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City Design Challenges Addressed by Midwestern Mayors

The 1999 Midwestern session of the Mayors' Institute on City Design (MICD) was held December 18-20, at the University of Cincinnati.  Mayors representing six midwestern cities presented design issues they are currently facing to a team of renowned design and development experts.  Following each mayor's presentation, fellow mayors and resource team members shared ideas, precedents and improvement strategies.

Participating mayors included: Karen Hasara, Springfield (IL); Morris Lanning, Moorhead (MN); Fred Nielsen, Muskegon (MI); Marilou W. Smith, Kettering (OH); and John Stozich, Findlay (OH). Mayor Chuck Canfield of Rochester (MN), was unable to attend in person due to an emergency, but participated via video conferencing.

Members of the resource team also made presentations regarding the value of design in a city's development efforts. Design professionals who participated included: Mayor Qualls; Maurice Cox, architect and educator; Diane Dale, ASLA, JD; landscape architect and educator; Udo Greinacher, urban designer and author; Brenda Case Scheer, AICP; urban designer and planner; Michael Sorkin, urban designer and author; Ross Tilghman, transportation planner; and Don Zuchelli, real estate developer and economic consultant. Local professionals who presented projects completed or underway in Cincinnati included: Arn Bortz, former mayor and developer; John Dowlin, county commissioner; Rick Greiwe, downtown manager; and Beth Sullebarger, preservationist.

The institute facilitated a dialogue between the mayors and resource team and the development of a mutual understanding of each others' role in the process of city design. Commenting on the experience, Mayor Smith said, "It was the most interesting conference I have ever attended. I am hopeful of our using many of the ideas of the experts on our two shopping centers. What a wealth of knowledge in that group!" Mayor Lanning added, "It was among the best professional development experiences I have had in my twenty years as Mayor! I came away with a number of ideas which will be very helpful to my city. I will highly recommend the Institute to other mayors."

An initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), the Insititute 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. The Institute is the premier forum for the integration of design and politics. The University of Cincinnati is one of four Universities selected to host regional sessions.

To date, over 425 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. The design issues presented were as follows:

Mayor Canfield:aaa The impact of major proposed civic and commercial expansion and relocation projects on the surrounding area. The city would like to use proposed developments as a catalyst for an entertainment district.

Mayor Hasara: The redevelopment of the 9th Street Corridor. The city hopes to revitalize the area by capitalizing on the new Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Interpretive Center. Proposed improvements include appropriate commercial development and aesthetic improvements.

Mayor Lanning: Siting of major new capital investments within an improved downtown urban framework. The city is working to determine where a new hotel/conference center should be located and the best uses for a rail corridor.

Mayor Nielsen: A long-range urban design plan for the 250-acre lakefront with attention to future transportation systems enhancements. The city is looking for ways to link the waterfront with the historic downtown area and establishing the proper scale for development along the lakefront.

Mayor Marilou W. Smith, Kettering, OH: The city is working to determine the best way to redevelop two suburban shopping malls. One is owned by the city and is currently vacant, the other is vacant for the exception of a branch outbuilding.

Mayor Stozich: Redevelopment of a dilapidated riverfront block and surroundings. The city is determining whether to demolish a building or rehabilitate it. One option is to redevelop the building into a parking structure and possible retail.

Site selection for regional institutes for the 2000-2001 academic year will be take place in early 2000. The next national session of the MICD is scheduled for April 26-28, 2000. Special institute sessions focusing on the role of schools in city design and the redevelopment of brownfields sites will be held in March and April. To nominate a mayor to be invited to a future session, or for more information call (202) 463-1390 or send email to:

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