Our History

Uncommon Bridges was established in 2009 as BDS Planning & Urban Design.

For 15 years, we’ve been refining our techniques of facilitation and consensus-building to invite both collaboration and conflict as pathways to common ground.

2009: Launch

Seattle | Alaskan Way Viaduct |Seattle BIAs

Inspired by his success in facilitating a major breakthrough in the decision to replace the elevated Alaskan Way Viaduct with a deep bore tunnel to enable the creation of Seattle's spectacular waterfront, Brian Scott moved to Seattle. Shortly thereafter he founded BDS Planning & Urban Design to do comprehensive community development through building consensus and unlikely coalitions. The firm quickly gained traction, working with the City of Seattle's Office of Economic Development to help neighborhoods create, renew, and expand Business Improvement Districts and launching the Columbia City Business Improvement Area (BIA).

2010: First Big Projects

DSA Strategic Plan | Willamette Falls Heritage Area Coalition | Vision for Burien
The firm took off in its second year, facilitating the first strategic planning process of the Downtown Seattle Association. The process helped transform the organization to become more connected with the many downtown communities and take up its leadership role in shaping the center city. The firm led the formation of the Willamette Falls Heritage Area Coalition, building a new organization from the ground up to help reclaim the Oregon City and West Linn waterfronts working in partnership with the Grand Ronde Tribe. The firm facilitated a citywide strategic planning process for Burien that celebrated that community's diverse cultures and sense of place.

2012: Growth

New Office | Eliot Mueting | Beth Dufek

We rented one small room on the 7th floor of the historic Terminal Sales Building adjacent to the Pike Place Public Market, beginning our residence at the fabulous location we still call home. Brian welcomed Eliot Mueting and Beth Dufek as the firm's first full-time employees. The new capacity enabled the firm to take on a broader range of projects.

2013: Three for Three on BIAs!

MID | SODO | Pioneer Square | Tacoma 2025

Things really got rolling when the Seattle City Council approved three Business Improvement Area proposals developed in consensus with communities by the firm. They included a major expansion and upgrade of downtown's Metropolitan Improvement District, a complete reinvention and expansion of Seattle's oldest BIA in Pioneer Square, and a brand new district in the SODO area south of downtown. Future partner Andrés Mantilla, becomes a strong collaborator inside the City’s Office of Economic Development.

2015: Principles of Vibrant, Just & Thriving Communities

Gabriel Silberblatt | Valerie Tran | Richa Vuppuluri | Noel Frame | Jin Qiu

The firm grew dramatically and deepened the expression of our values between 2015 and 2017 when Gabriel Silberblatt, Valerie Tran, Richa Vuppuluri, Noel Frame and Jin Qiu joined the team. We articulated our vision for more vibrant, just, and thriving communities, and put our values into practice through our work with King County's Communities of Opportunity program, King County's 911 System, and the Arlington Drive Youth Campus of the Tacoma Housing Authority, a service-enriched campus that provides homeless youth and young adults with short- and long-term housing options and high quality, empowering supportive services.

2019: Culture, Race, Identity & Placemaking

Ishmael | Dori | Biometrics | Industrial & Maritime Lands

The firm changed course again after Ishmael Nuñez walked through the door with a vision for working at the intersection of race, place, and identity. The team embraced his view, which knit together and deepened many elements of our work. Dori Krupanics also joined the firm and immediately took both marketing and operations to new heights. We took on increasingly complex projects, such as nuanced consensus-building for the City of Seattle’s policy on maritime and industrial land. We glimpsed the ethical challenges of our future while facilitating an external advisory group on the use of biometric data at the Port of Seattle's facilities, bringing together representatives of airlines, cruise lines, the tech industry, government and civil liberties advocates.

2020: Pandemic Pivot

Virtual Facilitation | Equity in Placemaking

As the world reeled from the COVID-19 pandemic, we transformed our considerable experience in meeting facilitation into a new virtual reality. Our quick adaptation and thoughtful approach moved us into national leadership for high-quality virtual facilitation. We connected the public reckoning around race and equity to our work with place management organizations, helping several of these groups become much more inclusive and equitable. We began working directly with the Washington State Department of Commerce to develop a framework for diversity, equity, inclusion and respect. We facilitated a public safety advisory committee to reach a consensus for the King County Executive Office hiring guidelines for the new Sheriff.

Screenshot of zoom meeting participants

2022: Partnership

Noel | Ishmael | Andrés | Staff & Capacity Growth

This was a transformational year for the firm as long-time friend and collaborator Andrés Mantilla and staff Noel Frame and Ishmael Nuñez joined Brian as partners in the firm. The four leaders defined a vision for partnership informed by their multidisciplinary expertise and dedication to advancing equity. This had an immediate and profound impact on the firm’s work as staffing and project capacity more than doubled. We took on new projects like the facilitation of a working group that informed housing policy to address the racial wealth gap for the WA Department of Commerce, and the development of a diversity, equity, inclusion, and access framework for the Downtown Long Beach Alliance.

2023: National Growth

Austin | DC | Chicago | Indianapolis | Rochester | Stipends | Field Area Leads

Under the dynamic new partnership, the firm’s scope multiplied. We led strategic planning processes for the Chicago Loop and downtown associations in Austin, Indianapolis, and Washington, DC, as well as worked on new Business Improvement Districts in Indianapolis and Rochester, NY. We helped the WA Department of Commerce move more than $100 million in COVID relief funds to homeless service providers and to traditionally underrepresented small business owners in the hospitality industries. Our capacity and depth grew with the appointment of field area leads across our work, with Jacqueline Robinette leading organizational development, Natalia Koss Vallejo leading policy & program development, and Ariam Ford leading equity & engagement.

Uncommon Bridges Logo

2024: Reaching Common Ground

15 Year Anniversary | Rebrand | International Downtown Association

We are so excited to be celebrating our 15th anniversary with a new brand identity. We look forward to welcoming many of our friends and colleagues to our hometown as the International Downtown Association holds its 70th annual conference in downtown Seattle this fall.

Large group of people and families smiling outside at park