New Hanover County Block - Site & Market Analysis - Wilmington, NC

wil frontOver the past five years, Downtown Wilmington has experienced significant growth and development with over $346 million worth of new investments transforming the historic Downtown. Recently completed projects include new facilities for retail, restaurant, office, residential and hospitality users. More projects are underway or announced that will further grow the retail, hospitality and residential base.

With this influx of activity, New Hanover County government and other civic leaders recognized an opportunity exists to leverage an existing County-owned parking deck and underused public property surrounding the deck to attract more growth and maximize this asset. To move forward, New Hanover County, working with Wilmington Downtown Incorporated (WDI) selected a team led by Benchmark Planning to conduct a Market Demand Analysis to determine viable development opportunities for the Downtown central business district and a Site Analysis to examine land use codes and architectural issues that could lead to the redevelopment of the entire one block site.  The Benchmark team includes Kimley-Horn and Moser Mayer Phoenix.  Click here to learn more.

Food Systems, Working Lands & Military Readiness - Columbia/Richland County, SC

richlandtomatoesBenchmark Planning, in association with Greenfield, Kimley-Horn and White & Smith was selected by the Central Midlands Council of Governments to prepare a food system planning and feasibility study to identify opportunities to guide compatible development, particularly south and southeast of Fort Jackson and around McEntire JNGB, by directly connecting compatible conservation and “working” land uses with military readiness priorities. The planning process will focus on examining the feasibility of implementing market-based incentives and strategies to help establish and maintain compatible conservation and “working” land uses in the high priority encroachment areas subject to urban development pressures between the two military installations. This project is based on two priority action strategies identified in the 2009 Fort Jackson-McEntire JLUS plan:   1) Conservation Partnering and economic incentives and 2) Sustainability Partnerships that focus on strategies to improve public infrastructure capacity, protect the environment, and promote economic activity.  This work will complement the regulatory approach to encroachment mitigation used in the 2012 JLUS implementation project, which consisted of developing zoning ordinance and comprehensive plan language for two priority sub-areas near the military installations.    


The planning assessment will include a “working” land suitability analysis, a peer community/case study review, a comprehensive supply and demand based market analysis of agriculture, forestry, conservation, eco and agri-tourism related industries, and an assessment of institutional demand for regionally produced agricultural and forestry goods with a focus on leveraging the purchasing power of large local anchor institutions with captive consumer markets, such as military installations (Fort Jackson, McEntire, the SC National Guard), hospitals, universities and  other large related entities.  The study will also contain an assessment of industry related facility, infrastructure, and organizational needs, as well as provide a messaging and outreach strategy for supporting locally produced goods.  Finally, the food systems planning process will be conducted within a comprehensive stakeholder and community outreach program that will involve local land owners, farmers, foresters, business leaders, military personnel, non-profit organizations, various state and federal agencies, and the general public.

Downtown Master Plan - City of Suffolk, VA

suffolk va dtBenchmark Planning was recently selected to update the Downtown Suffolk Initiatives Plan prepared by Urban Design Associates in 1998.  The original plan was created as part of the City's comprehensive plan update process and carried out as a separate study.  The updated study will focus on downtown's relationship to the natural environment; local architectural character and tradition; transportation framework; and overall downtown initiatives. 

Neighborhood Plan - Cape Girardeau, MO

CapeGirardeauBridgeBenchmark is partnering with the City of Cape Girardeau, Missouri to develop a plan for the Red Star neighborhood, which is located just north of the city’s downtown on the Mississippi River. The neighborhood, which is named after the Red Star shoe factory that once served as an anchor of the community, experienced significant flooding several years ago. Following the flood, the city received FEMA grant funds to purchase impacted properties, and is now working with the neighborhood association to plan for the future use of those properties while also developing a holistic plan to strengthen the neighborhood. Benchmark will be leading the planning effort with support from city staff and the neighborhood association. The plan is being prepared at no cost to the city through Benchmark’s pro bono technical assistance program.

Downtown Organizational Assessment – Lynchburg, VA

Lynchburg DowntownBenchmark is working closely with downtown Lynchburg to provide an organizational assessment and guidance on a strategic work plan.  Benchmark is helping downtown Lynchburg develop an organizational framework for on-going partnerships between business and development interests, local government and other public entities; and the wider community of downtown supporters; organizational staffing, leadership, and funding strategies; and developing organizational strategies and implementation priorities.

Fort Bragg Joint Land Use Study - Fayetteville, NC

FortBraggBenchmark Planning has been selected to prepare the Fort Bragg Joint Land Use Study.  The massive growth on Fort Bragg has spawned much private sector development in the surrounding municipalities and counties – particularly in the five-mile area encircling Fort Bragg’s boundaries.  Much of the ensuing development (mainly in the past eight years since the last JLUS was completed) may be incompatible with the military training mission.  Fort Bragg is a major US Army installation covering an area of over 251 square miles and containing over 162,000 acres of land.  It has the largest military population of any US Army post – approximately 145,519 people in 2014 (including both soldiers and their dependents).  Over the past thirty years Fort Bragg has experienced a huge construction boom – expanding from 23 million square feet of building space in 1985 to 52.2 million square feet in 2014.  It is also the home of the US Army Forces Command (FORSCOM), which is collocated with the US Army Reserve Command, the XVIII Airborne Corps Headquarters, the 82nd Airborne Division, and the US Army Special Operations Command (USASOC).

Multi-Jurisdictional Land Use Plan – City of Sanford, Lee County & Town of Broadway, NC

TobaccoFarm LeeCountyThe City of Sanford, Lee County and the Town of Broadway are working together to prepare a multi-jurisdictional land use plan.  The land use plan is intended to serve as both a physical and policy plan to guide each jurisdiction over the next 10 to 20 years. The plan will focus on helping elected officials and citizens make informed decisions concerning land use and development.  As part of the planning process, focus group meetings with stakeholders will be conducted to receive guidance and feedback on the topics covered by the plan. The updated plan will establish meaningful and achievable goals, as well as strategies and policies for the implementation of the plan. Benchmark Planning was selected to lead the planning process.

Strategic Planning Retreat – Downtown Raleigh Alliance, NC

RaleighDowntownRecently, Benchmark facilitated the annual strategic planning retreat for the Downtown Raleigh Alliance (DRA). The DRA is an award-winning nonprofit organization whose mission is to continue the revitalization of Raleigh’s downtown by enhancing its quality of life and contributing to its economic success. On a day-to-day basis, DRA provides six core services designed to support its primary stakeholders (property owners, government officials, business owners): 1. Safety, Hospitality & Clean Ambassadors; 2. Strategic Branding & Community Communications; 3. Special Events Production; 4. Retail Attraction & Merchant Promotions; 5. Strategic Partnerships & Stakeholder Engagement; and 6. Strategic Planning.

Downtown Urban Design Plan - City of Concord, NC

concorddowntownBenchmark Planning was recently commissioned to prepare a Downtown Urban Design Plan for the City of Concord, NC.  The transformative plan will be based upon significant stakeholder and focus group outreach that will include a week-long design charrette.  The plan will examine existing conditions, previous studies, market potential and a recent parking study.  The plan will recommend conceptual streetscape improvements along with development recommendations for opportunity sites in order to establish a clear framework for investment in the city’s thriving downtown.

Comprehensive Land Use & Transportation Plan - City of Aiken, SC

aikenThe City of Aiken, SC  (pop. 29,524) recently commissioned Benchmark Planning to prepare an update to its comprehensive plan. With a thriving historic core that represents one of the few planned cities in the South of its vintage, the city has blossomed over the years into a destination for equestrian activities and golfing. Located in close proximity to both the Department of Energy’s Savannah River Site and Augusta, GA, Aiken has benefitted significantly from the economic growth in the region. The focus of the planning effort will be to establish a framework for continued growth and economic development that also preserves the city’s character.

Small Area Transportation Plan - New Bern, NC

New BernBenchmark was selected as part of the Davenport transportation planning team to conduct a transportation planning study to guide development patterns along Dr. Martin Luther King Boulevard (US 17 Business) between Trent Road and McCarthyBoulevard. The New Bern Area MPO identified numerous projects that are planned for the area, and asked the team to ensure that the transportation network was adequately planned to support them. The study provided both short and long term recommendations to achieve the goals.

Performance Audit - City of High Point, NC

high point ncThe City of High Point, NC  (pop. 108,629) has recently selected Benchmark Planning to conduct a performance audit of the Planning and Development Department. The audit is intended to identify opportunities for improvement in existing policies and procedures, while incorporating best practices into the current business operations of the department’s  Development Services and Inspection Services divisions. The primary focus of the audit will be to evaluate the department’s organizational structure, employee workloads, and whether the North Carolina Building Codes and other state and local regulations are being enforced in a fair, consistent and timely manner. The audit will also gauge public sentiment regarding the department’s service and make recommendations to ensure that the department’s customers are receiving the highest quality services possible.

Permitting and Code Enforcement Services Audit - Jackson County, NC

jacksoncoBenchmark Planning was selected to perform an audit of the permitting and code enforcement services for Jackson County, NC. Benchmark was tasked with identifying specific opportunities for improvement in existing policies and procedures, providing recommendations on how the industry’s best practices could be implemented into the current business operations of Permitting and Code Enforcement.   The audit evaluated the current organizational structure and operational efficiencies, while confirming that the North Carolina State Building Code and other state and local regulations applicable to the department were being enforced. Benchmark also assessed staffing levels/needs, current ordinance provisions and schedules of enforcement (turnaround time). The audit also included a regional comparison, and a survey of the general public, elected officials, staff and frequent permitting customers.

Zoning Ordinance Update - Onslow County, NC

onslowOnslow County (pop. 187,589) has selected Benchmark Planning to prepare a major overhaul to its Zoning Ordinance.  The primary purpose of this project is to develop a modern, user-friendly and streamlined ordinance that reflects the community’s goals related to land use and development. Major components of the project include the preparation of a full range of design standards for nonresidential development, revising the procedural aspects of the ordinance to reflect current best practices, the addition of new general and overlay districts that are tailored to meet implementation goals of adopted plans, and a general review of land use compatibility standards related to military operational and training impacts associated with Camp Lejeune and Marine Corps Air Station New River.

Fort Hood Joint Land Use Study - Killeen, TX

forthoodThe City of Killeen (pop. 138,154) recently selected Benchmark and its partners White & Smith, and Marstel-Day to prepare the Fort Hood Joint Land Use Study.  The study partners include the cities of Killeen, Copperas Cove, Gatesville, Harker Heights, Nolanville, Lampasas, Temple and Belton; the counties of Bell and Coryell; Fort Hood; and the Heart of Texas Defense Alliance.  The primary focus of the study is an evaluation of the compatibility of land use and development activity in civilian communities with air and ground operations, training, testing and power projection missions conducted at Fort Hood. The goal of the study is to identify ways that Fort Hood and the neighboring civilian communities can work together cooperatively to encourage compatible growth and help to ensure the long term viability and sustainability of Fort Hood’s mission.

Shaw AFB Joint Land Use Study - Sumter, SC

Shaw air force base 2Benchmark Planning, along with partners White & Smith and Marstel-Day have been selected to prepare a Joint Land Use Study for Shaw AFB and Poinsett Range located in Sumter County, SC. The Joint Land Use Study is intended to assist the community, in partnership with Shaw AFB and the 20th Fighter Wing, in preparing for an eventual transition to F-35 aircraft operations at the installation. Specifically, the JLUS will provide the community with an analysis of potential land use compatibility issues related to noise and safety impacts associated with aircraft operations originating from Shaw and provide recommendations and strategies to foster compatible growth and preserve the critical training and operational missions of Shaw AFB and Poinsett Range.

Sign Ordinance Update - Concord, NC

CONCORD dtConcord, NC (pop. 78,066) has recently selected Benchmark Planning to lead the City's Sign Regulations update to address changing standards and techonology in the sign development/manufacturing industry as well as changes in advertising needs/methods for local businesses.  Concord is on the northern border of Charlotte, NC and is home to several large tourism draws including the Lowes Motor Speedway, Dragway, Concord Mills Mall, and Great Wolf Lodge.  Concord is also the proud home of Carolina’s Medical Center and an array of related medical operations facilities. In addition, Concord continues to grow its economoy with industral and distribution facilities being located in its International Business Park.  The updated sign regulations will relflect the character and context of the location of each commercial district, from downtown to the interstate commerce and tourist areas.

Comprehensive Plan - Mount Airy, NC

MtAiryThe City of Mount Airy (pop. 10,417), is located in the Yadkin Valley wine region with breathtaking views of the Blue Ridge Parkway and the rugged pinnacle of nearby Pilot Mountain.  Benchmark is preparing the city’s very first Comprehensive Plan, building on previous land use and strategic planning efforts, engaging citizens, business leaders and elected officials through a participatory process.

Click here to see an implementation project developed during the process:  http://mtairynews.com/news/31585/downtown-alleyway-to-get-new-look

Rail-Served Industrial Site Evaluation - NC Railroad Company

linwoodyardThe North Carolina Railroad Company, founded in 1849, is a private corporation created to attract development and promote jobs through investments in the State.  The NCRR freight rail line directly serves hundreds of employers and three military installations in 16 counties via its long-term agreement with Norfolk Southern.  As important, the railroad’s value to economic development continues to help sustain and grow our entire state’s economy through connections with other railroads, intermodal terminals, and freight hubs.

In early 2015, in order to promote the importance of rail-served industries, which create jobs across the state, the NCRR is undertaking an unprecedented inventory of rail-capable properties that are available for new industry.  There are over 3,250 miles of freight rail lines across the state.  The NCRR has commissioned Benchmark and Greenfield to perform this study. 

The goal of the study is to identify both existing and potential rail-served industrial sites in order to provide a broad portfolio of options for various types of rail users and make this information available to the greater economic development community.  This portfolio will allow NCRR to gain a sense of which sites optimize the state’s ability to attract industry and stimulate investment.

Comprehensive Plan - Waxhaw, NC

waxhawdowntownWaxhaw, a historic town of 11,295, is located in the southern Piedmont region of North Carolina, approximately twenty miles south of Charlotte. Established in 1889, Waxhaw has a rich history that spans several decades. Waxhaw is striving to strike a healthy balance between growth pressures from the Charlotte metropolitan region and the preservation of their historic character. Benchmark has been hired to help the Town overhaul its current comprehensive plan that was adopted in 2009.