Joe Schilling

Professor Schilling leads the Metropolitan Institute’s Sustainable Communities Initiative that investigates innovative ways of creating eco-sustainable neighborhoods and regions through better design, planning, and collaboration ( His research explores the design, implementation and transfer of innovative policies and programs through case studies, peer exchanges, and policy charrettes covering diverse topics as smart growth, active living, vacant property reclamation, sustainability, shrinking cities, and zoning code reform.

As a founding member of the National Vacant Properties Campaign (, Professor Schilling facilitates strategic problem solving among federal, state and local officials, neighborhood groups, the housing industry, and community development practitioners to reclaim vacant properties and rebuild cities. Schilling led the Campaign’s assessment studies in Cleveland (2004), Dayton (2004), Buffalo (2006), Toledo (2008) and Youngstown/Mahoning County (2009). He is currently working with nonprofits in Philadelphia and Kansas City on vacant property strategies and also the code enforcement programs for New Orleans and Detroit. In the 2008 autumn edition of the Journal of the American Planning Association, Schilling and his co author (and former UAP Graduate Assistant) Jonathan Logan set forth a new planning model for reconfiguring cities confronting the challenges of urban shrinkage (Greening the Rust Belt). He has also authored an article for Cleveland’s Urban Design Collaborative (Kent State University) on the Living Laboratory of Revitalization, a holistic approach for federal and state urban policy based on his work in Buffalo.

On the foreclosure front in 2009 the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland appointed Schilling a Visiting Scholar where he is conducting a series of NSP case studies on small towns and rural counties. He authored a thought provoking law review article on the role of code enforcement in community stabilization for the 2009 Albany Government Law Review. Within the past year he has presented the holistic strategies for stabilizing communities at the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond’s community advisory board (October 2008) and for the Atlanta Banks’  Community Impacts of Foreclosure Forum in Atlanta (June 2008).

Within the emerging field of sustainable and healthy communities, Schilling remains a leader in the assessment of plans and codes that promote physical activity and healthy eating policies. He is currently part of a research team from Johns Hopkins University to design the nation’s first Health Impact Assessment of a local zoning code. Schilling chaired the April 2008 RWJF Active Living Research (ALR) Research Conference–Connecting Active Living Research to Policy Solutions and in 2007 he completed two Active Living Research policy case studies on state and local land use planning strategies that promote the development of more physically active and healthy communities. Schilling evaluated the policy process and consensus building approaches behind the design and enactment of Wisconsin’s 1999 Comprehensive Planning and Smart Growth Law. This first case study was published in May 2008 as part of a special ALR edition of the Journal of Health Policy, Politics, and Law. The second case study focused on four communities and the role of planners in the implementation Wisconsin’s Smart Growth Law.

As a public policy facilitator, Mr. Schilling has evaluated and led dozens of forums, workshops, and trainings on a variety of planning and community development topics, including: scenario exercises for active military installations and more than a dozen vacant property revitalization roundtables. In September 2007 and February 2009 Schilling designed and led two policy charrettes for more than 45 practitioners on the reclamation of shrinking cities. He has also conducted strategic planning retreats for organizations such as IEDC, ICMA, and Active Living Research. In 2001 Schilling led the facilitation team for over 450 delegates at the Mayor’s Asia Pacific Environmental Summit hosted by the City and County of Honolulu.

Professor Schilling studio work illustrates his philosophy of linking policy and practice. From 2007-2009 he co-lead the Eco City Studio to devise an Eco-City Charter and Environmental Action Plan for the Institute’s home city of Alexandria, Virginia ( He now leads a studio that studies new planning and regeneration models for shrinking cities.  In the fall of 2009 the studio visited Cleveland as their host city. Schilling has taught Negotiations and Community Involvement, Land Use Law and Policy, Zoning Administration, Redevelopment of Vacant Properties, Greyfields and Brownfields, Sustainability Planning and Environmental Policy and Public Health and Planning—an experimental course that examined the trans-disciplinary connections between land use, food systems, and planning policy.

Before coming to Virginia Tech Schilling directed the Community and Economic Development programs for ICMA and served for over ten years as a Deputy City Attorney for the City of San Diego in charge of its land-use enforcement unit.