By definition, comprehensive plans are macro-level, “big picture” bodies of work. They are not designed to provide a high degree of “ground-level” detail, especially when it comes to discrete neighborhoods or districts that may require special planning treatment. For this reason, more focused area plans are often developed for special places in conjunction with comprehensive plans, to provide a higher level of design and strategy detail. Depending on the community, such special places may include historic districts, commercial corridors, neighborhoods, and downtowns. Special area plans may get down to the block or site level, often focus on restoration, special protections or redevelopment, and usually involve a much more directed and nuanced approach toward implementation. This focused effort will typically consider:
- The community wide context in which the corridor, district or other special area has developed or evolved, and the external influences that will affect future growth or investment.
- Current and future market conditions that may affect future reinvestment activity and specific ways that they can be harnessed or reversed.
- Unique environmental conditions such as important natural features, viewsheds, brownfields, as well as property ownership (title) issues that may need to be worked through or around.
- Unique architecture, or local building traditions, that need to be protected/reflected in new development.
- Key linkages between the target area and other activity centers and important districts and corridors.
- Regulatory provisions that may discourage, impede or prevent context-sensitive, low-impact, smart growth development initiatives.