Master Plan

What is a Master Plan?

A Master Plan, with respect to theme park design, is a long-term, complex planning strategy providing a conceptual site plan and layout as a guide for future development and growth within a defined limits of work or the defined meets and bounds of a property. Master planning provides a conceptual strategy to connect a site’s built environment with its surrounding environment using various design metrics and data to inform the proposed plan for future modifications to a site or property.

Master planning incorporates various analyses to recommend and propose future growth on a site such as future: population or attendance increases, transportation needs, land use requirements based on known or existing environmental conditions, etc.

  • A Master Plan can provide enough detail to delineate the various land uses and proposed future types of projects for specific areas or regions on a theme park site and/or a theme park land.
  • Master planning addresses future transportation, utility, roadway, water features, etc. into its conceptual design.
  • A Master plan is often revised and updated when new projects or new growth strategies come to fruition.
  • Master planning may incorporate the use of various design disciplines such as: Master Planners, Urban Planners, Architects, Civil Engineers, Traffic Engineers, Owners, Operators, etc.

Understanding a Master Plan

A Master Plan is an overall high-level vision for the potential future growth of a theme park property, theme park land, or a specific backstage or on stage area of a theme park support area. If poorly designed and ill conceived, an unsuccessful master plan can have potential future environmental impacts and/or could prevent future, more successful improvements and expansion to a theme park’s property.

Successful Master Plans will incorporate three major sections, undertaken in the following order: a Feasibility Study, a Strategic Framework, and the physical and spatial design elements.

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The Feasibility Study is an objective study of all potential variations or options for future development. The Feasibility Study is the initial period of master planning where numerous points of data, analysis, and formal conclusions are gathered and studied. The Strategic Framework is an parallel effort and document to the Master Plan that sets known baseline parameters for the site or property, such as physical, social, economic contexts, zoning and codes/laws influencing or impacting the site and surrounding area. The physical spatial elements of a Master Plan is the design product generated once the Feasibility Study and the Strategic Framework have been completed – these elements inform the final master plan design or deliverable. A successful Master Plan should include massing elements, orientation, coordinate grids, transportation systems, open areas or areas not to be developed or preserved, a delineation of the various types of uses – or building/project types – select sections should be utilized for, etc.

Related Terms

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About the Author J. Daniel Jenkins, AIA, NCARB is a licensed Architect, Theme Park Design Consultant, and former Senior Project Design Manager at Walt Disney Imagineering with over twenty years of subject matter expertise and design team leadership experience. Jenkins is the creator of themeparkarchitect.com who's goal is to teach individuals about theme park architecture and design, how to become theme park architects and designers, and discuss themed entertainment industry related topics. For nearly a decade, Mr. Jenkins has worked in the themed entertainment industry on new themed entertainment attractions, theme park lands, and new theme parks. Upon leaving Walt Disney Imagineering, Jenkins started his own Design Management Consulting company where he has consulted with and provided subject matter expertise and project leadership for new, confidential projects for several themed entertainment companies. Mr. Jenkins holds a five-year Master of Architecture degree from the Savannah College of Art and Design and a Virtual Design and Construction Certificate from Stanford University.
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