US Mayor Article

Mayors Address City Design Challenges in Charlottesville
27th Annual Session

May 29, 2000


The Mayors’ Institute on City Design (MICD) hosted it’s twenty-seventh national session April 26-28, at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville. Following two days of intensive consultation with design and development experts, seven U.S. mayors returned to their cities, better equipped to create more livable, beautiful, and vital communities. Participating mayors were each given an opportunity to present for discussion design issues currently facing their cities. During these discussions, mayors and resource team members worked together to identify models and creative strategies for success.

Mayors at the meeting included: Bob Baines, Manchester (NH), Bill Bogaard, Pasadena (CA), Bruce Furness, Fargo (ND), Rita Mullins, Palatine (IL), Tom Murphy, Pittsburgh, Bill Purcell, Nashville, Don Wesely, Lincoln (NE) and attending for Ray Martinez, Fort Collins, CO, was Mike Powers, Director of Cultural, Library and Recreational Services for Fort Collins.

Members of the resource team also made presentations regarding the value of design in a variety of disciplines to a city’s development efforts. Design professionals who participated included: landscape architect, Julie Bargmann; downtown development consultant, Ben Boozer; architect, Mario Gandelsonas; planner Toni L. Griffin; architect, Frances Halsband, FAIA; Charleston Mayor Joseph P. Riley, Jr., Hon. AIA, architect Marilyn Taylor, FAIA, and economist, Don Zuchelli.

The most critical element of the institute’s success is the dialogue between the mayors and resource team and the mutual understanding of each others’ role in the process of city design that comes out of that dialogue. Recognized this year with Federal Design Award from the General Services Administration, the Mayors’ Institute gets to the heart of the issues by encouraging constructive debate about design with the nation’s mayors, the chief architects of the American city. According to Fargo Mayor Bruce Furness, "This was an excellent experience. I was impressed with the experts’ ability to analyze and discuss the alternatives. The Institute exceeded my expectations. It provided me with ideas that are innovative and practical."

An initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), the Institute was established in 1986 and is carried out through a partnership between the NEA, the U.S.Conference of Mayors and the American Architectural Foundation. To date, over 460 mayors, representing all fifty states and Puerto Rico have attended and taken home valuable advice on how to deal with difficult urban planning and design issues. While mayors present different design issues from their cities, many of the challenges are similar. As a result, mayors not only bring back ideas for a specific project, they return to their cities better equipped to serve as advocates for good design. Design issues presented and questions addressed at the spring session included:

  • Manchester, NH: The city would like to make Hanover Street a cultural district and destination for visitors, residents and users of a soon-to-be-built arena. What design elements will draw pedestrians from the arena and what innovative financing should be used to make improvements?

  • Pasadena, CA: A redevelopment plan for East Colorado Boulevard is underway. How should the city get the community involved in creating a sense of identity for the Boulevard and what design elements should be included in the redevelopment plan?

  • Fargo, ND: The City has identified the Civic Center site as a redevelopment location targeted to increase economic development downtown. How should the site be utilized to enhance the existing downtown and future development?

  • Fort Collins, CO: A plan to strengthen the physical connection between the downtown historic district and the river corridor area is underway. How should the city engage the property owners to come together on a plan for the area?

  • Palatine, IL: A redevelopment plan for downtown focuses around a train station for commuter passengers. How can the Village manage the design and development of this plan to ensure that a successful, transit-oriented, mixed-use neighborhood results?

  • Pittsburgh, PA: The East Liberty Neighborhood is undergoing revitalization including new retail, historic rehabilitation to many historic buildings and a new street grid. How should new retail development be designed to support the entire district?

  • Nashville, TN: Plans for redevelopment and an urban/mixed use neighborhood in the Rolling Mill Hill area will increase density and expand socioeconomic diversity. How should the mixed-income housing be incorporated and what services are necessary to support the intended residents?

  • Lincoln, NE: The Antelope Valley Project is a six-year $200 million endeavor that will include opening a stream channel with recreational opportunities, rerouting existing roads and creating a new parkway. How should design and land-use be addressed to meet the needs of recreation and traffic, and guide the redevelopment of land along the parkway?

The next national session of the MICD is scheduled for October 11-13, 2000, in La Jolla, CA. To nominate a mayor to be invited to a future session, or for more information call 202-463-1390 or send email to: midcinfo@micd.org.

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