GPA 2023 Fall Conference

GPA will return to Savannah in 2023 for its three-day Fall Conference, which will take place on September 20 – 22. The conference will be held at The DeSoto, a historic hotel dating back to the early 1800s, located on Madison Square in the Savannah Historic District.

Early Rate
through 8/18
Regular Rate
8/19 - 9/14
On Site Rate
9/15 - 9/22
GPA Member$375$420$465
Non GPA Member$420$460$500
Planning Official$200$200$200
One Day Registration
Wednesday Only$190
Thursday Only$250
Friday Only$160

We are now only accepting on-site registration. On site registration opens at 11:00 am on Wednesday 09/20 and 8:00 am on Thursday 09/21 and Friday 09/22.

Download the Schedule

Have questions?  Contact Amanda Hatton, VP Programs, for more information.

Download the Conference Guide App

The GPA Conference program guide is paper free! Download the conference app before you arrive to plan out your schedule, get to know the speakers, see special events, and learn about our sponsors who make this event possible.

Download the Guidebook app here to access the guide on your iOS and Android device. Or scan the QR Code.

If the Guidebook App is already downloaded on your phone, scan the QR Code or search 2023-gpa-fall-conference to pull up the latest guide.

Credit: Desoto Hotel

Hotel & Conference Location

The DeSoto Savannah
15 East Liberty Street
Savannah, GA 31401

While the group rate has ended, if you still need to book a room, you may book direct at their regular rates.

The hotel is valet parking only. GPA has a discounted valet rate of $32 per night. There are city parking garages nearby.

Alternate Hotels

As an alternate to The DeSoto, attendees may choose to stay at other nearby hotels, which are within walking distance of the conference location:

Courtyard Savannah Downtown/Historic District

Cambria Savannah Downtown Historic District

Tryp by Wyndham Savannah Downtown/Historic District

GPA has not reserved a block of rooms at these hotels – registrants will pay the regular rate. Please note that these hotels are serviced by the free DOT shuttle route which goes directly by the conference hotel.


Nature Based Solutions: Designing Resilience

The keynote luncheon on Thursday afternoon will feature Dr. Todd Bridges, a Professor of Practice in resilient and sustainable systems in the College of Engineering at the University of Georgia. Prior to joining UGA in 2023, Dr. Bridges served for 17 years as the Senior Research Scientist (ST) for Environmental Science for the U.S. Army and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, where he founded and led the Corps’ Engineering with Nature® Program. Among his many publications, he led a five-year collaboration across the public and private sectors to develop and publish International Guidelines on Natural and Nature-Based Features for Flood Risk Management. Dr. Bridges received a Distinguished Presidential Rank Award from President Biden in 2021 for exceptional leadership, accomplishments, and service.

Taking the AICP Exam this Fall? 

If you are planning to take the AICP exam, make sure to attend our AICP exam review courses on Thursday, September 20 at the Fall Conference in Savannah. Thursday exam prep sessions include the exam overview, law, ethics and leadership management courses.

It’s not too late to attend the Fall Conference! Registration will be available on site.

Mobile Sessions

As of Monday, September 18, there are a few spots left for these Mobile Sessions: Skidaway Island tour and Savannah Confidential Walking Tour on Thursday and Downtown Bike Tour on Friday. You can register onsite when you arrive to ensure your spot!

Take a tour and learn how the ports accelerate global commerce, empower entrepreneurs, strengthen industries, and sustain communities. This tour will offer insight on the 4th busiest container port in the United States. A port that provides access to 44% of U.S. consumers and manufacturers in 2-3 days. It is the single largest and fastest-growing container terminal in America. 

In Fiscal Year 2021, the Georgia Ports Authority contributed to 560,000 full- and part-time jobs, $140 billion in sales, $59 billion in state gross domestic product, $33 billion in personal income, $7.4 billion in federal taxes, $2 billion in state taxes, and $1.8 billion in local taxes.

Our afternoon tour will give you an insider’s look at the Georgia Ports Authority Garden City Terminal.  It is the fourth-busiest container port in the United States and provides access to 44% of U.S. consumers in 2-3 days. At 1,200 acres, it’s North America’s busiest single-terminal container facility. This allows for maximum efficiency and flexibility, concentrating all manpower, technology, and equipment in one massive container operation.

This session will be led by Lee Beckmann, Manager of Governmental Affairs at Georgia Ports Authority. This will be a bus tour around the GA Port, a busy hub that is central to industries throughout the region. Participants will learn about the day to day operations of the Port.

Join Historic Savannah Foundation (HSF) for a trolley tour of the Cuyler-Brownville neighborhood, a historically African American community rich in history and character. HSF, through its Revolving Fund program, has dedicated their time and resources to creating affordable housing within the neighborhood. We will visit several HSF Revolving Fund properties, including active rehabilitation sites, and dive into a deeper discussion of the housing needs within a community faced with rising housing costs.

Join us for a bicycle tour of the Canal District. Anchored by the new SPLOST-funded arena, the Canal District is located to the west of Savannah’s downtown. The arena and surrounding area are one of the largest projects the City has ever undertaken and presents the opportunity to create a vibrant new center of activity. Health, social, environmental, and economic disparities must be considered with emphasis on stormwater management, displacement, historic preservation, small business development, affordable housing, connectivity, and much more.

In this mobile workshop to the Skidaway Institute of Oceanography, planners will have a unique opportunity to meet and talk with the leading coastal researchers on sea level rise, Dr. Clark Alexander, director of the Skidaway Institute of Oceanography (SKIO) and Dr. Chester Jackson, Associate Professor of Geology, Georgia Southern University’s Applied Coastal Resources Lab, located on Skidaway Island. Dr. Clark Alexander will discuss his coastal geology research on climate change and sea level rise impacts to Georgia’s coast and his resiliency goals for SKIO and Dr. Chester Jackson will demonstrate his coastal hazards mapping tool, AMBUR, to include vulnerable populations, and his most recent high-resolution map of the Georgia shoreline and coast. The workshop concludes with a brief tour of the SKIO campus and a stop at the UGA Marine Extension Aquarium to get acquainted with the dynamic and diverse marine life living in Georgia’s ocean and estuaries.

Equity, Sustainability and Resilience CM credit will be applied for.

Completely unlike any other area excursion, a Savannah Confidential Walking Tour feels like a candid late-night conversation where a close friend shares personal memories and strange-but-true anecdotes of the unique people, places and things which defined this fabled city’s Historic District from the 1970s through 2010 – most of which are forgotten or simply never known.

While virtually all other Savannah history tours focus on the 1700s and 1800s, these stories are fewer than three degrees of separation from your guide. Each tour is bespoke and uses no set script or route, but rather is geared to each different group of guests’ interests and collective personality.

The slow-paced stroll of several blocks ends at a bona fide legendary, beloved dive bar (make sure to bring ID for entry), where folks can use the restroom and/or purchase cold beverages.

Your guide Jim Reed is an award-winning print journalist, community advocate and public radio commentator who’s been a well-known local fixture for the past 37 years. His tours currently hold a near-perfect 4.95-Star Rating on Airbnb Experiences.

Enjoy a biking tour of facilities and projects in downtown Savannah, led by Caila Brown, executive director of Bike Walk Savannah. Discussion topics will include the importance of creating a connected network for people walking and biking, local struggles and successes, and what a network means for community resilience. As part of your registration, bicycle rentals are available from Savannah on Wheels.

This is a half-day mobile workshop to Sapelo Island, one of Georgia’s most culturally rich and ecologically important barrier islands which is under threat from climate change, sea level rise and intense pressure from outside, and inside, interests in removing descendants’ land ownership retention.  Jazz Watts, island descendent, writer, actor, environmental and social justice expert will co- lead a Saturday half day tour of Sapelo Island to discuss cultural heritage preservation, land retention, climate change and sea level rise impacts to the Hogg Hammock Community. Co-leading the tour will be a Sapelo descendant-owned tour operator who will provide our transportation.  Boxed lunches will be catered by a Hogg Hammock descendant small business owner.  Stops include Hogg Hammock community and the Sapelo Island Cultural and Revitalization Society, the Sapelo Island National Estuarine Research Reserve, the University of Georgia Marine Institute and Nanny Goat beach, for boxed lunch and conversation with Jazz Watts. The tour concludes around 12:10 pm to return to the Marsh Landing Dock for the 12:30 pm ferry back to the mainland. Plan for a 5.5 hour workshop window, to include a one hour travel time to Marsh Landing dock.  Carolyn Henry Rader, AICP, is the organizer and moderator for the workshop. Please see the important information below.  You may contact Carolyn with any other questions.

Important information: Sapelo Island is accessible only by boat. The Georgia DNR operates the ferry (no cars), which leaves Meridian, GA dock at 9:00 a.m., sharp. Participants are required to be at the dock at 8:30 am to ensure enough time to park, sign-in and board the ferry.  It is a 1 hour, 10 minute travel time from the DeSoto Hilton, downtown Savannah to the Sapelo Island Dock, Meridian, GA. Participants will have to leave downtown Savannah no later than 7:20 am.  Participants are responsible for their own transportation to the Sapelo Island dock in Meridian Georgia. Workshop organizer, Carolyn Henry Rader, AICP, will provide detailed information to all participants on schedule, directions, transportation and carpooling options and other logistics, weather updates, what to wear and bring with you to make this a successful and very enjoyable workshop!

Cost of workshop includes ferry fee, tour, lunch and on-island transportation. 

Note: Sapelo Island mobile session registration will open to friends and family of conference attendees on September 9 if there are any remaining spots.

Plan to Stay the Weekend!

Your local host committee has been planning walking, biking, and trolley tours, plus happy hours and late-breaking technical sessions featuring national and regional resilience best practice. Plan to stay the weekend! Not only are we offering a Saturday tour of the beautiful and meaningful Sapelo Island, but it’s also Jazz Fest in Savannah the same weekend, with free shows in Forsyth Park.

Meet up at Forsyth Farmers’ Market Saturday morning, and eat popsicles for breakfast, listen to Farmer Joe’s song, and fill your basket with watermelons and pumpkins.

See all that Savannah has to offer!


Thanks to Our Conference Sponsors

Click each logo to visit the sponsor’s website.







(Thursday Social)