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Mill River District: An SCDA Update



The Mill River District is a 206-acre urban and light industrial area located at the heart of New Haven, Connecticut. The Mill River District contains many successful and diverse businesses attracted by the District’s low rents and strategic regional location. However, Mill River District also contains many neglected and underutilized parcels with significant environmental challenges related to past industrial uses and location along the Connecticut shore.

To address these challenges and build on the area’s native advantages, the Economic Development Corporation of New Haven (EDC), and the City of New Haven Department of Economic Development entered a public-private partnership with Mill River District businesses to create a development plan that will maintain the City’s industrial base, establish the District’s distinct identity, attract new businesses, and address sustainability challenges at the local and regional levels. This project is an opportunity to shift regional development patterns away from a suburban, big-box model toward a sustainable, urban model that takes advantage of New Haven’s population and workforce density as well as its regional connectivity.

A revised plan for the Mill River District. Designers Phil Erickson, Community Design + Architect, and Rob Dusenbury, Sustainable Watersheds, consult with Pedro Soto, Space-Craft Manufacturing, owner of a small business in this manufacturing district.

The Mill River District public-private partnership team members attended AAF’s Sustainable Cities Design Academy in San Francisco during April 2012 and presented their master planning work to date. The SCDA resource team, comprised of Phil Erickson, Community Design + Planning, and Rob Dusenbury, Sustainable Watershed Design, helped the New Haven team sort through proposed planning and implementation strategies to balance the City’s economic development goals with environmental goals. Their recommendations include identifying and enhancing physical and social connections to existing (and thriving) neighborhoods adjacent to the District through roadway and trail improvements, transit, landscaping, and signage, with emphasis placed on enhancing the pedestrian experience in the District. Also, with so much waterfront property throughout the District, the duo suggested developing a comprehensive plan for the waterfront that includes appropriate access points and land banks, based on the environmental sensitivity of these high flood zones. By land banking, the City can establish a riparian buffer zone that can mitigate flooding in the District and provide an open space benefit.

Kelly Murphy, New Haven’s Economic Development Administrator, says, “The lessons learned through SCDA played a large role in shaping the way we view the district and were foundational to the strategy we have laid out for its future.” Phase 1 Planning and Development Framework was released to the public and press at an event on July 24, 2012, and both the full document and executive summary are now posted on the EDC website.

More about the latest developments in the Mill River District is available here.

Featured image courtesy of City of New Haven Economic Development.

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Posted in: Civic Leaders + Government, Design Leadership, Economic Development, Infrastructure, Print, Sustainability, Sustainable Cities Design Academy

The American Architectural Foundation has been dedicated to advancing the role of architecture and design in American society since its founding in 1943 by the American Institute of Architects.

In its 75 years in existence the Foundation’s work has taken many forms — from educational programming and exhibitions in its early years to large-scale design initiatives and programs —all of which serve to create a rich legacy.

As the managing partner of the Mayors’ Institute on City Design for twenty years, in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts and the United States Conference of Mayors, the Foundation helped move the needle on design and cities. And, through its other signature programs like Save America’s Treasures in partnership with National Parks Service, the Sustainable Cities Design Academy, and Design for Learning, the Foundation has provided critical design leadership training and technical assistance to hundreds of elected officials, education leaders, business leaders, and other key decision makers in the design process.

In recent years, cities and civic leaders have embraced design and design thinking in a way that could not have been imagined when the Foundation begin its work back in 1943 — and AAF’s role in this transformation is a source of great pride for the Foundation. With this increased interest in the role of design in shaping our cities came a proliferation of new organizations to support and facilitate this cultural shift. These advances in the role of design in American society and changes in the nonprofit design sector, coupled with the departure of the organization’s longest-serving CEO, prompted the Foundation’s Board to embark on an intensive and lengthy process to examine the ongoing role and work of the Foundation.

As the Board of Regents reflected on the positive changes of the cultural value of design, the accomplishments of the Foundation, and how the legacy of the Foundation’s work is being carried out by its former staff in new roles and organizations across the country, they reached the conclusion that the American Architectural Foundation had accomplished what it set out to do. As a result, the Foundation began to complete its remaining programs and wind down its operations in the Summer of 2018 and the organization’s endowments have been distributed to allied organizations. The Foundation’s research and reports will remain available on its website as a resource to the field.

The Foundation’s work would not have been possible without the incredible talents of its many staff over the decades, the generous support of its funders, and the tireless dedication of its civic & design partners across the country. The Board remains deeply proud of the significant contributions Foundation has made in its 75-year history and would like to acknowledge that this would not have been possible without the efforts, dedication, and support from so many of you.