Dr. José Gámez gets well-deserved community engagement award

Nov 4, 2015 | Events

Dr. Gámez and associates

Dr. Gámez, second from left, receives his award

UNC Charlotte faculty and staff work closely with University City Partners to help us achieve our mission. Because of that, we enthusiastically share the news that one of our campus friends has been honored for his work here and across the region.

Dr. José Gámez, associate professor of architecture and urban design and the director of the City.Building.Lab, recently received the 2015 Provost’s Faculty Award for Community Engagement.

This annual award honors a tenured faculty member whose teaching, research and service embody the university’s commitment to civic involvement, and whose work profoundly and systematically affects the relationship between UNC Charlotte and the larger community in a positive and meaningful way.

Dr. Gámez was honored for his work in the Community Planning Workshop, which he co-teaches with Dr. Janni Sorensen of the Department of Geography and Earth Sciences; his contributions to the Sustainable Communities Regional Planning Initiative; and his role in the development of the Mobile Arts & Community Experience (MAX) in the College of Arts + Architecture.

“He encourages students to see design as a transformational activity that addresses power dynamics and inequality,” reads the citation.

Dr. Gámez’s dedication to improving the community has benefited University City, as well. He serves on the UCP Planning and Development Committee and collaborates with us and other partners on innovative projects that seek to transform our central business and university district into a national model for urban livability.

Helping us build our future city around open space

How does a suburb preserve open space while becoming its own city? How does a parks department generate data to justify its parks and programs? UCP Executive Director Darlene Heater and the Mecklenburg County Parks Director Jim Garges separately approached Gámez last year for help with these questions.

His answer has become a three-year partnership that harnesses the intellectual power and fresh outlooks of urban-design students enrolled in the School of Architecture’s Master of Urban Design Program. Starting last spring, three successive groups of students are exploring how to meld open space and urban development along the future North Tryon Street light-rail corridor.

Helping guide the project are Richard Petersheim, a partner and senior landscape architect at LandDesign, and Ming-Chun Lee, assistant professor of architecture and urban design at UNC Charlotte.

The Spring 2015 students gathered data, looked at problems such as creating open space along a crowded commercial strip and considered how they would manage environmental issues such as urban runoff into nearby streams. Students in years two and three will build upon the work of the previous teams.

Heater expects the project to benefit greatly from the students’ wealth of fresh ideas and enthusiasm. “This is an out-of-the-box approach to addressing a city-building need,” she said.

Next up – creating a vibrant campus community

NC State University has Hillsboro Street. UNC-Chapel Hill has Franklin Street. UNC Charlotte has … TBD with help from University City Partners, the College of Arts + Architecture, the Belk College of Business and the Department of Geography and Earth Sciences.

“We hear over and over again how UNC Charlotte is missing the activity and retail center that other schools have for their students,” Heater said. Earlier this year, she approached Dr. Gámez for ideas on how to address that need.

His answer is UCP’s new partnership with UNC Charlotte to identify three-four good locations for a student/community retail and activity center, provide the demographics to interest businesses, recommend building sizes and create building designs. Students will do much of the work, with guidance from their professors. “I am hoping they can create a mix of businesses that will also serve the broader University City community,” Heater said.

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