Florida State University

College of Social Sciences & Public Policy

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Planning Studio Wins Statewide Award for Ringling Project

Students in the urban and regional planning studio making preliminary presentations on their award-winning project for the FSU Ringling campus

A plan to protect the valuable assets of Florida State University (FSU) Ringling campus in Sarasota has been selected for an American Planning Association (APA) Florida Outstanding Student Project Award. The Florida State University Ringling Campus Natural Hazards Adaptation Plan was developed by the Mark & Marianne Barnebey Planning & Development Lab, the master’s studio of the Department of Urban and Regional Planning.

The waterfront campus is vulnerable to coastal hazards and natural disasters common to the region. The Ringling’s Board of Directors and executive director contracted the lab to explore the nature of all future natural hazards in light of climate change and to what extent they may impact the Ringling’s assets.

The lab’s graduate student studio team conducted their work in fall 2019 and presented the project report in January 2020. In addition to a comprehensive assessment of the hazards currently threatening the Ringling, the report provided adaptation strategies to ensure the campus is resilient to natural hazards over the next 50 years.

Once the winter home of circus icon John Ringling, the Florida Legislature placed it under the auspices of FSU in 2000. Since this acquisition, the university has turned the Ringling into one of the state’s premiere art and cultural attractions. The 66-acre site is home to four nationally registered historic structures and two buildings that have won architectural awards, including the historic Ca’ d’Zan mansion, a Museum of Art and the Ringling Circus Museum. The landscape is embellished with exotic Banyan trees, ornamental gardens, dozens of statues and sculptures and culturally significant grounds features, such as Mable Ringling’s historic rose garden.

All of these assets are highly vulnerable to extreme rain, drought, inland and coastal flooding, tropical storms and hurricanes, storm surge and intense wind. Beyond the present-day threats, rising levels of carbon dioxide are creating warmer atmosphere and ocean temperatures, which most climate scientists claim will generate more erratic, unpredictable and extreme weather patterns. The impacts of climate change will be particularly devastating to low-lying coastal regions, according to the report, which includes case studies of comparable waterfront locations throughout the U.S.

Following in-depth assessment of the vulnerability levels of each individual structure, the report outlines and examines an array of climate and hazard adaptation strategies. The suggestions proposed in the plan can be used immediately or in long-range planning by the Ringling, along with planners, designers and partner agencies. Each strategy is given individual attention while including relevant information on policy development and partnership coordination, funding opportunities and general applicability.

The project team members, all of them urban and regional planning graduate students, were Ashley Johnson, Aleah Qureshi, Nicholas Reid, Marcus Richards, Abigail Sanders, Maya Taylor, James Wenyon and Michael Zang, under the direction of Planner in Residence Dennis Smith with the assistance of Senior Planner Jeremy Crute.

“I am very proud of the work of the students and the level of engagement afforded by the FSU Facilities Department and The Ringling,” Smith said. “I am also very appreciative of the climate of support provided by the administration and faculty at the Department of Urban and Regional Planning [DURP] for all of our Barnebey Lab endeavors. Awards like this truly represent a ‘DURP-wide” team effort.”

Due to the pandemic, the award will be presented in a virtual ceremony as part of APA Florida’s annual conference, which will also be held online, September 9‐11. The organization has also encouraged the project team to present the plan to APA National for consideration of a national award.

The Mark & Marianne Barnebey Planning & Development Lab (aka “The Barn”) connects with public and private partners to provide capacity, technical assistance and innovative planning for the sustainable growth and long-term viability of Florida communities through studio and research projects.

Named for its major benefactors, the lab engages professional planning faculty and masters-level graduate students in real-world planning projects that provide graduate students with a clinical, place-based learning experience.

An example of the strategies identified in the award-winning report, which can be accessed here