APA PA Chapter News: June

The Latest News from PA Chapter of APA…

Now that summer is here, it’s time to get out and about to visit Pennsylvania’s beautiful and diverse countryside, cities, towns, rivers, and natural wonders. And, of course, as planners, you’ll want to see the best places in the state from a planning perspective. Fortunately, both the national APA and the Chapter have Great Places programs that can help you determine where to go. This month, we highlight both of these programs, as well as Extended Reality tools planners can use to visualize the next Great Place! Enjoy!

Save the Date: 2023 Annual Conference
October 15-17

Annual Conference will be at Hilton Scranton and Conference Center. We’re very excited about the Chapter’s return to Scranton for our 2023 annual conference and hope to see you there. Block out the dates on your calendar now, and be sure to make a hotel reservation.

  • Making a reservation: The easiest way to make a reservation is online, but you can also call 570-343-3000 and mention “PA Chapter of APA” room block (conference dates October 15-17, 2022). The rate is good until September 18, 2023, but don’t wait to make your reservation. The chapter only has a certain number of rooms in our block and once it’s full, it’s FULL; so don’t wait…book now. 

Planning Webcast Series

Earn over 50 CM credits each year online – at no cost to members of participating organizations that support the Planning Webcast Series. Webcasts take place live on Fridays from 1:00 – 2:30 PM ET and are worth 1.5 CM credits (for live viewing only) unless otherwise noted. The first series is scheduled for January 20, 2023. More information online.

For APA members that need CM credit for on-demand education sessions are available. The Planning Webcast Series, sponsored by APA Chapters & Divisions, are offering credit till the end of the year (12/31/2023). More information online.


The Pennsylvania Municipal Planning Education Institute (PMPEI) courses are here for you if you are a local planning commissioner, zoning board member, zoning administrator, elected official or municipal planning staff. PMPEI, established in 1992, is the Chapter’s primary outreach to the planning community and is a collaboration between the PA Chapter of the American Planning Association (PA/APA) and the PA State Association of Boroughs (PSAB). PMPEI offers four, 10-hour in-depth courses, and four 90-minute online courses dealing with the Municipalities Planning Code and Community Planning, Zoning and Zoning Administration, and Subdivision and Land Development Review. Classes are kept small, are within reasonable distances, low cost, team-taught by experienced instructors, and include lots of hands-on instruction. Course listings and descriptions may be viewed at PMPEI’s website, pmpei.org. Contact Terri Dickow at tdickow@boroughs.org (or 1-800-232-7722 ext 1042) to find out how you can be part of the Chapter’s planning education outreach!

Communication and Membership Committee

The Communication and Membership Committee is looking for volunteers to contribute articles for our monthly E-News. If you are interested or would like more information, please contact Amy Evans or Amy McKinney.

Opportunities for Giving

Each year the Chapter offers a scholarship to support individuals seeking funds for academic degree programs, internships, and professional development activities.  If anyone would like to contribute to the Chapter’s Scholarship fund, donations can be made here. We accept all major credit cards, or you can send a check. Please make your check payable to “PA Chapter of APA Scholarship Fund” and mail it to P.O. Box 4680, Harrisburg PA 17111.

FEMA Region 3 Coffee Breaks Webinar Series

FEMA Region 3 hosts a webinar series for anyone who wants to reduce risk in their community. These hour-long “Coffee Breaks” are held every other month. FEMA staff share mitigation best practices and highlight the work happening at the federal, regional, state and community levels to reduce risk in Region 3. Coffee Break webinars are open to anyone in the hazard mitigation, resiliency, or risk reduction planning fields. This work can be in the public or private sectors. Community planners, emergency and floodplain managers, GIS technicians, government officials, and contractors – or anyone interested – is welcome to attend. You can find more information here

Great Places in PA and Across the Country
By Amy Evans, AICP

With the build-up to announcing the PA Chapter’s 2023 Great Places, it is a good time to take a look at our state’s Great Places in America, in addition to the locations honored by the Pennsylvania Chapter. Great Places in America are designated by the American Planning Association. The program started in 2007 and has celebrated over 300 Great Places, with at least one in every state. APA Great Places represent the gold standard in planning and demonstrate why stakeholder engagement at the local, state, and federal levels matters.


Liberty Street in Franklin PA (Venango County), an APA Great Place in America

Great Places make communities stronger and bring people together through good planning. Take a moment to check out Pennsylvania’s nationally recognized parks and public spaces in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Lancaster, Jim Thorpe, and Franklin here. Have you been to any of them? Share your favorites!



Ten Years of Great Places in Pennsylvania
By Kate McMahon, AICP

2023 marks the tenth year of the Chapter recognizing Great Places in Pennsylvania, which builds off of the national program. Started in 2014, the Great Places in Pennsylvania program seeks to recognize unique, memorable places that display community planning best practices, have an exemplary character, and provide a sustainable vision for tomorrow. In the past ten years, the Great Places in Pennsylvania program has recognized 55 Great Places across the Commonwealth, located in 33 counties. Each of the Chapter’s Sections are home to 5 or more great places. The Southeast Section has the most Great Places with 15 places recognized.

Since 2014, places have been recognized in five categories- Great Public Spaces, Great Greenways/Trails, Great Neighborhoods, Great Streets and Great Transformations. The Great Public Spaces category has been used each year while the other four categories have rotated. Below is a summary of the awards in each category:

  • Great Public Spaces = 26
  • Great Greenways/Trails = 15
  • Great Neighborhoods = 6
  • Great Streets =5
  • Great Transformations = 3

A call for Great Places in Pennsylvania applications typically occurs each spring. The Great Places Committee, chaired by Pam Shellenberger, AICP, reviews the project applications and selects awards each year. The Great Places in Pennsylvania awards for 2023 will be announced in the coming weeks. Information about the Great Places in Pennsylvania program, including program guidelines, tips for submitting a good application, and an archive of all of the Great Places that have been recognized can be found online

Planning Tools for Visualizing the Future
By Betsy Logan, AICP

Augmented Reality (source: Green Schoolyards America)

Imagine stepping into a new development project before it even breaks ground or engaging communities in the planning process like never before. Extended Reality (XR) technologies have emerged as a game-changer for urban planning and community outreach. Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR), and Mixed Reality (MR) are the three domains of XR that offer immersive and interactive ways to experience proposed developments. VR technology takes users on a virtual tour of future buildings and public spaces, providing decision-makers with a realistic 3D model of the proposed development. This immersive experience allows decision-makers to make informed choices and ensures plans align with the desired vision and goals. By using AR on smartphones or tablets, planners can overlay digital elements onto existing physical spaces, showcasing proposed changes and improvements.

Imagine residents walking through their neighborhood and using AR to view potential developments, parks, or revitalized areas. It is an excellent tool for community outreach and engagement, as it allows residents to visualize the impact of the proposed development on their surroundings. MR technology integrates VR and AR, enabling collaborative planning processes that ensure diverse voices and perspectives shape planning decisions. Using XR technologies, planners can create more inclusive, sustainable, and vibrant communities that align with professionals’ visions and residents’ needs. Additionally, integrating XR technologies into planning improves communication, fosters community engagement and empowerment, and enables iterative design processes.