The announcement of a new design director for the Downtown Development Authority was a bit premature, as funding for the newly created position, which will be split between three entities, still awaits final approval.
That announcement came Wednesday, when DDA CEO Nathan Norris named Geoff Dyer as the design director, describing the Calgary-based urban designer as a “rock star of the design world.” Dyer most recently worked for PlaceMakers Canada, a sister company to Placemakers LLC in the U.S., the urban design firm Norris co-founded.
ABiz, which broke Norris' announcement online Wednesday, spoke Thursday with Norris, who acknowledges approval of the new position is not set in stone, though that should be remedied by next week, he says.
Funding for Dyer’s $100,000 annual salary, says Norris, will be split three ways, with DDA covering half, and the remainder split equally between the Lafayette Economic Development Authority and the Lafayette Public Trust Financing Authority. The matter will appear on the agenda for Tuesday’s meeting of the LPTFA as a joint-agreement with DDA, says Norris.
“In order for us to get anybody great, we needed additional funding,” says Norris. “We could’ve gone after someone who is talented but not proven, someone that’s not a rock star but might be a rock star in the future.”
Norris says an international search was conducted, yielding 35 applicants for the position. Of the eight deemed highly qualified, Dyer’s name topped the list.
“The bottom line is it’s a huge celebration for us to get someone with his talent to Lafayette,” says Norris.
Once all funding is approved, Dyer will handle a range of job duties, starting with free conceptual design services.
“This will push downtown development forward,” says Norris. “We could’ve gone ahead and outsourced that, but it would have cost substantially more than a salaried employee will. And the other element is it wouldn’t have come with the full-time availability.”
In exchange for their contributions, LEDA and LPTFA will also benefit from Dyer’s services. “When they have an issue that pops up, that’s part of the compensation,” says Norris. “Geoff will provide services on projects they’re doing where they need design guidance so they don’t have to go through the RFP process.”
Dyer also will provide conceptual plans to illustrate how proposed developments will look in their surroundings, meaning everything from the building to the sidewalks to the street will be taken into account. He’ll also be responsible for outlining the rules/codes for developing downtown.
“This will all start with a process of listening to the stakeholders of downtown, and finding out what are their concerns, opportunities and come up with various design options,” says Norris. “We’ll create a vision for what’s possible or desirable. The idea is to speed redevelopment, and give owners ideas on how to make money on their developments.”
Dyer, who has a degree in urban design from the University of Miami, is expected to start Aug. 1 and begin meeting with downtown stakeholders by mid-August.