Kyle Smith

MUPP 2007

Center for Neighborhood Technology

Manager of Transit-oriented Development


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


I am CNT's chief subject matter expert developing equitable solutions to transit-oriented development. In this role, I write reports, provide technical assistance to community organizations, analyze data, lead and mentor teams, fundraise, and speak to the press. I've also led a campaign for CMAP to establish Priority Development Areas (PDAs) to target infrastructure dollars to spur reinvestment.

My planning coursework has been critical for me as I have developed this portfolio of work. For example, I utilize my background in retail market analysis to draw the link between density and economic vitality. With my training in development finance, I'm able to discuss how parking requirements kill project budgets in low- and moderate-income communities. And I work closely with GIS and Census data regularly.


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


I love working with community organizations. Chicago has one of the richest networks of community-based organizations in the country, which reflects a high level of participation at the neighborhood level. I'm regularly impressed by the energy, knowledge, and enthusiasm for topics like TOD, biking infrastructure, placemaking, and green infrastructure at the neighborhood level -- and it's growing.

As planners, it's up to us to support our CBOs, Community Development Organizations, Chambers of Commerce, etc, with the data, case studies, and strategic framing they need to achieve economically and environmentally sustainable outcomes.


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


One: build as many technical skills as you can - GIS, development finance, housing and/or economic development analysis, etc. They make a planner a more marketable candidate.

Two: build your soft skills at internships. In particular, it's important to learn how to communicate all of these technical analyses to a variety of stakeholders to help them set a long term strategy. That's something best learned on the job, whether it's attending meetings, working on memos, doing research, or observing day to day activity. The more a planner immerses himself or herself early, the more prepared he or she will be with communication skills to make the case later in their career.