Dr. Catherine Ross 
Director - Center for Quality Growth and Regional Development 
Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta

Photos: Adam Komich

Dr. Catherine Ross
Director - Center for Quality Growth and Regional Development
Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta

Regional planning that orches-trates the growth objectives of adjacent cities and towns could be the key to solving sometimes conflicting urban and suburban challenges that revolve around transportation, employment, infrastructure expansion, and environmental stewardship. A strong advocate for a regional approach is Catherine Ross, who has spent two decades exploring ways to make cities, neighborhoods, and regions safer and healthier places.

Ross is director of the Georgia Institute of Technology’s Center for Quality Growth and Regional Development and vice president of economic consulting firm Euquant. Her book, MegaRegions: Planning for Global Competitiveness, was published in 2009. And last July, President Obama tapped Ross as advisor to the first-ever White House Office of Urban Affairs.

Q: What are MegaRegions?

A: MegaRegions are really a framework for planning and a strategy for meeting the challenges of our cities. By 2050, the U.S. population will expand by another 130 million people. Where are they going to live? How are we going to accommodate them with regard to housing, retail, schools, infrastructure? We’re tied to a 19th-century approach which [isolates] each city on its own, without being aware of the connections and opportunities it could enjoy simply by planning and linking to other cities.

Q: What could that mean for builders and developers?

A: We’re going to have to be more sustainable with regard to what we consume and where we live. That’s an opportunity for the development community to … come up with new design templates that are tied to transit, tied to sustainability, tied to offering different [home] sizes and lifestyle features and quality for a very different population than we have currently.

Q: How will these reforms be pushed through?

A: I envision a new relationship with the private sector and the building community, and a new relationship with communities. Zoning [for example] has to be more of an open process, letting developers get involved earlier. The idea of sustainability only works if the community works hand in glove with the developer.

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Atlanta, GA.