Master Plan Outreach Process

Community Planit

The City of Lowell sought to engage a diverse audience in the Sustainability Planning process through the use of new media. In partnership with Emerson College, the City of Lowell launched Community PlanIt, a free virtual planning tool that engages residents in thinking about the future of their communities in fun and interactive ways.
Community PlanIt logo
Through the game, players shared their "voice" and voted on issues that mattered to them most. The software platform was developed by faculty and staff from Emerson's Engagement Game Lab.

Game Overview

The game is web-based, so it can be played from any computer or mobile phone that has access to the Internet. Lowell was the first city to formally use it for the purposes of long-range planning and enjoyed engaging with the local community through this new medium.

Content for Lowell's Community PlanIt game was developed by a variety of youth organizations in the city, including the United Teen Equality Center and the Boys and Girls Club, as well as staff in the Department of Planning and Development. The city made every effort to develop a game that would bring together residents of all ages and backgrounds.


The Department of Planning and Development hosted a series of public meetings and visioning sessions in the Summer of 2011 to collect input from residents, business owners, and other community members and help shape a future vision for sustainability in the city.

Meeting topics included:
  • Community Character
  • Economic Development
  • Engagement and Identity
  • Housing and Public Services
  • Open Space and Natural Resources
  • Transportation and Mobility
  • Workforce Investment and Institutional Partnerships

Translation into Spanish, Portuguese and Khmer was provided upon request for each of the meetings.

Telephone Survey

A professional consultant group was hired to conduct a telephone survey in the Spring of 2011 with a randomly selected sample of approximately 800 Lowell residents. The survey was conducted in English, Spanish, Khmer and Portuguese.

The purpose of the survey was to provide residents with a means by which to express their opinions on a range of topics, from public transportation access to affordable housing. The results of the survey helped to inform the planning process.

Sustainability Snapshots Contest

Applicants were encouraged to take a snapshot of something in the city that held meaning for them, something that they hoped to pass on to future generations. Applicants of all ages and backgrounds whom adhered to the submission guidelines were eligible to apply.
Photo of the vibrant Gallery Vertical Garden Mural
All photographs must have been taken in the City of Lowell more recently than April, 2010 and represent one of the following categories:
  • Cultural Traditions and Identities
  • Local Businesses and Institutions
  • Historic Resources and Architecture
  • Public Parks and Waterways
  • Transportation and Mobility

Over 100 photographs were submitted to the contest. All photos were posted on the City of Lowell Facebook Page for public voting, and winners were announced publicly at a City Council meeting and are available to view on the Sustainability Snapshots Photography Contest page.