While Ryan Kucinski MPL ’13 was completing an internship at Price Charities in San Diego this summer, he discovered the uniqueness of the City Heights neighborhood, a community in the eastern part of the city known for its ethnic diversity. A recent graduate of the USC Price School of Public Policy’s Master of Planning program, with a certificate in real estate development, he allowed this discovery to inform his thought process during the experience.
“You have to walk around and spend time in neighborhoods to discover just how great they are,” he said. “You want to empower the residents and the community so they can grow economically and bring more attention to all the great things in the area without displacing any of the people. It’s a tough challenge without creating gentrification.”
Kucinski was first introduced to Price Charities — which focuses on real estate development and employing resources to improve the quality of life for residents in City Heights — while working on a project as part of the spring 2013 USC Price planning studio. Once the project was over, he was eager to continue his work with the nonprofit as an intern.
“The Price Charities internship immerses our students in a comprehensive community revitalization effort with one of our country’s most innovative foundations, Price Charities,” said Richard Parks, executive director of the Sol Price Center for Social Innovation at USC. “Our students bring fresh perspectives and offer their talents and training. While their work benefits the foundation and community, our students say that they receive far more than they give.”
As an intern, Kucinski analyzed the City Heights development options that were generated by his planning studio peers. He also came up with his own plans and designs for some of the neighborhood properties owned by Price Charities.
He devised site plans offering differing amounts of residential units, retail and open space. He created cash flow projections for the site plans and produced 3-D renderings of the sites.
“I didn’t go into architectural drawing detail, but I think that my designs are something that they could present to an architect and say, ‘This is the vision that we are working with and some of the things that we would like to do,’ ” said Kucinski, who studied environmental design and architecture as an undergraduate at the University at Buffalo.
Kucinski also had the opportunity to present his site plans at weekly real estate meetings held at Price Charities.
“Everyone at Price Charities was really open and really responsive. They pushed me to feel like I was a part of the process that they were working on,” said Kucinski, who now works as an assistant planner at Matrix Environmental.
Matthew Hervey from Price Charities Community Development said that Kucinski “came in with an attitude of a team player, asking how he could help and providing fresh eyes on issues.”
“He came in with the belief his voice was equally important to the others at the table, and he did not hesitate to speak up,” he added. “He came in with a hunger to learn more and a willingness to do what was asked of him. Hopefully, he left with a broad range of experience, energized with the possibilities of what can be done.”