August 2013 – SACRAMENTO – The Mayors’ Institute on City Design was hosted in Sacramento, California from August 7-8 for its 56th National Session. Hosted by Mayor Kevin Johnson and the City of Sacramento, the event was attended by Mayor Oliver Gilbert, III of Miami Gardens, Florida; Mayor María Meléndez Altieri of Ponce, Puerto Rico; Mayor Mark Mitchell of Tempe, Arizona; Mayor McKinley Price of Newport News, Virginia; Mayor Raul Salinas of Laredo, Texas; and Mayor Acquanetta Warren of Fontana, California. Experts in architecture, landscape architecture, urban planning, real estate finance, economic development, transportation, and urban design joined the mayors in the two-and-a-half-day discussions and offered pragmatic advice on how the mayors could approach the urban design challenges facing each of their cities.
The 56th National Session began with a walking tour of downtown Sacramento led by the Downtown Sacramento Partnership. The tour showcased the California State Capitol and several local projects. Later that evening, the opening reception and dinner were held at the historic Crocker Art Museum Ballroom. Mayor Kevin Johnson welcomed participants to the City of Sacramento after remarks were made by the Mayors’ Institute on City Design Director, Trinity Simons; the National Endowment for the Arts Design Director, Jason Schupbach; the American Architectural Foundation President and CEO, Ron Bogle; and the United States Conference of Mayors CEO and Executive Director, Tom Cochran.
Tempe, Arizona Mayor Mitchell initiated design discussions the following morning by presenting his city’s efforts to rehabilitate the iconic Hayden Flour Mill. The city would like to articulate a vision for the site by strengthening the language that stipulates redevelopment options and uses in the RFP. The resource team emphasized improving access and connectivity of the project to downtown and Arizona State University campus through Mill Avenue.
Newport News, Virginia Mayor Price followed with a presentation on a superblock parcel located at the heart of historic downtown near the tip of the Virginia peninsula. Recognizing the development potential of the site, the city intends to use the superblock to jumpstart downtown revitalization and attract new investments and mixed-use housing to the area. The resource team offered advice on how to integrate the nearby shipyard into the local urban fabric and transform downtown into an attractive destination in the Hampton Roads region.
Fontana, California Mayor Acquanetta Warren concluded Thursday’s discussions with a presentation on the Sierra Avenue and Valley Boulevard intersection. The city would like to transform the overburdened site into a vibrant gateway to Fontana and increase pedestrian activities and safety on the streets. The resource team stressed the importance of streetscapes in making this vision a reality and advised the Mayor to improve upon the existing land use study commissioned by a regional governing body.
Laredo, Texas Mayor Raul Salinas commenced discussions on the final day of the Institute by presenting his city’s efforts to develop a 350,800-square-foot outlet shopping mall at the U.S.-Mexico border. Upon completion in 2015, the outlet will serve as the premier retail destination in south Texas and northern Mexico. The resource team encouraged the Mayor to build a context-sensitive development that takes into account the local network of streets and alleyways in downtown Laredo where the site is located.
Miami Gardens, Florida Mayor Oliver Gilbert, III presented his city’s efforts to develop a 40-acre parcel south of the Miami Dolphins’ Sun Life Stadium. A successful project will strengthen the local economy by capturing game-day crowds and attracting new investments to the 27th Avenue redevelopment corridor. The resource team gave guidance on appropriate uses for the site and how the city could use the development to provide amenities for the nearby communities.
Ponce, Puerto Rico Mayor María Meléndez Altieri concluded the Institute by presenting her city’s efforts to create and promote the “La Playa” neighborhood as a tourist destination. The building stock on this oceanfront site has good bones and the potential for historic preservation. The resource team advised the Mayor to coordinate various projects in the surrounding neighborhoods and implement a program that offers activities for tourists who visit the site.
Joining the mayors at this National Session was a distinguished group of resource team members: David Baker, FAIA, LEED AP, Principal of David Baker + Partners Architects; Jeff Carney, AICP, Director of LSU Coastal Sustainability Studio; Bert Gregory, FAIA, LEED AP BD+C, Chairman and CEO of Mithun; Jennifer Guthrie, ASLA, PLA, Founding Principal of Gustafson Guthrie Nichol; Anita Hairston, AICP, Associate Director of PolicyLink; Jair Lynch, President and CEO of Jair Lynch Development Partners; Marcy McInelly, AIA, Principal of Urbsworks; and Dan Pitera, FAIA, ACD, Executive Director of Detroit Collaborative Design Center.
The Mayors’ Institute on City Design is a National Endowment for the Arts leadership initiative in partnership with the American Architectural Foundation and the United States Conference of Mayors. The 56th National Session was sponsored in part by United Technologies Corporation. Since 1986, the Mayors’ Institute has helped transform communities through design by preparing mayors to be the chief urban designers of their cities. The Mayors’ Institute conducts several sessions each year. For a list of upcoming events, past attendees, or for more information, visit www.micd.org .