildings.

Some of the best city rebuilding stories involve flipping and repurposing buildings around town. Not only does repurposing old buildings save the community money, but it lowers your city’s carbon footprint.

Bulldozing an area with existing infrastructure creates enormous waste and carbon emissions. City planners that have a lot of experience saving what was already established can help communities to do more with less.

Odis Jones’ Final Thoughts

If you’ve never hired a city planner before, it can be difficult to know where to start and what to look for. It’s never a bad idea to conduct a search and evaluate your different options, says Odis Jones. You can ask for a preliminary meeting with a few different consultants and narrow down your decisions. This way, you can weigh their credentials and expertise based on the previously mentioned criteria.