Decatur, AL 
Comprehensive Plan

Planning NEXT helped the City of Decatur, Alabama create a new comprehensive plan that is both visionary and implementable with a strong focus on quality-of-place and economic competitiveness. Decatur has a rich history and legacy of planning, but like many communities is facing challenges from demographic shifts, inefficient growth patterns, underutilized land in key locations (such as its riverfront), a trend away from building integrated, walkable neighborhoods, a decline in traditionally important sectors of the economy, and competition for development from other communities in the region. To address these challenges, Planning NEXT led an unprecedented community-driven process and a robust technical analysis effort with a multi-disciplinary team.

A community-driven vision

Seeking a community-driven process, the City assembled a 40-member citizen steering committee through an open application process (over 200 applications received) to represent diverse interests in the community. The steering committee named the process One Decatur and led a robust communication and outreach effort, including word-of-mouth, social media, and traditional media strategies. Through three rounds of public workshops, over 800 people directly participated in the process and many more supported the effort. The committee helped translate public input into recommendations.

Comprehensive, yet strategic

While covering a full range of “comprehensive plan” topics, Decatur’s plan is organized strategically into five initiative areas: Creating a Quality Place, Advancing our Prosperity, Improving our Mobility, Enhancing our Amenities, and Strengthening our Community. The plan’s technical underpinnings include a character-based future land use concept, a mobility strategy that emphasizes context-based street design, and an economic competitiveness and target industry strategy. The plan’s action items include a mix of easily achievable steps to move the City forward as well as more ambitious efforts that would have a significant impact.

Addressing housing market challenges

During the initial public and stakeholder input process, housing was identified as an issue critical to the community’s competitiveness and in need of further study. A housing market analysis was undertaken to identify opportunities and strategies to encourage more quality rental and for-sale housing.