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Mayors, Development Experts Share Ideas on City Design Challenges at University of Virginia Session


The Mayors’ Institute on City Design (MICD) hosted it’s twenty-sixth national session October 6-8, at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville. Mayors representing eight U.S. cities presented design issues they are currently facing to a team of internationally renowned design and development experts. Following each presentation, resource team members and mayors shared ideas, precedents and improvement strategies.

Participating mayors included: Sue Bauman, Madison; Martin Barnes, Paterson, (NJ); David Hollister, Lansing, MI; Timothy Kaine, Richmond, (VA); Ronald Loveridge, Riverside, (CA); Hal Daub, Omaha; Dave Armstrong, Louisville; and Howard Peak, San Antonio.

Members of the resource team also made presentations regarding the value of design in a city’s development efforts. Design professionals who participated included: planner Maxine Griffith, Regional Plan Association; Charles Buki, Neighborhood Reinvestment Corp.; architect John Kaliski, AIJK Inc.; developer Sedgwick Mead; architect/landscape architect Gary Okerlund, University of Virginia; architect Michaele Pride-Wells, AIA, University of Kentucky; Joseph P. Riley, Jr., Hon. AIA. Mayor of the City of Charleston and MICD Co-founder; architect Stanley Saitowitz, Stanley Saitowitz & Associates; landscape architect Ken Smith; and architect Karen Van Lengen, University of Virginia.

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.

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. The Institute is the premier forum for the integration of design and politics. The University of Virginia is considered the spiritual home of the Institute, as it was designed by one of America’s greatest politicians, Thomas Jefferson. The campus is commonly regarded as one of America’s most beautiful public spaces – providing for an optimal setting to bring mayors and designers together to discuss the revitalization of American cities.

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.

Lansing Mayor David Hollister, presented the Washington Avenue Corridor. This pedestrian mall is part of a shopping district and is within a two block radius to a college, a hotel and a minor league baseball stadium for the Lansing Lugnuts. The resource team addressed how the city can build on the current activity to spur development on Washington Avenue. Design elements and development suggestions were discussed as a way to develop a critical mass both with retail and residential elements.

The Broadway Corridor in Louisville, was presented by Mayor David Armstrong. The resource team offered advice on how this important gateway could be enhanced by the use of design elements, including streetscape improvements for pedestrian safety.

Mayor Sue Bauman presented Madison’s West Mifflin Plaza and library connection to the State Street Mall and the new Overture Project, a $100 million arts district. The resource team offered thoughts on making this small pedestrian mall area a more welcoming connection between the Library, the arts district and State Street.

In Omaha, Mayor Hal Daub is considering an arena and convention center redevelopment area. During his presentation at the Mayors’ Institute he shared his challenges with the resource team on an appropriate use for a former Union Pacific property. Mayor Daub received feedback from the resource team on attracting private investment to the area and how the city should go about establishing design guidelines.

A Main Street Improvement Project in Paterson (NJ) focuses on developing vacant upper floors of retail buildings into market rate apartments. Mayor Martin Barnes presented the design challenges facing the project and was met with suggestions from the resource team on how to overcome them. They also addressed how the City might further revitalize Main Street and the downtown Paterson area.

The Jackson Ward District in Richmond (VA) is a historic community with a past stemmed in African-American history. Mayor Tim Kaine brought his City’s challenge to the resource team: restore the vitality of Jackson Ward – both the commercial and residential areas- while maintaining the neighborhoods historic, architectural and cultural integrity, using the activity generated by an expanding convention center as a catalyst.

Riverside (CA) Mayor Ronald Loveridge presented the residential challenges he is currently addressing in the Arlington community. Members of the resource team offered insights on successful public/private infill policies and programs that encourage residential development of vacant and dilapidated properties. Examples of city/school programs and facilities were also shared as a way to offer insight on how Riverside could move forward with the Arlington project.

The Salado Creek Greenbelt in San Antonio is being transformed into a linear park with multiple purposes. Mayor Howard Peak received feedback during his presentation on how the corridor might be designed to balance flood control and recreation with the habitat preservation within the creek system.

The next national session of the MICD is scheduled for April 26-28, 2000. To nominate a mayor to be invited to a future session, or for more information call (202) 463-1390 or send an e-mail to: micdinfo@micd.org.



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