Peter Park’s work with the Future Cities Collaborative saw him sharing his experiences from America at events around New South Wales in June. Following his participation in the intensive three-day Mayors' Forum, Park travelled to Liverpool, Woollahra, and Waverley councils, among others, to discuss developments in their local areas, and also gave a key-note address as part of the Sydney Ideas lecture series.

International urban planning expert, Peter Park, continued his relationship with the Future Cities Collaborative and United States Studies Centre, established during the 2013 Future Cities Program Study Tour, by joining the Future Cites Team for two-weeks. He provided his skills and knowledge to the 2014 Future Cities Program participants, as well as making himself available to the Future Cities Collaborative members.

During his time in Sydney, Peter offered insights he learnt whilst Director of Planning in Milwaukee and Denver, including an examination of the reforms to planning and zoning controls he oversaw in both cities. Planning reforms and questions surround the execution of planning controls remain a hot-button issue in New South Wales at present – and Peter was able to give first-hand examples of how effective and efficient planning can be carried out on a city-wide scale. His advice and guidance was extremely valuable as Future Cities Program participants, and New South Wales as a whole, contemplate how to best move forward in city-planning whilst retaining the integrity of the urban fabric, and securing public support and civic engagement at the same time.

In Milwaukee, Peter’s planning reforms led to the creation of a new mixed-use, mixed-income neighborhood along the Milwaukee River, from which Australian councils can learn the benefits of having a form-based code in place, rather than a legislative-based, restrictive code we currently adhere too. In Denver, Peter’s work included redevelopment of Denver Union Station, several transit-oriented development stations, and the adoption of a new context and form-based zoning code applied citywide. The transformative effects of these measure meant that strategic and holistic planning for future growth was achieved whilst giving citizens added choice in their commutes and housing options.

Peter’s overall message was that planning should begin at the street-level with citizen’s experiences and perceptions of a place put first, with the legislation to follow. Planning carried out in this manner creates more choice in the mode of transport on offer and so lowers congestion, and also creates neighbourhoods and cities that are great places to live and work.

Peter was the keynote speaker at the launch of the Future Cities Program Mayors' Forum. In his lecture, Park noted the benefits of a more holistic approach to design and planning, citing greater usage of public transport, lower congestion, and a stronger community feel as positive consequences of this "people first" approach. His lessons from Milwaukee and Denver inspired the participants with the possibilities of what is achievable when risks are taken and innovative and revolutionary planning is carried out.

Peter also delivered an address as part of the Sydney Ideas lecture series examining the possibility of creating liveable cities without planning controls. In this address, Peter used Denver as the exemplar city of planning reform, and highlighted the improved conditions and cityscape that has been achieved. The shift that Denver saw from rigid planning controls to visionary, inclusive and fluid planning guidelines successfully incorporated all stakeholder concerns to put the need for high-quality outputs first. Peter explained that Denver’s planning mentality is now focused on making Denver a city that is liveable for its people; and this framework guides planning citywide. Whether creating plans on a small or citywide scale, Denver’s goal is to achieve a balanced, multi-modal transportation system, land use that accommodates future growth, and open space throughout the city, without the need to conform to strict planning controls. Without planning documents that apply blanket rules and restrictions, Denver was free to create a cityscape that looks and feels great for its people to live, work and play, and can offer many lessons for cities in New South Wales.