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March 23, 2005

Michigan Firm to Design First-Ever Sign-Language Town

From: PRNewswire (Press Release) - Mar 23, 2005

- Nederveld Associates to Seek Input from South Dakota Residents in Developing Plan for New Town

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich., March 23 /PRNewswire/ -- Nederveld Associates, Inc., a West Michigan-based land planning, civil engineering and surveying firm, today announced that it will serve as lead designer for Laurent, S.D., a new town intended for individuals who communicate using sign language. Laurent is the first community to be conceived, planned and constructed specifically for signers, whether they are hearing impaired or not, and will be the first new town built in South Dakota in more than a century.

As part of the design process, a Nederveld Associates team will visit South Dakota from March 20-26 to lead a series of public planning meetings, known as a charrette, that will solicit and incorporate input from key stakeholders on how the new town should look and function; the discussions will involve state and local government, utility companies, county and school boards, and local residents. On March 25, at the conclusion of the charrette, Nederveld's planners and engineers will present a finalized plan for the new town and then begin the process of pursuing formal approvals for the project.

Laurent is the brainchild of Marvin T. Miller, a prominent deaf visionary and former West Michigan resident. Miller and his mother-in-law, M.E. Barwacz, are the founders of The Laurent Company, the South Dakota-based private development firm that intends to build the new community for signers. Laurent Company selected Nederveld Associates to serve as lead town planner and engineer as part of a competitive request-for-proposals (RFP) process; both companies will host the upcoming town planning meetings.

"Nederveld Associates is delighted to collaborate with Marvin Miller, a remarkable individual who exudes the same spirit and drive that led America's early pioneers to create new communities where none existed before," said Terry Tromp, Nederveld Associates chief operating officer. "Our expertise and approach to neighborhood design will be an excellent complement to Miller's long-term vision for Laurent and its residents."

The proposed site for Laurent, named for the French educator who brought sign language to America in 1815, is currently farm land located approximately 30 miles west of Sioux Falls. Laurent Company and Nederveld Associates envision that the new community will initially comprise 275 acres and accommodate up to 3,000 residents. Nederveld is creating an overarching architectural theme for all elements of the community, including its homes, parks, shops, churches and restaurants; the firm's theme will adhere to the principles of New Urbanism, a design movement that emphasizes the pedestrian- friendly accessibility and "neighborhood feel" of traditional European villages. It will contain hotels, a convention center, over 190,000 square feet of office space and a similar amount of retail shops and restaurants.

While other communities have attracted significant deaf populations -- notably Martha's Vineyard during the 1700s -- Laurent is believed to be the first to involve the comprehensive planning and construction of an entirely new community for signers and their families. The community has won support from the deaf community, including the National Association of the Deaf, and is attracting reservations for residency from a growing number of individuals in the United States and overseas.

Nederveld Associates anticipates that the current planning and development approvals process will conclude in time for a fall 2005 groundbreaking, and that Laurent will begin welcoming its first residents in 2006.

Founded in 1977, Nederveld Associates, Inc. ( ) is a full-service land planning, civil engineering and surveying firm. Based in West Michigan, its multidisciplinary team creates town plans that support smart and sustainable growth, benefiting communities today and future generations to come.

Source: Nederveld Associates, Inc.

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