Bruce Stephenson's research and teaching reveal how history informs the intersection of
regional planning, sustainability, and urbanism. A champion of the pragmatic application of the liberal arts, he has worked with an array of community partners, served on numerous boards and committees, and comments on civic issues in editorials, media interviews, and a series of PBS documentaries aired in Florida. He also works as a consultant, highlighted by directing the ecological restoration of the Genius Preserve for the Elizabeth Morse Genius Foundation on the Genius Preserve and helping design and implement the Winter Park-Central Park Master Plan.
Stephenson earned a Masters of City & Regional Planning from The Ohio State University. He spent two years with the Pinellas County Planning Department before pursuing a PhD at Emory University. Stephenson’s doctoral research unveiled John Nolen’s previously undocumented 1923 plan for St. Petersburg, Florida’s first comprehensive city plan. Nolen's timeless blueprint is the focus of Stephenson's first book, Visions of Eden.
Stephenson’s Nolen research introduced him to two founding members of the Congress of the New Urbanism, Andres Duany and Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk. Nolen inspired their plan
for Seaside, Florida, the prototype New Urbanist community. In 1990 Stephenson presented his
findings at a John Nolen Symposium hosted by the University of Miami and DPZ. Since then he
has written extensively on Nolen. The Introduction he wrote to the re-print of Nolen's New Ideals in the Planning of Cities, Towns, and Villages, and Stephenson's biography, John Nolen, Landscape Architect and City Planner, document the noted reformer’s genius for place-making and reveal why Nolen's plans continue to inform professional practitioners and civic organizations. Nolen inspired the creation of the University of Wisconsin Arborteum (UWA), the longest on-going ecological restoration project in the world. The UWA informed Stephenson's work restoring the native landscape of the Genius Preserve, which won the 1000 Friends of Florida Community Betterment Award.
Stephenson has also written on the great urbanist, Lewis Mumford, who inspired Portland's path-breaking experiments in regional planning. His 2018 article, "Utopian Plans for the Modern World; John Nolen, Lewis Mumford and the Origins of Sustainability," set the foundation for his new book Portland's Good Life: Sustainability and Hope in an American City.
Metropolitan Orlando is the most dangerous pedestrian environment in the nation, and Stephenson is actively engaged in mitigating this disaster. In 1989, he was the consultant for Orange County’s citizen review of its Comprehensive Policy Plan. The yearlong process produced a “multi-modal” approach to transportation planning; the starting point for a score of projects Stephenson and his students have prepared to provide sustainable solutions to the inefficiencies of suburban sprawl:
The Cady Way Bike Trail 1993
The Cross Seminole Trail 1994
The Seminole Wekiva Trail 1995
The Econ Wilderness Area Conceptual Plan 1996
Sustainability Enterprise: Activating SunRail in Winter Park 2014 (Funded by an EPA Grant)