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what we do

"We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them." - Albert Einstein

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sustainable

We seek innovative design solutions which provide a balance of environmental sensitivity, social equity, and economic viability. We are committed to creating sustainable places that meet today’s needs, while being conscious of how we will live tomorrow . We don’t give lip service to sustainability – we live this in our office, in our homes, and in our practice.

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creative

We believe everyone has something to offer. Our firm is based on a flat organizational structure, providing opportunity for all of our staff to be involved in decision-making processes. We find this enhances the design process and results in a superior final product.

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design

EnSite, Inc. is a leading Florida based design firm. Our services include Planning, Landscape Architecture, Civil Engineering, Urban Design, Sustainability, and Graphic Design. Our team is committed to the long-term success of the communities in which we live, work, learn, and play.

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#enrichment

"The activist is not the man who says the river is dirty. The activist is the man who cleans up the river." - Ross Perot

 Trash collection in Taiwan is music to the ears

 Trash collection in Taiwan is music to the ears

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 Trash collection in Taiwan is music to the ears

Visitors to Taiwan delight in vibrant food, history, culture and the magnificent beauty of its unspoiled countryside. In addition, the cities offer some of the cleanest streets of any developed country in either hemisphere. It wasn't always so - as we learned from a a very interesting podcast.

99 Percent Invisible began as a collaboration between KALW Public Radio and the American Institute of Architects in San Francisco. According to the people involved, "99% Invisible is about all the thought that goes into the things we don’t think about — the unnoticed architecture and design that shape our world." Right up our alley! And as it turns out, the garbage in cities like Taipei, Taiwan's capital, once piled up in all the alleys.

As part of its democratization and tourism-attraction efforts, Taiwan devised a system of garbage collection that in many ways is opposite to the American model. Citizens are responsible for bringing their own garbage to the street and depositing it directly into the truck. The trucks alert the citizens to their imminent arrival with the use of music, much like you'd expect from an ice cream truck. More than that, recycling and composting are meaningfully incentivized. Check out the "Separation Anxiety" podcast from 99 Percent Invisible to find out exactly how it works.

And here's a video of the citizens of Taipei taking out their trash. As alien as it seems to Americans, we wonder what wisdom we can still take away from this approach.

 
 FutureMakers blitz the News-Press

 FutureMakers blitz the News-Press

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 FutureMakers blitz the News-Press

Readers who opened their Fort Myers News-Press last Sunday were met with a deluge of passionate opinion. Given, that's not different from most Sundays. But instead of the armchair prognosticating about the presidential election and all manner of the usual hot button-issue one-upsmanship, subscribers who opened up the Views section were witness to a coordinated patchwork of eight separate op-ed pieces. Each written by a Southwest Florida leader or business builder, these viewpoints focused on a specific area of thought for achieving a better future for our community and our children. Pretty heady stuff, eh?

Specifically, each piece espoused a tenet of the FutureMakers Coalition. A brainchild of the Southwest Florida Community Foundation, FutureMakers has the goal of increasing the rate of post-secondary degrees or certificates in the region. Right now it's pretty low. And by focusing on that one goal, the future looks pretty amazing. But don't take this blog's word for it - get it right from some of the FutureMakers, who met as a team with the News-Press' editorial board. The board thought it was worthy of dedicating all those column inches to the future.

Sarah Owen kicks the whole thing off at this link. And our own Jon Romine adds to the chorus of voices with his passion for coalition building here. To the future!

Like Jedi Knights, urban planning has a dark side

Like Jedi Knights, urban planning has a dark side

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Like Jedi Knights, urban planning has a dark side

Just like the Jedi Knights in Star Wars, urban planners can choose to come to the dark side or the light side.

We can envision a Darth Vader in the person of New York's Robert Moses (1888 -1981), although that appraisal is rather facile. He's the polarizing figure known as the last century's "Master Builder." We have the Titan of the Skyline to thank for the splendor of the United Nations building, among many other iconic achievements. As the New York Sun reported, our experience of the Big Apple has been shaped most significantly by the singular drive of Moses, who “built 13 bridges, 416 miles of parkways, 658 playgrounds, and 150,000 housing units, spending $150 billion in today’s dollars.” His legacy is mixed.

We talk about social equity as a component of sustainability - words Moses wouldn't have known to employ in that order (history is the finest of teachers). Displacement of the poor was part of that mixed legacy. As was the cruel bifurcation of neighborhoods with highways, leading to a fracturing of cohesiveness and a culture of institutionalized socio-economic discrimination. The guy had too much unchecked power, and it probably went to his head. If you love New York, it's inarguable that without Moses, it would be a different kind of New York to love. There are those who argue he liked cars more than people.

Jane Jacobs That's where the yin to that yang comes in, in the person of Jane Jacobs (1916-2006). When threatened by downtown expressways, neighborhoods had a champion in the writer/activist, who helped them fight for their survival. Her book, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, explores why places work – and why the ill-considered policies that informed the more dubious part of Moses's modus operandi are anathema.

We love the quote in the graphic above, which we dedicate in Jacobs' honor, but also this one: “Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody.” That's the community-centered approach that informs the concept of modern Placemaking, which you've seen us reference in past posts.

Legacies are always more complicated than a collection of quotes or a half century of Monday morning quarterbacking in the former of editorial counterpoint. In the end, though, the question remains: what would Yoda do?

The Imaginarium gets Tanked!

The Imaginarium gets Tanked!

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The Imaginarium gets Tanked!

This is the dawning of the age of aquariums, the age of aquariums...(aquaria?)

You probably know by now that true to our EnRichment initiative, there are several community organizations and service projects we're passionate about, from Cape Coral Hospital's Pathway to Discovery to Tanglewood Elementary's outdoor classroom to the Foundation for Lee County Public Schools and even more. As the expertise represented by EnSite's team was cultivated by early STEM learning opportunities, we feel it's important to pay it forward to provide those types of opportunities to the next generation. We will come to rely on them someday - before we know it! - to design communities that are sustainable and that will fulfill the needs of their residents and stakeholders long into the future.

To that end, our own Jon Romine has been serving for a while now as president of the board for the Imaginarium Foundation, serving the interests of the Imaginarium Science Center and Southwest Florida Museum of History. Naturally fundraising is an important function of the foundation, with the Imagine Gala the major function for that function - ha!

[caption id="attachment_845" align="alignnone" width="640"] Wayde and Brett from Tanked unveiling the new U.S.S. Mohawk exhibit![/caption]

With the great support of the community over the years, we are thrilled to be able to expand and improve the programming and exhibits, and eventually enrich the campus of the Imaginarium, which recently became more closely aligned with the SWFL Museum of History.

Here is an exciting development - we're going to be on TV! Tanked, the Animal Planet series that follows builders of aquariums (aquaria?) for the rich and famous was on hand here in Fort Myers just a few days ago. Wayde King and Brett Raymer  built a beautiful new tank containing a replica of the U.S.S. Mohawk, the proud ship that was commissioned in 1935 and intentionally sunk to be an artificial reef off the coast of Fort Myers Beach in 2012. How's that for recycling?

Producers from the show tell us "our" episode will air sometime in June. Tune in, and come on in to the Imaginarium to check it out! Don't forget to say with glee, "You sank my battleship!" And it's all in the name of sustainability and STEM learning for our next generation. There's just something so sweet about that full cycle process.

[caption id="attachment_844" align="aligncenter" width="720"]13012880_498950733639683_6232061774212106513_n Jon Romine, Imaginarium and SWFL Museum of HIstory Director Matt Johnson, Tanked's Wayde King, and the guys from Black Salt catering - winners of the 2016 Imagine Gala Celebrity Chef Cookoff[/caption]
A garden for healing and learning

A garden for healing and learning

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A garden for healing and learning

There's a saying among those who tend the earth: the sign of a great gardener isn't a green thumb; it's brown knees. Books and YouTube videos are good as a supplement, but there really is no better teacher than experience. And as in many things in life, the mistakes provide better instruction than the successes.

Gardening is its own reward, naturally. It's therapy and exercise, and it gets us in touch with the processes and cycles of the natural world. So wouldn't it make sense that a garden could be an integral part of a healing environment? In assisting Cape Coral Hospital to transform its campus to achieve an Optimal Healing Environment, we planted a seed, in a metaphorical sense. Now Master Gardener Rod Barkley keeps the Teaching Garden growing.

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Built through a partnership between the Lee County School System, Lee Memorial Health System, the American Heart Association and the State of Florida’s Commissioner of Agriculture Office, the Teaching Garden provides lessons to local schoolchildren about growing and harvesting produce - and making healthy food choices. You already know how we feel about outdoor learning, and the garden has much to teach about science, math, nutrition, teamwork and environmental stewardship.

The Pathway to Discovery optimal healing environment at Cape Coral Hospital represents a healthy community and the connectivity among patients, caregivers, family and the community. Go take a walk, say hello to Rod and see what's growing. Volunteers are always appreciated - just email rod.barkley@leememorial.org

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 Art delivers the message of urban planning

 Art delivers the message of urban planning

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 Art delivers the message of urban planning

To describe the type of work companies like EnSite do as interdisciplinary is a bit of an understatement. We list planning, landscape architecture, urban design, engineering and sustainability as among our core offerings on our website. Such a list inevitably leaves something out. More, it suggests a siloing of disciplines that's antithetical to our actual approach to projects - and our business, as evidenced by our horizontal corporate structure.

Sometimes it's helpful to look to art and social commentary (and art AS social commentary) to interpret the challenges our society faces, and that businesses like ours are charged with overcoming. We recently discovered a good source in Terrain.org. Labeling itself "A journal of the built + natural environments," Terrain presents opinion, interviews, art and literature that serve as odes to the beauty of the natural world and also to the discipline of solving human solutions in a way that softens our footprint. Likewise, the lens of art allows readers to more immediately grasp the eventualities and urgencies inherent in much of our planning policies. Terrain's Unsprawl department provides case studies of redevelopment success stories that result in greater walkability, focus on land stewardship, increase economic viability and reverse inefficiencies resulting from decades of short-minded policy.

There are many blogs dealing with topics of urban renewal, reversal of sprawl, placemaking and the like. We admire Terrain especially for appealing to hearts and minds with the prominent showcasing of art and literature that approach these far-reaching considerations. If a picture (or a poem) is worth a thousand words, it's often more succinct than a 10-second elevator speech at communicating a corporate mission of making life in our communities more fulfilling and sustainable for the time we're here, and for generations to come.

  Give the kids a break - learning happens outside

  Give the kids a break - learning happens outside

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  Give the kids a break - learning happens outside

What happened to recess? In some places in America it has all but disappeared. In some places, children get a meager 7 minutes of unstructured outside time. We've been fortunate to be involved with projects that promote kids' outdoor learning, such as the Tanglewood Elementary School outdoor classroom. It's a small thing we can do. We as a society have a bigger thing to do - and that is to reclaim the wisdom that much of children's learning happens in play.

Does it matter? Yes it does. Think back to when you were a child. Do you remember how sometimes you just needed to blow off some steam by swinging on a branch? Did you have a streambed to turn over rocks and look for crayfish? Maybe you had a grassy field where you could run around with friends and then stare at the clouds floating by.

A recent viral video has gotten people talking about the merits of going outside. When you were a kid, you didn't need to be told that being outside was good for you. It was natural. Have you heard the term "Nature Deficit Disorder?" The cure lies just on the other side of the door.

A return to the suburbs – compact walkability for all

A return to the suburbs – compact walkability for all

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A return to the suburbs – compact walkability for all

All this talk about maximizing density, mixed-use infill development, walkability, centralization of services and thoughtful placement of green spaces when it comes to urban development – it’s all about reworking cities to better fit the needs of people. New urbanism (old urbanism?) has become a major buzzword that’s often really about fixing past mistakes. Done well, the approach has community and sustainability built in. But what about people who don’t live in the cities?

If you want to talk about a lack of forethought, one need only look to the suburbs of any major city. And contrary to a popular image of a hipster-driven emphasis on urban redevelopment, we see more and more millennials heading to the ‘burbs. It’s all about price and having space to raise young families. With this generation making up about a third of homebuyers today, it’s time to start applying smart planning and design principles to better accommodate the needs of people who live outside the city center.

Interestingly, the needs of the suburbs will be the focus of this weekend’s Congress for the New Urbanism’s (CNU) council meeting in Miami. Ben Brown over at Placemakers wrote this week that, “While it’s not tough to find folks willing to go full snark on a half century of suburban wrongheadedness, there has always been a core group of urban-focused professionals fretting about where sprawl might be headed and how its impacts might be mitigated to enhance community and connectedness.” At EnSite, we’re proud to be part of that group’s ranks.

With the dedication and perseverance of that core group, and with more municipalities and community stakeholders embracing the concept of compact walkability, it can now be time, as CNU CEO Lynn Richard said “to leverage the momentum from the revival of the city.”

 Sustainability becomes the (beautiful) new normal

 Sustainability becomes the (beautiful) new normal

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 Sustainability becomes the (beautiful) new normal

In modernist architectural theory, form follows function. This means that the intended purpose of a structure or space should determine what it ultimately looks like. As we and our savvy clients have always known, sustainability is beautiful. If a project is intended to preserve the natural resources of the environment, then shouldn't it follow that natural resources should take center stage?

The American Society of Landscape Architects recently revealed the findings of a survey of its members to identify the projected top ten trends in residential landscape design. We were struck by how each one of the project types in the list either address a specific area of conservation, capitalize on natural resources, employ natural materials or are intended to improve residents' experience of and appreciation for the outdoors.

The ASLA survey predicts that in 2016, the following project types would be most in demand:

  • Rainwater/graywater harvesting – 88%
  • Native plants – 86%
  • Native/adapted drought tolerant plants – 85%
  • Low-maintenance landscapes – 85%
  • Permeable paving – 77%
  • Fire pits/fireplaces – 75%
  • Food/vegetable gardens (including orchards, vineyards, etc.) – 75%
  • Rain gardens – 73%
  • Drip/water-efficient irrigation – 72%
  • Reduced lawn area – 72%

These are some beautiful results! Clients who hire landscape architects are typically ahead of the curve when it comes to integrating "green" elements into a design. We're pleased to know that the trends strongly suggest greater interest in form following sustainable function.

England gets healthy new towns – but what about its old towns?

England gets healthy new towns – but what about its old towns?

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England gets healthy new towns – but what about its old towns?

England’s National Health Service this week announced it will create 10 “healthy new towns.” The NHS’ objectives are noble, and the results will prove illuminating. Just like the U.S., the U.K. grapples with a worsening obesity crisis. An emphasis on walking and cycling are among the planned features, along with fast food-free zones around schools. Solutions targeting the needs of an aging population, too, could provide case studies for planners across the globe.

According to a release on the NHS’ website, “The NHS will help shape the way these new sites develop, so as to test creative solutions for the health and care challenges of the 21st century, including obesity, dementia and community cohesion. NHS England is bringing together renowned clinicians, designers and technology experts to reimagine how healthcare can be delivered in these places, to showcase what’s possible by joining up design of the built environment with modern health and care services, and to deploy new models of technology-enabled primary care.”

We’re intrigued, having provided full site design, civil and landscape architecture and permitting for the proposed Parkside Memory Cottage assisted living facility for Charlotte Medical Center. Other health conscious projects include the Cape Coral Hospital project, which employs the principles of creating an Optimal Healing Environment.

Naturally, it makes sense for public health officials and clinicians to work together with planners and designers to achieve sustainable, health-promoting principles from within the built environment – we think that’s the most important aspect of the “healthy new towns” concept. However, we also agree with Guardian columnist Simon Jenkins when he points out England’s existing problem with sprawl, and that rather than new builds, planners might first consider the untapped riches represented by unused and underused space. By increasing density, he argues, walkability increases and a greater swath of the population will benefit from services being nearby.

One things is certain: the “healthy new towns” project will provide many lessons to learn from for many years to come. But are there not lessons that planners and health agencies could draw now from the towns that are already built?

         
Sustainability - not tree hugging, community building

Sustainability - not tree hugging, community building

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Sustainability - not tree hugging, community building

Sarah Owen gets it. We were thrilled to see she and the good people of the Southwest Florida Community Foundation had dedicated an entire issue of that organization's winter newsletter to the concept of sustainability. That foundation does so many things for the greater good of our region that its hard to list them all. Here's a quick snapshot from the newsletter:

SWFCF Sustainabilty

You see that? "Sustainability is at the center of everything we do." As Ms. Owen writes, We are charged with doing things 'For Good, For Ever.' Sustainability means, then, undertaking initiatives that make the community stronger, more vibrant and more engaged, to those initiatives can be carried forward in...you guessed it, a sustainable manner. Sustainability is not green roofs, rainwater catchment and reuse, low-impact design and walkable cities. It is to the extent such strategies can be put to use to provide solutions for better living long into the future.

You can click here for a pdf of the Southwest Florida Community Foundation's Winter newsletter or view it online here. In it, community leaders of every description come together to talk about what a more sustainable Southwest Florida will look like.

Go ahead and hug a tree, if you want. It's a nice thing to do. But then let's keep the conversation about sustainability going. We're all in it together.

Our sustainable winter
Get your tickets to the Imagine Gala!

Get your tickets to the Imagine Gala!

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Get your tickets to the Imagine Gala!

March is just around the corner, which means it's almost time for one of our favorite events - the Imagine Gala! Now in its 11th year, this extraordinary affair brings together a love for STEM learning and food to support the Imaginarium Science Center (and SWFL Museum of History!). It doesn't get much better than that. Last year the event, which we help sponsor, debuted a new Celebrity Chef Cook-Off theme. You know, like Chopped or Iron Chef, but with our own local celebrities.

Imagine Gala banner Chef Harold Balink was the winner, but the competition was fierce with contenders Ben Voisin and Fabrice Deletrain representing team Fathoms and Brian Roland of Crave Culinaire. Also in the spotlight was the mystery ingredient, Florida hogfish. Yum! Fresh From Florida is a program that promotes homegrown growers and the wonderful colors, flavors and textures that come out of the good green earth close to home, so it was a fitting theme/partnership. This year we have the honor of welcoming back the French chefs Voisin and Deletrain, along with newcomers David Rashty of Jack’s Farm to Fork and David Fraser of FGCU’s School of Hospitality. Oh, and SWFL's own MasterChef finalist Derrick Peltz will be on hand to stir the pot as a special celebrity judge.

What will this year's mystery ingredient be, and will it mean magic or mayhem to our gourmet gladiators? You just have to get your tickets and find out - we don't even know! But we do know there will be amazing edible creations to sample, lots of culinary smack talk, cocktails, dancing, incredible auction items. In 2013 we raised $50k, followed by $75k in 2014 and a whopping $100k in 2015. Do you see a pattern? Join us!

Public art and the beholder's vision

Public art and the beholder's vision

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Public art and the beholder's vision

 

Art historian Cher Krause Knight said, "art's publicness rests in the quality and impact of its exchange with audiences…at its most public, art extends opportunities for community engagement but cannot demand particular conclusion.” Examples can be found around Fort Myers.

Most recently, the unexplained arrival of 23 large iron sculptures distributed throughout the River District that turned out to be the work of renowned Colombian artist Edgardo Carmona caused quite a stir. Can you remember a Centennial Park before David Black's Fire Dance brightened the scene? And what better way to indicate McGregor Boulevard's Fort Myers city limits than with the multiple public art pieces on the 10-acre campus of the Alliance for the Arts?

All of these unique pieces have Professor Knight's criteria in common: they beg for engagement for the very reason that they don't answer any questions. They don't say, "Hey, look at me," and then explain themselves. Maybe we would stop noticing them if we knew what they meant. Probably Salvador Dali wouldn't have been so enamored with the specters he encountered at the Parco Dei Mostri (park of monsters) north of Rome when he visited the Gardens of Bombarzo.

Pier Francesco Orsini had been through a lot at the time he commissioned the macabre stone statues in that lovey Italian garden in the woods. Perhaps he was able to sort out his grief and terror in memorializing it. We will never know for sure. What we do know is there's no particular conclusion one is tasked with arriving at when they visit (an inscription on the head of Orcus, in fact, reads, OGNI PENSIERO VOLA, or "All thoughts fly."). That was likely the appeal for Dali, who, regardless of the conclusion this little educational video might like you to draw, probably did not utter, "This is my jam!"

Time to sack the cul-de-sac

Time to sack the cul-de-sac

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Time to sack the cul-de-sac

Do you know what the greatest threat to our planet is? Here's a hint: it's not aliens.

Walkable cities, mixed-use development, sustainability - you've heard us preach these concepts before. We're not afraid of sounding like a broken record. It's all about being able to live, work, play and learn within a reasonable square footage, and doing those things to the most enjoyable, fulfilling extent possible.

Here's a video short that, while amusing, gets to the heart of the New Urbanism (Old Urbanism - you'll see) approach to urban planning and design, and how it deals with the elephant in the room - sprawl.

There, we said it. Now turn it up.

Envisioning must be a community process

Envisioning must be a community process

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Envisioning must be a community process

When's the last time an idea or plan was handed down from some place on high, sight unseen, and it made things a heck of a lot better for your community? Anyone?...If you're at a loss, consider that instructive. And now let's consider some community envisioning that's more transparent (quite literally!)

In working to get the word out about the Austin Master Plan, the clever people at Project Great Streets had hundreds of transparent slides featuring a single, beautiful tree printed out. Now people can place a tree anywhere on an Austin street (or on top of a friend's head), Instagram it and participate in the envisioning process!

#projectgreatstreets

A photo posted by BP (@barronpeper) on

Communities are improved through the will of their members, and only if the change that happens is informed by the desires and needs of its members. Administrations sometimes lose sight of how to meaningfully involve the people they're intended to serve, and the community's will often must be reasserted.

We're excited when folks show up for public meetings so their concerns about specific projects can be heard, such as the Midtown plan and Gardner's Park. If you have ideas about planning that affects where you live, work, play and learn, we'd love to know. Connect with us on Facebook or send us a message at info@en-site.com.

Urban planning for the Millennial mindset

Urban planning for the Millennial mindset

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Urban planning for the Millennial mindset

Without the benefit of an enduring, sensible master plan, an urban environment will at some point need to undergo some degree of redevelopment. One of the considerations that will contribute to the success of such a plan or redevelopment is a consideration of age demographics. What is the median age of the community members that are currently engaged in the environment? Which age group do you wish to attract? What do demographic projections predict about the age distribution that is likely to occur?

Among the criteria that have driven our plan for Midtown Fort Myers are the preferences of a younger generation. Dispensing with the clichés of the past, Florida is now attracting greater numbers of folks under 40. In fact, the median age in Fort Myers currently is 35-36. Millennials represent 1/3 of the U.S. population. So the time is now to begin building environments and communities that consider a younger stakeholder, and their children as stakeholders-to-be.

For our purposes – and this is reflected in the Midtown plan, along with other major projects – we consider that Millennials:

  • Are technology savvy
  • Are community-oriented
  • Desire free time for recreation
  • Desire creative work environments
  • Typically live in mid-sized cities (20,000 – 200,000)

According to the Millennial mindset, if we can generalize, key principles will include walkable, mixed-use environments, park space as a focal point, and an environment that fosters community building and an all-encompassing sense of livability. Whereas earlier generations were OK with compartmentalizing their lives, Milliennials offer a wisdom that satisfaction is attained when all aspects of life are meaningful. And we contend that this can start with a built environment that is interconnected.

Runnin’ Nerdy – for education

Runnin’ Nerdy – for education

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Runnin’ Nerdy – for education

You’ve heard of the Running of the Bulls. But what about the Running of the Nerds? It’s safer, and it’s for a good cause. You know by now EnRichment is an important aspect of EnSite’s mission. You also know our Jon Romine is a big supporter of the Foundation for Lee County Public Schools. He’s been a mentor for the Take Stock in Children scholarship program for more than seven years, too. Here’s a way to help with the EnRichment mission:

Sign up for the Fifth Annual Strides for Education 5K in February by going to this link, click on “Join a team” and select team Runnin’ Nerdy (that’s us!). The state will match every dollar raised for registration or donations to go toward scholarships for at-risk youth. Even if you don’t run, at the Runnin’ Nerdy registration page, you can choose to donate and help our team help kids! And…if you join another team, we’ll forgive you. It’s all for a good cause. But just look at our name – doesn’t it just scream fun? Sign up and join us, won’t you? It will be a blast, as always. It’s only three miles and some change, but it will go a long way toward changing a student’s life.

Go to the Foundation for Lee County Schools' website for more on the Take Stock in Children program.

Midtown Fort Myers – defining the heart of a town

Midtown Fort Myers – defining the heart of a town

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Midtown Fort Myers – defining the heart of a town

Some folks who live in Fort Myers moved here after the River District had been dusted off, spiffed up, rebranded and made to sparkle. Many who visit here for the first time can be heard murmuring to their companions about what a beautiful downtown we have. That’s true. And while we’re proud of our downtown, some days it’s hard to figure out the character of the “town” that it’s the downtown of.

At EnSite, we’re determined to change that. So in partnership with the City of Fort Myers, the Fort Myers Community Redevelopment Agency and the community, we’ve provided a conceptual plan to do some serious revitalization of the area of Fort Myers embraced by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard to the north, Cleveland Avenue to the west, Evans Avenue to the east, and Edison Avenue to the south.

Midtown Fort Myers Concept Plan

The beautiful downtown we’ve come to love will in effect be extended, providing opportunities for commerce, recreation and higher density housing. Key points of the Midtown Project include:

  • engaging Fort Myers residents in the planning process
  • increasing connectivity and walkability
  • to that end, rerouting vehicular movement, which will also increase safety
  • developing bicycle paths, trails and greenways
  • preserving the existing railway corridor for future multi-modal transportation options
  • using roundabouts for continuous traffic flow
  • improving public transit
  • emphasizing mixed-use development for people to live, work and play in place
  • establishing forward-thinking parking solutions
  • creating interconnected green spaces for public use, including neighborhood and community parks and playgrounds
  • responding to preferences and concerns of Millennials (median age in Fort Myers is 35-36)
  • organizing future growth in a logical manner, where the area is currently a hodge podge of uses.

This plan has spent a long time gestating. It incorporates recommendations from multiple studies previously completed: the 2013 Lee County Rail Corridor Feasibility Study, the 2013 Downtown Fort Myers Mobility Plan, the Downtown Plan (which identifies redevelopment districts), the 2010 Cleveland Avenue Plan and the 2006 Fort Myers Parks & Open Space Master Plan. It’s time to envision Midtown as a draw for technology and innovation, retail, a farmer's market with truck vendors, entertainment, recreation, cultural activity, community gardens and much more focused energy that will help further define the “town” it refers to.

Million Mile Movement - health one step at a time

Million Mile Movement - health one step at a time

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Million Mile Movement - health one step at a time

Thanksgiving is here! It's a time to be grateful, to surround yourself with loved ones - and a time to eat! Who doesn't love the all the lovely food that becomes available during the last few months of the year? The resulting holiday weight gain doesn't have to be an annual affair, however. It's probably no coincidence the Million Mile Movement kicked off in October, just in time for Halloween candy sales. This program is a simple, free way to log your miles that you run, walk or swim (or convert miles from a handy dandy online tool from other kinds of exercise).

As part of a team or an individual, it becomes easy to put one foot in front of the other. A journey of a thousand (million) miles starts with a single step, after all. Lao Tzu said that. And it's the wisdom behind Healthy Lee's program. Set a goal. Start small. Be accountable. Celebrate your progress. Prepare for a year of healthy living. Seems like a great idea. That's why EnSite has signed on as a community partner for the program. And it's not too late for you to start. Sign up through Dec. 29 or find out more at healthylee.com/million-mile-movement.

We'll keep working toward making places within our community with complete streets and walkable neighborhoods. And we'll be running, walking, biking right alongside you on our way to a healthier, greener, happier Southwest Florida.

Happy Thanksgiving from all of us at EnSite. Now get out there and walk your turkey off!

Urban green spaces - the cure for the common cubicle

Urban green spaces - the cure for the common cubicle

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Urban green spaces - the cure for the common cubicle

“Cities give not the human senses room enough,” wrote Ralph Waldo Emerson in his seminal essay Nature. That was published in 1844. What might he make of some of our modern concrete jungles, when even at that time he felt compelled to paddle out into a river to “leave the village politics and personalities, yes, and the world of villages and personalities behind?”

Park

Where do you go to get away from the world of personalities – or deadlines, traffic, interminable meetings or everyday annoyances? Those with means can enjoy an extended trip to a National Park, which the popular Ken Burns documentary series has dubbed “America’s Best Idea.” However, experiences with nature should be within easy access to all city dwellers, regardless of their wealth in terms of leisure time or monetary riches. And at EnSite, urban green spaces, pocket gardens, street trees, parks, community gardens and other nature-intensive elements are integral to many of our planning and redevelopment projects.

Children’s academic performance and development benefit from early and consistent experiences with nature. Likewise, adults can improve focus, gain perspective and reap health benefits by taking time to decompress in a natural environment. Workplace productivity and greater satisfaction can be achieved by momentarily removing one’s self from the overstimulation that can come with the demands of everyday life.

Even if we can’t rent a cabin in the woods and try to live like Emerson’s friend Henry David Thoreau, who said, “I never found a companion that was so companionable as solitude,” our cities should avail us of opportunities to be experience a connection with nature. They should be built to give our senses “room enough.” As Emerson said in his essay, “The lover of nature is he whose inward and outward senses are still truly adjusted to each other; who has retained the spirit of infancy even into the era of manhood.”

So what’s the cure for the common cubicle? Take some nature. Repeat daily as needed.

what inspires us

shellie johnson

shellie johnson

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shellie johnson

The Mother Hen The quality of life that a community has to offer is only as good as what its residents are willing to work for. The people at EnSite make Shellie Johnson excited to come to work everyday. “I work with a fantastic, energetic and creative group that is respectful of one another and most important, likes to have fun,” she said. Working with and taking care of the needs of a small firm is a natural extension of small-town home life for the LaBelle resident. Loose ends are a foreign concept to Shellie, as her focus on details runs deeper than even her credentials from the American Institute of Certified Planners can testify. Shellie is one of EnSite’s owners and in her role as Planning Director, she assists private clients in gaining development entitlements to property. She also assists government jurisdictions with daily planning tasks such as development reviews and regulatory amendments, and with long-range planning projects. When she’s not at work, Shellie volunteers as President of the LaBelle Downtown Revitalization Corp. The group’s efforts have not only made good on its name, but it has also caused a resurgence in residents’ pride in their community and instilled a sense of ownership in the beautiful historic downtown. She enjoys being part of a small town and contributing her time and energy in preserving its sense of community while creating opportunity to encourage younger generations to stay there and prosper. Shellie is a recent widow who enjoys being close to her three stepchildren. Her three dogs run her life. She likes spending time in the outdoors, hiking, and kayaking. She loves to eat great food.
brent gibson

brent gibson

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brent gibson

The Solutions Guy Work smarter, not harder. Brent Gibson enjoys the laid-back, open culture and family-like atmosphere of the EnSite office, which he thinks promotes creativity. “Also, everybody has a voice in what happens with the company. Whether you’re the newest employee or one of the owners, your ideas will be heard and considered.” That flat organizational structure also has a way of encouraging folks to reach beyond their job descriptions to do whatever it is that has to be done. As Lead Designer, Brent does most of the civil engineering design. He also oversees production management, and is responsible for scheduling and getting the designs and plans out the door to clients and municipalities. He also serves as the in-house IT guy. The McGregor Veterinarian Clinic is one of many projects that served as a proving ground for Brent’s creative problem-solving skills. While employing low-impact development techniques, the EnSite team met the challenges presented by Lee County’s newly drafted Compact Communities Planned Development zoning code. This code emphasizes mixed-use and compact development, rather than separate uses with the large setbacks often seen in sprawl development. Brent has been married to his wife Emily for 16 years, and the couple has three boys and a girl between eight and 15 years old. He enjoys playing golf and basketball, and coaches youth basketball at the local YMCA. He’s also on the board for Big Brothers Big Sisters and is a mentor in the Foundation for Lee County Public Schools STAMP program. Twitter: @BGib4
brian smith

brian smith

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brian smith

The Design Doctor Do unto others as you would have others do unto you. The Golden Rule was frequently evoked by the single mom who raised Brian Smith and his older sister. Another favorite quote was “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” Brian said, “Watching her struggle through life taught me the values of hard work and determination to make a better life for the family. She is certainly my early inspiration and drive to do better and to work hard and value what I have and to cherish family always.” Fortunately, coming to work at EnSite means much more than a paycheck to him. An EnSite owner, Brian values his co-workers, the atmosphere, and the variety of projects the team gets to work on. As Director of Land Design for the company, Brian is responsible for site planning and project management. It’s thrilling to prepare a plan that exceeds the client’s expectations, whether it is a 4,000-acre new community or a .75-acre commercial project requiring innovative design solutions. “Problems” is a word he banishes from his vocabulary. There exist, rather, solvable issues, and the team works with surgical precision to work out solutions to those issues. Few people are aware that Brian’s alternative career path would have led him to being an emergency room doctor. He maintains that laughter is the best medicine, and employs plenty of humor in his work and family life. He and his wife of 15 years, Christy, have two boys, aged 13 and 11. In keeping with his mom’s example, he says, “They are everything to me.” His family enjoys spending time outdoors.
jonathan romine

jonathan romine

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jonathan romine

The Big Picture Thinker There is no limit to what can be accomplished when no one cares who gets the credit. - John Wooden EnSite owner Jonathan Romine is obsessed with metrics. Aside from hard numbers, he has a major soft spot for people. Every day represents a new opportunity to help someone succeed or empower a whole community of “someones” to make a better future. Of course he pays close attention to the many details of running the business, from finance and investment to R&D and marketing strategy, but it’s the big picture that really matters. By maintaining everything in ship-shape condition, EnSite’s team can consistently deliver optimal results for its clients. His biggest consideration is the company’s culture, which is at the heart of everything EnSite does. On the practice side, Jonathan’s official title is Director of Landscape Architecture, but he describes himself as a “mentorholic.” All staff members are given room to grow their creative talents, develop their leadership skills, and pursue their dreams. Moreover, the organizational structure is horizontal, meaning no one holds a monopoly on good ideas. Jonathan’s passion is making a positive impact on the community in which he lives, works, learns, and plays. Therefore, he’s especially proud of EnSite’s public sector and non-profit projects, such as parks, community planning, redevelopment/infill plans, and arts and cultural institutions. Jonathan has a daughter, Ava, with wife Megan. He loves sports and travel, and supporting these community organizations: The Imaginarium Science Center (current President of the Board), The Foundation for Lee County Public Schools (Board Member and Mentor), Greater Fort Myers Chamber of Commerce (Board Member), Rotary Club of Fort Myers South. Twitter: @rominejl
matt horton

matt horton

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matt horton

The Boundary Pusher It’s in the doing that the idea comes. Like every team member at EnSite, Matt Horton enjoys the horizontal structure, which affords him the opportunity to work in the trenches, where the best ideas come from. Top-down organizations often suffer some delusion when they think innovation can come from the ivory tower. As Director of Urban Design, Matt has been able to push boundaries and enjoy the freedom to develop innovative solutions. Every EnSite project is special, but a particularly gratifying one is Gardner’s Park in downtown Fort Myers. “This was probably the most fun of my career, because the owners and residents were very enthusiastic and helpful throughout the project,” he said. Starting out as a guava farm in the 1800s, Gardner’s Park is a lively district featuring community events, galleries, boutiques, cafés, theater, and attractions such as The Burroughs Home & Gardens, The Butterfly Estates, and the Langford-Kingston Historic Home. When he’s not leading EnSite’s urban design activities, Matt is doing the important work of being a dad to his two sons, ages eight and nine. Beyond those two jobs, he finds there are even more boundaries to push: having completed the St. Anthony’s Triathlon in Sarasota after losing a bet, he was hooked and has been training and competing ever since. He’s done three Ironmans, but not the big one in Hawaii…yet.

what makes us awesome

"All progress is initiated by challenging current conceptions, and executed by supplanting existing institutions." - George Bernard Shaw

2012 Horizon Council General Business Award

2012 Horizon Council General Business Award

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2012 Gulfshore Business 40 under 40 Award - Jonathan Romine

2012 Gulfshore Business 40 under 40 Award - Jonathan Romine

2012 Florida Commissioner of Education Business Recognition Award

2012 Florida Commissioner of Education Business Recognition Award

2012 Chrysalis Award for Sustainability

2012 Chrysalis Award for Sustainability

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2012 Lee County School District Business Partner of the Year

2012 Lee County School District Business Partner of the Year

2010 Blue Chip Finalist

2010 Blue Chip Finalist

2010 Creating Better Places Design Competition - First Place Overall

2010 Creating Better Places Design Competition - First Place Overall

why ensite

"Continuous effort - not strength or intelligence - is the key to unlocking our potential." - Winston Churchill

EnSite, Inc. has been passionate about improving the Southwest Florida community since it was founded in 2005. The firm is focused on sustainable design that engages and inspires. It achieves its award-winning results through a fanatical commitment to communication plus its unique combination of creativity, technical expertise, project management efficiency, and intelligent teamwork. We believe that any company’s ability to deliver results that exceed expectations is a necessary function of its organizational culture. EnSite’s culture, which is at the heart of everything we do, strongly emphasizes empowerment and accountability, collaboration, innovation, and a meaningful investment in the communities where we live, work, learn, and play. It’s a privilege to offer our services, which enhance the quality of life of the place we call home, including land planning, landscape architecture, civil engineering, and urban design. Every client receives focused personal attention by working directly with a principal of the firm, while EnSite’s collaborative team structure increases design efficiency and promotes creative problem-solving and creativity, leading to well managed projects and, most importantly, customer satisfaction. EnSite’s unique business model enables our clients to enjoy the talent, assets and results of a large firm, but with competitive fees and top-notch personalized service. Our principals possess great communication skills and are intimately involved in every project from start to finish—they personally plan, design, permit, inspect, and certify every single one. Our community engagement doesn’t end with our many projects. EnSite’s team members are engaged in many service organizations and projects outside of work. And as a team, we reach out to local schools, universities, municipalities, and organizations through our EnRichment program to educate students of all ages and establish relationships and civic engagement to further enhance the experience of living in Southwest Florida.

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EnSite, Inc.

2401 First Street
Suite 201
Fort Myers, FL 33901

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