Is there an area in your town where you see great potential but don’t know where to begin?

Or, is there a need in your town for a new plan to make your town center or a special neighborhood THE place where people want to go?

A Plan NH Community Design Charrette may be the assistance you need.

Plan NH is currently seeking applications from New Hampshire communities for its Fall 2014 Community Design Charrette Program.  As of December 2013, there is not yet a set due date.


Each charrette has certain intended outcomes:

1. Through open discussion, learn about the town and its needs and the role of the target area

2. For residents and leaders to discover what is happening in their community – from various viewpoints

3. Based on what is learned about the community, in conjunction with the expertise and experience of the Plan NH volunteers, to develop recommendations for the community’s resources and opportunities, especially as they relate to the Vision outlined in the Master Plan.

4. To raise awareness, through the recommendations, of the link between the built environment and the level of health and vibrancy of the community

5. To recommend specific actions and resources to implement the plan.


Towns or groups completing and submitting the application will be considered for an intensive, two-day brainstorming session, focusing on the issue or need of your choosing.

If your community is selected, a team of Plan NH planning professionals will work in collaboration with your leaders and residents to develop recommendations to help move your town’s vision forward.

So who is Plan NH?

Plan NH is a non-profit organization, founded in 1989. Membership is comprised of professionals related to planning, design, and/or development of the built environment. Plan NH promotes ideas and trends and strategies that lead to vibrant, healthy communities.

At its core, Plan NH believes that what we build, where we build and how we build have an impact on the fabric of a community.

By championing certain principles and guidelines, Plan NH raises awareness of the link between the built environment and the overall “livability” and appealing nature of where we live, work, and/or play.

In the Community Design Charrette Program, we work directly with towns here in the Granite State to assist them in creating that link in their own community.

As of November 2013, Plan NH has conducted 55 charrettes in 51 New Hampshire towns of all sizes.


What happens in a Plan NH Charrette?

A Community Design Charrette brings together a team of volunteer members of Plan NH with community leaders, citizens, business owners and others related to a particular project.

(“Charrette”, a French word, describes a brief, concentrated time of work. We use this word because it best describes what Plan NH volunteers do over the two days with the communities in which we work.)

Always by invitation, Plan NH is there to address some variation of “What opportunities are there to make this place [this town center, this neighborhood] vibrant and healthy for all who live, work, and/or play here?”

The team arrives on a Friday at noon, and spends the afternoon and early evening gathering information:

• Technical information (ie about infrastructure, zoning, etc.)

• History of the “target area”

• Why this place is important to the community, the region

• What opportunities do citizens and others see?

• What is the overall vision the community has for this area?

• How does this support the Vision the town has already developed in its Master Plan?

On Saturday, the Plan NH team brainstorms, identifying possibilities and developing recommendations – mostly in a visual form – to be used as guidelines for the community to realize its vision.

A presentation is made on Saturday afternoon.


Review of applications for the Community Design Charrette Program consider the described projects and are evaluated on the basis of the following key criteria:

1) Is the project important to the community as a whole? Does it support the Master Plan, or the Vision outlined in the Master Plan?

2) Is the scale of the project appropriate to the two-day time format of the Charrette program?

3) Does the project present unique or interesting planning needs or issues that may benefit from the application of Smart Growth/Livability principles or other sustainable planning approaches?

4) Does the applicant town or group have other means of obtaining the services provided by Plan NH’s Charrette Program?

5) Is there support by town leaders and decision-makers?

NOTE:  Plan NH does not provide this service for private land-owners or developers. Our clients are municipalities or groups within a town (ie Heritage Commission, etc.).  A project may include private land, but overall, the project needs to be under the jurisdiction/control of the town.

Also, Plan NH does not address single buildings – ie, a repurposing – by themselves, but would look at such a project in context of the larger neighborhood or community.


The application process is free. Communities endorsed by Plan NH for a two-day Community Design Charrette will be asked to provide  $5000.00 in contribution to Plan NH on or before the date of the event. This contribution is used to offset out-of-pocket expenses associated with the charrette and the publication of a final report prepared for each charrette.

Larger or more complex projects may warrant alternative charrette approaches. Plan NH welcomes the opportunity to discuss such needs or possibilities with community representatives.

In either instance, Plan NH recommends that private sponsors be found to underwrite the contribution for the Community Charrette so that the money does not need to all be drawn from general municipal funds.

Additional costs may include, but not be limited to (complete list and guidelines available separately)

• Marketing and outreach to the community about the event for participation

• Large maps

• Bus for team to tour target area, community

• Costs associated with space for event

• Friday lunch for Plan NH team, water, snacks, supper, overnight lodging as applicable

• Saturday breakfast, snacks, water, coffee, etc.


 At this time, there is no schedule set for the next round of applications.  However, if you have a project in mind,  or suddenly have a great opportunity, please do not hesitate to contact us.  We are happy to review potential projects “off cycle”.

Plan NH wants to work with your community.

If you are unsure whether your project – or your community – is ready for this process, please do call us to talk about it. We can help.

NEW in 2013:

Plan NH is pleased to offer two additional services, related to the Charrette program. These are OPTIONAL, and interest, or lack thereof, does not affect the selection of a community for the charrette program itself:

• Pre-charrette technical assistance, which may include, but not be limited to, formation of steering committee, charrette event planning (location, logistics, volunteer coordination) and marketing to community at large.

• Post-charrette technical assistance which may include, but not be limited to, forming committees, leadership development, project assessments and prioritizing, creating action plans.

Costs for each vary and are according to the needs of the town. Plan NH would be happy to work with your town to develop a strategy for either or both that is affordable and beneficial to the community.


Contact: Robin H. LeBlanc, Exec Director, Plan NH, 56 Middle Street 2nd Floor, Portsmouth NH 03801 603-452-7526