Kyle Ezell plans to do more than speak: he plans to, ... well ..., plan.
The associate professor in city and regional planning at Ohio State University will be the keynote speaker at the launch of the Great Placemakers Lab, to be held from Sept. 16-19 in the Westin Great Southern Hotel, 310 S. High St.
From 5 to 7 p.m. Sept. 16, Ezell will lead a group effort to design a currently undisclosed corner of downtown and make it distinctly Columbus.
His speech is free and open to the public.
"A lot of times people want to mingle and have fun at the opening of a conference," Ezell said. "And we're going to do that: We're going to mingle and have fun and do something real and useful at the same time.
"We're going to have a ball sketching and drawing in an unbridled atmosphere," he said. "I'm going to take those ideas and meet with local urban designers and see if we can work with that."
Ezell, who will be available for a meet-and-greet from 7 to 8 p.m., said he will post the progress on his website, designinglocal.com.
The Great Placemakers Lab will bring together professionals and neighborhood leaders to discuss elements that help make communities distinct.
A series of workshops, ranging from walkability to economics, will be held from Sept. 17-19. The entire conference is $360. Attendance to individual workshops and discussions is available for a fee.
The German Village Society is the creator and main sponsor of Great Placemakers.
"We have felt for 54 years we wanted to be part of the preservation conversation in the region and the nation," said Shiloh Todorov, executive director of the Society.
"So, this is just our next creation, to make sure we're in the center of best practices of not only preservation, but what makes great neighborhoods," Todorov said.
Ezell, who's been a professional planner for 20 years, said lots of big cities copy each other, but few are leading the way.
"We're all taking steps forward, but nobody's taking a leap forward," he said.
He is the author of three books: Retire Downtown: The Lifestyle Destination for Active Retirees and Empty Nesters; Get Urban! The Complete Guide to City Living; and Designing Local: Revealing our Truest Communities.
Ezell, 45, said he likes the direction of downtown, but it needs something to make it "instantly identifiable and loveable."
"Downtown Columbus is poised for a renaissance unseen since its founding, really, because it's going from a few thousand people to perhaps many tens of thousands of people who want to be part of it every day," he said.