Ashley Sarver

MUPP 2014

Gary W. Anderson Architects

Urban Planner, Rockford, IL

Can you describe your work and how your planning degree contributes to it?

Most of our architectural work is adaptive re-use of historic buildings so I help coordinate between the developer and our architectural team, especially in the beginning phases as they analyze what kind of return they might get on their investment. I analyze the feasibility of the project and help clients see the potential of vacant, underutilized space, and help identify possible investors and funding strategies. I'm also involved with community development projects as we consult to surrounding smaller towns on reviving their downtowns and building community.

My planning degree and the internship I had during the program has helped me understand deal-making from multiple, and sometimes opposing, perspectives: the City, the owner/developer, the architects, the tenants, etc. Getting into the weeds with development finance was probably one of the most important courses I took. I also believe that Charlie Hoch's book describing the political or ethical dilemmas planners may face was good preparation.


What do you like most about your current job or related work in planning?


I love working with clients who already have a vision of what could be and that can see past the current state of the building or lack of investment and see something innovative. I also enjoy the community engagement part of the work in trying to understand what the neighborhood would like to see and bringing partners together to work towards a goal.


What advice do you wish you had gotten as a MUPP or, conversely, what advice would you give to young planners today?

I would recommend a long-term internship if possible and taking those courses that give very practical skills: GIS, development finance, design/Photoshop/Illustrator work. I would also recommend attending as many networking events as possible and comparing and contrasting different jobs through informational interviews so you have a better idea of what you do or don't want to do.