Richmond, VA


Baskervill Gives Back: Empowering Citizens through Urban Design

By laurenlicklider
Oct 29, '13 9:02 AM EST

RICHMOND, VA (October 29, 2013) -- When Baskervill Principal Burt Pinnock leaves the offices every evening, he doesn't stop working. Instead, he dives right into one of the many community organizations he is a part of.

Burt PinnockTo start, he's on the Board of Zoning Appeals and has been on the Urban Design Committee and the Commission of Architectural Review. Then there's his work with Richmond Habitat for Humanity's Construction Committee, where he facilitates the organization's mission to build quality housing in areas that need it most.

And then there's Storefront for Community Design, a nonprofit that works with homeowners, organizations, and businesses to encourage quality community development through the power of great design, a vision Baskervill is also steadfastly working toward.

Burt, who is Chair of the Board, on the Executive Committee, on the Executive Development Committee, and volunteers his architecture and design expertise, is paving the way for a valuable partnership between Baskervill staff and Storefront for Community Design.

"Community involvement fosters a better work environment," he said. "Employees feel like they can contribute on all levels."

That's why Burt is working with Ryan Rinn, executive director at Storefront for Community Design, to host a Lunch and Learn about the nonprofit at the Baskervill offices in November. (Ryan was recently named to Style Weekly's 2013 Top 40 Under 40 List.)

Burt said it is an opportunity to share the nonprofit's vision and goals with the firm's architects, engineers, and designers.

"People really do want to figure out how to contribute to the place they live," he said. "They really do want to make a difference."

Part 2 SidebarBurt believes architects and designers have a unique leadership role when it comes to community involvement.

"Most of us have a sense of what makes a good neighborhood," he said. "If we can help others recognize the things that make a good community, then we create a better city for everyone."

What Storefront offers is a resource for those seeking to create those great communities, Burt said. This could be anyone from a person adding a deck to their home to a group of citizens looking to create a more vibrant neighborhood.

Currently, Burt and Storefront volunteers are helping to revitalize the Spring Hill neighborhood, an area just across the Belvidere Bridge. The unique challenge surrounding this particular neighborhood, Burt said, is that it is bound by two major thoroughfares, with the James River and a park on either end.

A lack of clearly defined zoning regulations has prompted a surge in development, he said, offering a unique design challenge.

"We have to think about how exactly a 14-story building can exist next to a one-story cottage," he said.

That's where the nearly 180 volunteers at Storefront for Community Design come in. The nonprofit first assisted the Spring Hill neighborhood in deciding what kind of neighborhood they envisioned themselves being. Part of this process involved walking the neighborhood with its inhabitants, Burt said. This gave them a chance to point out things that need to be addressed.

"They told us, 'There's a lot of trash that collects here,' or 'The sidewalks here desperately need to be fixed,' and 'This vacant lot ought to be filled.'"

The next step for Storefront is to help the neighborhood propose zoning changes.

"We help give the neighborhood the tools they need for when they go to bat for themselves against unwanted development," Burt said. "People come back to us and say, 'I never imagined this could happen.' Having this—whatever it is—makes them feel empowered. Any time you can make a citizen feel empowered within their community is rewarding."

Look out for Part III of Baskervill Gives Back, coming soon. To read Part I, click here.