Get out of the building indeed:
I specialize in [designing] downtowns, and when I am hired to make a downtown plan, I like to move there with my family, preferably for at least a month. There are many reasons to move to a city while you plan it. First, it’s more efficient in terms of travel and setting up meetings, something that can become very expensive. Second, it allows you to truly get to know a place, to memorize every building, street, and block. It also gives you the chance to get familiar with the locals over coffee, dinners in people’s homes, drinks in neighborhood pubs, and during chance encounters on the street. These nonmeetings are when most of the real intelligence gets collected.
It can be difficult for clients to approve just a handful of customer interviews on my projects. Seems like a silly quibble when judged against this.
Excerpt from Jeff Speck’s Walkable City: How Downtown Can Save America, One Step at a Time.