Multi-College Endeavor Nets Nearly $700K in Federal Funding for Projects
Saint Louis University will help lay the groundwork for a sustainability plan for the St. Louis region.
SLU has received $669,000 from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to create a data portal and series of planning simulation models that will bring together data about housing, transportation, the environment, economic development and other important factors.
Sarah Coffin, Ph.D., associate professor of public policy studies, will lead an interdisciplinary team of researchers from the departments of public policy studies and civil engineering in developing the data portal and modeling approach.
|Sarah Coffin, Ph.D. (center) will lead an interdisciplinary team of researchers from the departments of public policy studies and civil engineering in developing a data portal and a series of planning simulation models. Collaborators include, from left, Joanna Ganning, Ph.D., Megan Hart, Ph.D., John Woolschlager, Ph.D., and Dan Monti, Ph.D. Photo by Jeremiah Ingram
"St. Louis is among a small number of major cities and urban regions that don't have this kind of portal," Coffin said. "When it's completed, our database will be a one-stop resource for information that's critical for successful sustainability planning."
Funding for the SLU project comes from HUD's $100 million Sustainable Communities Regional Planning Grant Program, which was created to support more livable and sustainable communities across the country.
Metropolitan regions with populations of 500,000 or more could receive up to $5 million. St. Louis received nearly $4.7 million, the fourth-largest award.
John Woolschlager, Ph.D., chairman of the civil engineering department, is working with East-West Gateway Council of Governments to create a series of planning scenarios that will examine the sustainability potential in the region.
"We'll be able to use the models to test future scenarios against the three E's of sustainability — environment, economy and equity — to determine how sustainable a plan really is," he said.
SLU's involvement with the HUD-funded effort exemplifies the University's increasing focus on multi-disciplinary, cross-campus collaboration, said Raymond Tait, Ph.D., vice president for research.
"The University supports this initiative on a number of levels," Tait said. "Not only does it focus on sustainability— a topic of great importance to us — but it reflects a big-picture perspective available only to researchers who reach across departments and schools to collaborate. We are working to encourage other investigators at SLU to develop similar partnerships."
Coffin and Woolschlager both believe that the collaboration between their respective academic units — the College of Education and Public Service and Parks College of Engineering, Aviation and Technology — helped SLU land the HUD grant.
"Sustainability is a highly collaborative area," Woolschlager said. "It's essential that units work together to go after these competitive, large-scale grants."
|A preliminary test computer model shows areas (in green) that could be developed during the next 30 years. SLU will create new models and enhancing existing ones. Image courtesy of the East-West Gateway Council of Governments|
Coffin added that the same collaborative approach that helped SLU secure the federal funding also is needed to make the St. Louis region more sustainable.
"It's really important that we start moving beyond localized planning," she said. "The goal of this effort is to get communities working together on problems that aren't bound by city borders."
The three-year grant program does include a number of different entities and agencies, including four core members: East-West Gateway, the City of St. Louis, St. Louis County and FOCUS St. Louis.
Other consortium members are Trailnet, Citizens for Modern Transit, Metro, Great Rivers Greenway, Metro St. Louis Equal Housing Opportunity Council, Southwestern Illinois Resource Conservation and Development, and the Applied Research Collaborative or ARC — a joint venture founded in 2008 by SLU, the University of Missouri–St. Louis and Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.
The other SLU faculty involved are: Joanna Ganning, Ph.D., assistant professor of public policy studies; Megan Hart, Ph.D., assistant professor of civil engineering; and Daniel Monti, Ph.D., professor of public policy studies.
Students will have an opportunity to work on the projects as well, and the University's Stupp Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Lab will serve as a key resource.