People to Know: Patrick Panza

Patrick Panza, AICP

Assistant Planning Manager

GAI Consultants

 

Urban planning, says Patrick Panza, is all about balance.

And in many ways, so, too, is he.

Panza’s lifelong love of the natural world informs the ways he looks at his work as the Assistant Planning Manager of the Urban Planning Design Group at Community Solutions Group, a GAI Consultants company.

“The same process is required in order to create a built environment or preserve a natural one. I love that you can take a macro look at the environment we all experience on a day-to-day basis, then use our experience and knowledge to fully analyze the situation and come up with road maps to ensure the best experience for everyone involved.”

Panza grew up in Orlando’s Rosemont neighborhood. The child of Haitian immigrants, his parents’ influence was broad, but similarly balanced.

“I got to enjoy a lot of Central Florida for what it truly is,” Panza says with appreciation. “It was a great experience, my childhood. I spent a lot of time in lakes and forests and springs, on rivers and beaches. ... My family always had a love for anything in the water, which isn’t a stretch for a family from the Caribbean islands, and the woods were all over my parents’ childhood. I think they wanted [them] to be a part of mine, as well.”

A part.

The flipside of his mangrove-like outdoorsy roots are memories of his mother taking him to the library in downtown.

“I was a studious child,” he laughs, “and she would take me there to do my schoolwork or go find books for my reports – since that’s how we did research before the Internet.”

At 34, Panza just barely clears the bar for memories of dot-matrix printers and card catalogs, but the swan boats of Lake Eola and the amusements of Disney still call to him.

Panza attributes his sound, reasoned side to his father – a side he credits with escorting him to his career choice, in fact, with a side note about the struggle his industry often has for visibility among young people as a viable career choice.

“One of the things about my profession and this industry that really intrigued me from the get-go was its capacity to affect positive change,” he explains, detailing what he calls a “typical” college experience to the point of that final, big choice.

“After the first year or two, the weight and the gravity of the decisions that you’ve either been making, or are on the precipice of making – it really begins to hit you and you think really hard about what it is you actually want to do.”

As Panza dug into what urban planning was all about, he began to see its potential.

“My father taught me how it’s possible to work through issues with analysis and logic,” he says, “and in hindsight I can see how the urban planning arena is appealing to me, because it involves a lot of both.”

If Panza finds his dad’s influence at the office, he also finds it back home, in the garage, where his “pride and joy sportscar,” a 2003 BMW M3, spends its off hours.

Three years ago, in fact, Panza moved from downtown into his childhood home in Rosemont. His BMW resides in the garage where he and his dad worked on cars together, where his love of Formula 1 racing, of all things automotive, was kindled and stoked. His parents have since retired to southwest Florida, but Panza has kept the tradition alive.

“There’s been at least one M3 in that garage since the first year they were released, in 1988.”

-- A.D. Thompson

A.D. Thompson / photo courtesy Patrick Panza
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