Recent Community and Regional Planning master’s program graduate Jason Hachadorian is heading to Washington.
Like many who land in the nation’s capital, he wants to use his talents to affect positive change, particularly in urban centers.
“Cities right now are enjoying a real resurgence. After decades of people leaving urban centers, people are moving back to cities,” said Hachadorian, 26, of Collegeville, who graduated with an M.S. in Community and Regional Planning from Temple in May. “The focus now needs to be on how to handle this influx of people and apply sound redevelopment strategies to accommodate them. As a planner, you develop on-the-ground knowledge of how cities work in addition to learning how to communicate and mediate between different stakeholders, recognizing changes in demographics and the environmental realities cities face.”
Hachadorian is putting his planning education into practice. He recently began the next chapter in his career as a research assistant with the Brookings Institution, one of the oldest and most well-known global think tanks, located in Washington, D.C. The institution conducts social science research and education, predominantly examining national and global economics, government, urban policy and foreign policy. Brookings was ranked as the most influential think tank in the world by the University of Pennsylvania in 2014.
“I will be conducting research for the institute’s Metropolitan Policy Program. I’m focusing on ‘Innovation Districts,’ which is an intermeshing of regional economic development strategies with neighborhood change,” he said. “In large part I’ll be supporting the work of the senior policy analysts and policy fellows through data analysis and visual cataloguing of several cities to unearth best practices.”
Hachadorian said innovation districts arise primarily in cities where a great deal of start-up activity has taken place in tandem with an “anchor institution.” He said he will initially take a “deep dive” into thoroughly exploring two innovation districts — University City in Philadelphia and Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
“In western Philadelphia, for example, you have Drexel and the University of Pennsylvania, which employ a lot of people and have a lot of land and capital. In University City, you can see a lot of start-up activity occurring,” he said. “There hasn’t been a great deal of study on innovation districts. One of my tasks will be developing a definitive definition about what comprises an innovation district.”
Hachadorian said he came by his interest in planning through a background in environmental studies with a short stay in the medical field.
“I was working for Main Line Health when I realized that wasn’t for me. My first real exposure to planning was while I was completing my undergraduate program in environmental studies at St. Mary’s College in Maryland,” he said. “I worked on a year-long independent research project exploring the impact of community gardening in Baltimore communities. I talked to residents and got a sense of the important role the gardens played in their communities. I made suggestions for incorporating urban gardening into unban and redevelopment policy.”
Hachadorian said Temple’s Community and Regional Planning program had the focus on the environment and sustainability that he was looking for. While at Temple, he became a research assistant with the Center for Sustainable Communities, working on projects that included research for an Environmental Protection Agency urban waters grant and brownfields redevelopment planning in Philadelphia. He also interned with the Economy League of Greater Philadelphia, a non-profit organization dedicated to “advancing greater Philadelphia as a world class destination.”
“Temple’s program allows students to develop and flourish in the areas of planning that are of most interest to them — there is ample room to develop a specific interest and apply it outside of the classroom. It’s a very collegial atmosphere where the faculty is completely invested in your success,” he said. “Temple prepared me to take my skills and apply them to various regions and any kind of planning. At Brookings, I’m excited to continue to hone my planning and communication skills and to use those skills in a different, multifaceted way.”