The Pioneer Award recognizes individuals or organizations that have made significant contributions that have reshaped the planning practice, education, or theory of urban development.

Urban planning expert and educator Lawrence P. Witzling, PhD, has received the American Planning Association’s 2017 National Excellence Award for Planning Pioneers. For more than 40 years, Witzling has been a national authority on urban planning and design, inspiring hundreds of students and aspiring professionals to produce innovative, high-quality urban design.

APA’s National Planning Excellence Award for Planning Pioneers recognizes the contributions of individuals, planning organizations or firms that have made personal and direct innovations in the American planning profession that have significantly and positively redirected planning practice education and theory with long-term results. Nominees are judged based on their historical impact on the planning industry and their national significance.

Rocky Marcoux, Commissioner of Milwaukee’s Department of City Development described Witzling “As an integral and well-respected urban planner and designer, the community has come to rely on him as a trusted thought leader and steward of quality development.”

He served as the design competition advisor for key civic projects nationwide, including Pittsburgh’s Convention Center, Evanston’s Library, the Astronaut’s Memorial (Cape Canaveral), housing in Seattle’s Denny Regrade, Milwaukee’s Menomonee Valley, Atlanta’s Peachtree and Auburn Streets, Leesburg’s Town Hall, and the World Trade Center Memorial. All of these competitions led to implementation of award-winning, innovative designs. Through these competitions, planning professionals were challenged to showcase their most innovative work.

In 1988 he started his own practice, Planning and Design Institute which grew and then merged into GRAEF in 2008. He has overseen numerous award-winning urban design projects throughout Wisconsin and helped pioneer innovative development concepts. This includes award-winning work on Milwaukee’s lakefront, removal and redevelopment of Milwaukee’s Park East freeway, riverfront development, urban reindustrialization, and more than 50 neighborhood, downtown, and comprehensive plans throughout Wisconsin.

As a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee from 1973 to 2014, he brought realworld scenarios to the classroom so students could exercise their skills as thinkers, planners and designers. He helped found UWM’s planning department as well as its joint professional program with architecture.

As a mentor, he shared his passion for planning and urban design with those he coached and supervised, and encouraged aspiring professionals to further their education in planning and pursue new skills and civic leadership.

Witzling wrote more than 20 feature articles about planning, urban design and architecture, and he co-authored two books, “Presenting Statistics” and “The Planning and Administration of Design Competitions.” Witzling continues to be active in the profession as an educator, speaker, mentor and community activist, pushing the boundaries of excellence in urban design.

“Lawrence Witzling has made significant and lasting contributions to the field of planning,” said Shedrick Coleman, AIA, Chair of APA’s 2017 National Planning Awards Jury. “His work has reshaped cities all over this country, but more importantly, also reshaped the way people think and approach efforts to create more livable and vibrant communities today.”

APA’s national awards program, the profession’s highest honor, is a proud tradition established more than 50 years ago to recognize outstanding community plans, planning programs and initiatives, public education efforts and individuals for their leadership on planning issues.

The 2017 APA National Planning Award recipients will be honored at a special luncheon on May 8, during APA’s National Planning Conference in New York City. The award winners will also be featured in the May issue of Planning magazine.

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Lee Matz