SmithGroup, one of the nation’s largest integrated design firms, has hired urban design and mobility specialist Janet Attarian, AIA, LEED AP BD+C at its Detroit office. A nationally recognized authority in transportation policy creation, neighborhood development, and sustainable infrastructure, Attarian will work closely with multi-disciplinary team members within the firm’s Urban Design Practice and across the U.S. to drive the creation of smart, sustainable urban environments and transform the way mobility is implemented.
Possessing over 25 years of experience, Attarian served as a ranking leader within the planning and development, and transportation departments for the cities of Detroit and Chicago, where she held the roles of Deputy Director of Planning & Development and Complete Streets & Sustainability Director, respectively. During her tenure with these organizations, she led the creation and implementation of a wide range of innovative programs, policies, and community enhancement projects, including neighborhood framework plans, riverwalks, green infrastructure, trails, green alleys, and an array of mobility-focused projects, from protected bike lanes to complete streets.
Attarian’s portfolio includes an impressive range of legacy projects that have strengthened local businesses, improved safety along city streets, reduced negative impact on the environment, and created stronger, more vibrant neighborhoods. Some of her most notable work includes:
- Navy Pier Flyover – A three-quarter mile long newly elevated multi-use trail along Chicago’s lakefront in the heart of the Loop. The project addressed a dangerous stretch of trail that crossed over two major arterials, creating a state-of-the-art viaduct with exquisite attention to form and function to ensure both beauty and access.
- Livernois/McNichols Neighborhood Plan – A strategy for rehabilitating all city-owned property, including 100 vacant houses and 400 lots, as part of a city-wide effort to create walkable/bikeable neighborhoods throughout Detroit, ensuring development without displacement.
- I-375 Freeway Redevelopment – Once a sunken freeway dividing downtown Detroit from neighborhoods, the creation of this thoroughfare wiped out miles of vibrant African American communities. Reconstruction efforts include an at-grade boulevard, wide sidewalks, and a cycle track reconnecting the grid and the riverfront and creating meaningful parcels for development.
- The Bloomingdale Trail/606 – Creation of a framework plan with The Trust for Public Lands, Chicago Park District, Chicago Planning and Development Department, and a divergent set of stakeholders, resulting in Illinois Department of Transportation and community approval for a 2.8-mile long elevated multi-modal trail and five adjacent parks running through four diverse communities.
- Detroit Strategic Transportation Plan – A strategic roadmap focused on making transportation around the city easier, safer, and more affordable, this plan addressed five key themes: economic opportunity; public safety; vibrancy and beauty of the city; communications and outreach; and strengthening the city’s functionality.
- Pilsen Sustainable Street Project –Chicago’s first sustainable street project, located in a minority neighborhood adjacent to industry and a now former coal-fired power plant. Working with the local high school and small businesses, the street was transformed into what National Geographic labeled the “Greenest Street in America” and a key tool to address climate change.
- Complete Streets Chicago Design Guidelines, Sustainable Urban Infrastructure Guidelines, and Streetscape Guidelines – A series of comprehensive planning and development guidelines to ensure safety, resilience, and equitable access to Chicago’s transportation system.
“Janet is a visionary leader whose vast body of work has had a transformative impact on the way transportation infrastructure is designed and implemented in cities,” said Dan Kinkead, co-director of SmithGroup’s Urban Design Practice. “With her national expertise, she understands the complex challenges associated with innovative urban projects and will use her capabilities to help our partners and clients create systems and spaces that improve the quality of life within their communities.”
A registered architect and LEED accredited professional, Attarian’s project work has been featured in a range of mainstream media and industry publications, including The New York Times, National Geographic, and Public Roads. Her background has also earned her invitations to speak at conferences around the world, including the Urban Land Institute, Urban Development Institute of Australia, National Association of City Transportation Officials, and American Planning Association.
Attarian earned a Master of Architecture from the University of Michigan and is a past member of the school’s Alumni Board for the Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning. In addition, she serves as a member of the Federal Highway Administration’s Sustainable Pavement Technical Working Group, which is tasked with producing guidelines for maximizing pavement longevity and reducing the ecological footprint of our nation’s roadways.
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