What is a Masterplan?

A masterplan is a guide for the future development of a particular area. A comprehensive masterplan can help shape not only the physical development of a community, but also its social, cultural, economic and political future as well. Masterplans articulate both short-term and long-term goals of a community, providing a vision for the next 20 to 25 years.

As a process, a masterplan works to bring a community together to determine its shared values and its shared vision for its future. Town meetings are held and surveys conducted to solicit public input into the plan. Goals are discussed and objectives are articulated to allow these goals to be accomplished. Community assets are identified which may help achieve these goals, and liabilities are identified which may hinder these goals. The community votes to adopt the plan, which is then sent to the county for adoption. Regional, state and federal officials also review the masterplan, though they neither adopt nor reject its outcomes.

As a product, a masterplan provides an economic tool to recruit new business and investment in the community, and to strengthen existing businesses; a political tool to encourage civic improvements and ensure appropriate municipal services; and a legal tool to give the community a greater voice in outside decision-making processes which affect their town.

Masterplans are intended to be flexible, 'living documents,' which can be changed and amended over time to respond to the changing values of a community. The masterplanning process should set in motion a continued conversation about the goals and objectives of a community and its future.

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25 Years Ago Today...

A masterplan helps shape a vision for the future of a community. Typically, a masterplan will imagine a community 20 to 25 years into the future. It is often a difficult task, particularly in a small town, to imagine things any differently than they are today.

One exercise that can be useful in imagining a possible future 25 years from now is to remember back to how different life was just a generation ago. 25 years ago today...

    in politics
  • Ronald Reagan was beginning his first term as President
  • The Soviet Union was still an "evil empire" and the Berlin Wall still stood
  • Bill Clinton was beginning his second term as Governor of Arkansas
  • Evan Bayh was in law school at the University of Virginia
  • in economics
  • unemployment in the united States was 9.7%; today unemployment is 6.1%
  • median income in the United States was $20,171; today the median income is $48,201
  • gas = $1.30 / gallon; today = $3.68 / gallon
  • milk = $2.24 / gallon; today = $3.80 / gallon
  • eggs = 84 / dozen; today = $1.51 / dozen
  • 1st class stamp = 20; today = 42
  • Dow Jones high was 1,076 mark; today = 11,220
  • in transportation
  • minivans still a year away - Dodge Caravan & Plymouth Voyager (1983)
  • I-65 (connecting Mobile, Alabama to Gary, Indiana) had just been completed (1978)
  • the Corvette plant in Bowling Green, Kentucky was the only automaker on I-65's "Auto Alley"
    (now Saturn, Subaru, Hyundai, Cadillac and Corvette all have plants along I-65)
  • in technology
  • IBM unveils the first personal computer (1981)
  • IBM teams up with Harvard drop-out Bill Gates to begin work on Microsoft Windows
  • the Internet was still a military tool and not available to the public
  • there was no e-mail, eBay, e-servers or e-trade
  • ATMs have just been invented in Europe (1970s) but were not yet common in the US
  • cable TV was just becoming available (ESPN 1979, CNN 1980, MTV 1981)
  • satellite dishes still ten years away (1990s)
  • Sony releases the Walkman portable music player (Japan 1979, US later)
  • in sports
  • the Indiana Pacers had their first ever winning season in the NBA (ABA merger 1977)
  • Reggie Miller was a baseball/basketball junior at Riverside Polytechnic High School in Southern California
  • Steve Alford and Keith Smart were the big names on campus in Bloomington
  • Gerry Faust takes over for Dan Devine as football coach at Notre Dame
  • the Colts still have two seasons to play in Baltimore
  • Peyton Manning enters the first grade at a Louisiana Parish school

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continue to next section: The Process
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© 2008 The Institute for Small Town Studies