Geodesign for Conceptual Urban Change Alternatives in Colima, México
By Arq. Jose Francisco Rivas Valencia, M.P.S. in Geodesign, Penn State
In 2017, in the city of Colima, Mexico, government authorities announced that XX Military Base was no longer operative after 60 years and would be relocated. In 2018, the base moved to a new location, and control of the former military base site was transferred to the state government. A citizens commission was given the responsibility of defining the best future use of the property. Integral sustainability and societal support were set as priorities.
Geodesign translated competing interests into viable solutions through a powerful geospatial evaluation platform that transformed social needs and expectations, technical and normative requirements, and a very limited amount of geospatial data into a digital, easy-to-use, real-time tool. The technology combined geodesign, ArcMap, and Scenario360. This tool and the collaborative process greatly contribute to a social, environmental, and economic preliminary evaluation of conceptual change scenarios for the site. This process also generates clear and immediate visual feedback that supports smart and informed decision-making for all the stakeholders and project participants. This project fulfilled requirements of the online master's degree in professional studies in geodesign from Pennsylvania State University.
Meeting the Challenge with Geodesign
The citizens commission's priorities were social, economic, and environmental sustainability as well as the public's collaboration and full involvement in the process. Geodesign, along with very limited and simple data and public participation, enabled clear and immediate visual feedback to support smart and informed decision-making.
The site is a 15.06-hectare walled property on the east side of the city of Colima. Adjacent to the southern limits of the property is Piedra Lisa Park, a very important social meeting place. To the west is the State Congress building and a cultural complex. The reuse of this former military base site represents a great urban integration opportunity and also may help alleviate crowding pressures from high-population densities along the eastern and northern limits of the site.
Based on the geodesign framework as defined by Professor Carl Steinitz, the geodesign team identified the stakeholder groups that—along with the citizens commission—should work with the residents of Colima throughout the methodology process.
Adding social, environmental, and economic sustainability criteria and simple available geospatial data to the ArcGIS and Scenario360 technology, the team defined a geodesign-oriented evaluation strategy for mixed-land-use development alternatives on the former XX Military Base site.
Setting up the Process
The process started by organizing the commission—comprising multiple social, private, academic, and professional organization representatives—as well as the geodesign team, composed of technical and academic professionals linked to urban and social planning tasks.
After this, a public consultation and collaborative design process was defined. Two key aspects of the process included development of the evaluation platform, and the public consult workshop. This workshop took place in January 2019. Participants provided valuable information on the requirements, restrictions, constraints, desires, and expectations of local residents.
All the gathered information was processed and integrated with technical and planning normative guidelines. The result was a series of technically defined assumptions, requirements, and socially defined constraints, which were translated from subjective ideas into actual values linked to areas and spatial considerations.
The result was a battery of key performance indicators (KPIs) covering economic, environmental, and social aspects inherent to the public’s concerns for the site. Relative importance for each of these aspects was also defined, and it was decided to give a 45 percent weighting factor to social aspects, 35 percent to environmental aspects, and 20 percent to economic aspects.
The compatible land uses for the site, obtained from Colima’s urban zoning code, were voted on and given social impact valuation. Twelve possible specific land uses were defined for the site, and each was given a numeric social value per square meter based on the prior positive impact evaluation. Also, water requirements, wastewater generation, parking requirements, estimated job generation, construction costs, maintenance costs, and the cost of rent were determined in terms of value per square meter.
These setup values were introduced into the Scenario360 platform. Data layers were added to the platform. Assumptions were also clarified and defined. This information is accessible via sliders and will be useful for future evaluation of what-if variants of any given scenario.
After adding layer data, dynamic attributes were used to easily rename, reclassify, regroup, and identify spatial conditions and make dynamic calculations that are stored automatically in Scenario360. The attributes can contain different values for each proposed scenario.
Eventually, a total of 215 indicator formulas were introduced. The values generate and provide complete information on social value, water resources, parking, jobs, and costs per square meter for each of the specific land uses that may be proposed.
To aid understanding, the indicators were organized into 21 graphs to enable relevant feedback on scenario performance. These 21 combined indicators were further categorized into social, environmental, and economic KPIs.
Based on all the goals and values, three scenarios were conceptually defined: NO CHANGE, SPORTS FIELDS + MUSEUM, and BOTANICAL GARDEN + MUSEUM.
Project Results and Conclusions
After the scenarios were sketched into the platform by defining the land-use type for each drawn polygon, Scenario360 revealed complete feedback on the 21 charted indicators.
After working on this project and using a real-time feedback tool, the team may find many opportunities to take the analysis even further. Scenario alternatives may continue to be changed on the fly by simply modifying polygons or assumption values. In a public consult workshop, people's ideas can be translated into spatial sketches of possible changes to a given scenario, and the impact of any alternative can be immediately seen. Any project proposal that gets the direct involvement and collaboration of local residents will surely gain more support and ensure successful future use of the site.
The presented evaluations inspired complementary projects such as: How can parking requirements be resolved? How may we implement water recycling at the site, and what impact may this generate in the overall scenario values? How can we elevate the performance indicators for any scenario based on what-if variants? What public policies could be proposed to achieve more sustainable results, and how may they make an impact?