Duncan Associates is a planning consulting firm that specializes in updating and revising zoning and development regulations for local governments. From offices in Austin and Chicago, Duncan Associates has assisted more than 120 jurisdictions in over 30 states prepare zoning code updates.
Zoning Code: Chicago Duncan Associates served as prime contractor and project director for the first comprehensive overhaul of Chicago’s zoning ordinance in 47 years. The new ordinance, which was adopted in 2004, places strong emphasis on conserving the physical character of the city’s cherished residential neighborhoods and on stimulating redevelopment of underutilized commercial corridors. Among the ordinance’s many new features are urban design standards for designated “Pedestrian Streets;” several new residential districts that reflect the subtle differences in character that exist among different neighborhood areas; and new flexible, location-sensitive parking regulations. The city’s downtown zoning regulations were revised to include new affordable housing density bonuses (an addition to the existing menu of 18 amenities eligible for FAR bonuses within the downtown area), reduced parking standards for some uses and, for the first time, maximum accessory parking ratios for residential and nonresidential construction. New “Mobility Street” designations were established within the downtown to help ensure safe and adequate pedestrian routes for commuters walking between their places of employment and central area’s many commuter rail and CTA rail stations.
Zoning Code: Philadelphia Duncan Associates is recently completed a rewrite of Philadelphia’s 50-year old zoning code. In 2007, nearly 80 percent of Philadelphia voters approved a charter amendment calling for an update of the code. Following that vote, a 31-member Zoning Code Commission was established and Duncan Associates was selected as co-lead (with Clarion Associates) to prepare the new code. Duncan Associates led the initial in-depth zoning code analysis, drawing on its experience in other big city zoning code assignments. The firm also
prepared new zoning district and use regulations and served as general editor of the public review draft code. Key objectives of the code update were to simplify the structure of the city's 55 base and 30+ overlay zoning districts; to reduce the number of decisions that go to the zoning board of adjustment by authorizing more "by-right" development opportunities; to incorporate standards that promote sustainability and implement the Greenworks Philadelphia sustainability framework; to incorporate standards that improve development quality and design; and to use charts, graphics, and illustrations to make the code easier to read and understand.
Zoning & Dev’t Code/Sustainable Practices: Kansas City Duncan Associates completed a comprehensive overhaul of Kansas City’s zoning and subdivision regulations in 2008. This important update—the first in nearly 50 years—incorporated dozens of sustainable, “green solutions.” The new ordinance includes new provisions designed to incentivize open space and conservation-style development through provision of density bonuses and reductions in lot area and setback requirements. "Neighborhood-serving retail" uses are now allowed within residential districts, allowing residents to walk to nearby retail and service uses. In 2010, Duncan Associates was awarded a follow-up contract to prepare additional code amendments designed to help the city attain its goal of being the “greenest city in America.” Over the past two years the firm worked with an advisory committee to prepare a sustainability audit of the city’s existing development regulations and perform best practices research. Based on that work, Duncan Associates drafted a series of code amendments focusing on energy conservation, energy efficiency and greenhouse gas reduction. This project was funded through the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant Program made available pursuant to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
Zoning Code: Pittsburgh Duncan Associates drafted a new Urban Zoning Code for the City of Pittsburgh. The City’s previous ordinance had been adopted in 1958 and had anticipated that future development would be lower density and more “suburban” in character than established. It emphasized new building types that greatly changed the character of existing urban neighborhoods. These building patterns, such as the compact row houses that are scattered across the hillsides, create the distinct character of Pittsburgh, the “City of Neighborhoods.” New residential districts were drafted as a series of use and development sub-districts that could be mapped in various combinations to form complete zoning districts. By providing a broader range of potential districts and separating use from development characteristics, the aim was to give more flexibility and better "fit" than existing regulations. New commercial regulations seek a balance between encouraging development in commercial areas and maintaining and enhancing the City's residential quality of life. The regulations establish control impacts on nearby uses, establish visual criteria and manage traffic and parking. In an editorial, the Pittsburgh Post Gazette stated that “no longer will outdated laws make it difficult for Pittsburgh to use zoning to encourage innovation, mixed uses of land and buildings and a better environment for developers.”
Downtown Form-Based Code: Evanston (IL) In 2007, Duncan Associates lead a multidisciplinary team—including The Lakota Group— charged with formulating a downtown plan and form-based zoning for Evanston. A weeklong design charrette was held, during which more than 500 local residents participated in shaping the future design of streetscapes, public spaces, and building form in the downtown area. The firm recommended that the city define character districts that would result in a downtown with a clear and pronounced physical form, ranging from 2–4 story “traditional” areas to mid- and high-rise “core” areas centered on the commuter rail and light rail transit lines that converge in downtown Evanston. The form-based code strategy builds on the character district approach developed during the design charrette. It establishes four zoning districts, each with standards for building height, profile, density, and frontage as well as design standards for sidewalks and streets.