GBBNs Kull & McGirr Author AIA Best Practies Regarding Public Service and Community Involvement of the University

For over 16 years Ron Kull, FAIA, and Dale McGirr, Assoc. AIA, worked together at the University of Cincinnati helping to strategically position UC in regards to the evolution of the look and feel of the campus. Today, these two gentlemen once again collaborate on related higher education projects, as Senior Planners with GBBN Architects. Kull and McGirr have authored 10 Principles for Community Partnering in regards to the AIA Best Practices – Public Service and Community Involvement of the University.

“Unfortunately campuses and other major employers surrounded by residential communities traditionally don’t plan their future together,” said McGirr. “Our 15 years of research shows that conflicts between communities and campuses have been around for years.” Together Kull and McGirr found a new way to approach institutional and community development together and achieve important strategic outcomes for the institution, its immediate community, and the larger region.

“It’s all about communicating effectively with all parties involved,” said Kull. “Too often, a campus thinks of its community relations program as just “showing up” at community meetings and briefing those in attendance about events and issues on campus. “This isn’t necessarily a bad way to communicate, but it definitely can’t be the only way,” added Kull. “There needs to be a real relationship with the communities involved concerning the future development of the campus or the issue of the effects on the neighborhood’s long-term residents like the off-campus student residents in their midst, traffic congestion, aging housing stock, or inappropriate commercial development.” Nor can it address the strategic need for community health around the edges of the campus as a basic requirement for the health of the university itself. The common ground of these issues can make for a productive partnership between the campus and its neighborhoods, but only if it follows principles that make such a partnership have benefits for all parties.

The following 10 Principles for Community Partnering have been developed as a result of Kull’s and McGirr’s experience in creating partnerships and projects at the University of Cincinnati.

  • Contextual – Do not expand into a neighborhood if doing so will destroy the neighborhood’s fabric.
  • Mutual Benefit – Give equal weight and attention to institutional and community goals.
  • Local Representation – The community partners need to be the recognized community governance organization, not just interested or active individuals.
  • Local Control – In many cases, the neighborhood representatives should have voting control of the non-profit development corporation, even though the institution sits on the board as well.
  • Flexibility Regarding Space Control – Be willing to waive direct ownership and operation of facilities in favor of a leasehold relationship in a mixed-use project.
  • Reuse of Existing, Underutilized Non-residential Assets – Look for opportunities to ‘recycle’ empty in the area that is deteriorating and needs a new use, even if it is not contiguous to the main campus.
  • Neighborhood Identity – Recognize that each neighborhood is different and be prepared to form multiple partnerships and development corporations to pursue the common agenda with each neighborhood.
  • Community Building – Establish and support an Employee-Assisted Housing Program to increase the number of owner occupied housing units near campus.
  • City Relationship – Resolve differences before going to the city.
  • City Support Requests – Make realistic requests of the city, especially for financial support.

“These principles are designed to change the culture of neighborhood relations with the community that surround institutions of higher education or other major employers,” said McGirr. “It’s only through true collaboration can win-win scenarios be found that can produce institutional health and growth along with the local community vitality that is so essential to a productive workplace.”

The 10 Principles for Community Partnering in regards to the AIA Best Practices – Public Service and Community Involvement is now available online at: