San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro Welcomes the Mayors’ Institute on City Design for its 58th National Session

March 2014 – SAN ANTONIO – The Mayors’ Institute on City Design (MICD) was held in San Antonio, Texas from March 5-7 for its 58th National Session. Hosted by Mayor Julián Castro and the City of San Antonio, the event was attended by Mayor Scott Bartley of Santa Rosa, California; Mayor William Capote of Palm Bay, Florida; Mayor Joseph Curtatone of Somerville, Massachusetts; Mayor Harry LaRosiliere of Plano, Texas; Mayor Marni Sawicki of Cape Coral, Florida; Mayor Kathy Sheehan of Albany, New York; and Mayor Sandy Stimpson of Mobile, Alabama. Experts in architecture, landscape architecture, urban planning, real estate development, transportation planning, 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 city design challenges facing each of their cities.

The 58th National Session began with a walking tour of downtown San Antonio led by Lori Houston, Director of the City of San Antonio Center City Development Office. The tour showcased several downtown sites, including the Alamo and San Antonio Riverwalk. Later that evening, the opening reception and dinner were held at the Empire Theater, a redeveloped cultural facility. Mayor Julián Castro welcomed participants to the City of San Antonio after remarks were made by the Mayors’ Institute on City Design Director Trinity Simons; National Endowment for the Arts Director of Design Programs Jason Schupbach; and the United States Conference of Mayors Managing Director Tom McClimon.

Mobile, Alabama Mayor Stimpson initiated the design discussions the following morning, presenting on his city’s efforts to integrate parts of the working waterfront to downtown. The city would like to improve access and connectivity to the waterfront attractions, including the convention center, Cooper Park, the new National Maritime Museum, and a cruise ship terminal. The Resource Team stressed the importance of protecting and maximizing the public realm on the waterfront and advised the mayor to make Water Street more walkable and pedestrian-friendly through road diet strategies and streetscape improvements.

Cape Coral Mayor Sawicki followed with a presentation on her city’s efforts to create a cultural and entertainment hub in the central business district. The city is searching for opportunity sites along Cape Coral Parkway to develop and promote as the heart of downtown. The Resource Team identified Bimini Basin on the west end of downtown as an area with the highest development potential and gave guidance on how the city can target businesses and housing in this node, using creative techniques and incentives.

Somerville Mayor Curtatone presented on his city’s efforts to redevelop and master plan the area around Union Square, the site of a future light-rail station. In this capacity, the city needs to strike a healthy balance between meeting the demand for new housing spurred by transit and preserving the unique character of the neighborhood. The Resource Team encouraged the mayor to enlist design professionals from different firms and disciplines to ensure the architectural diversity within the planning area.

Plano Mayor LaRosiliere concluded Thursday’s discussions with a presentation on the aging commercial centers located at one-square-mile intersections throughout the city. The mayor has selected the Parker Road and Alma Drive intersection as a demonstration project for commercial center redevelopment, exploring opportunities to enhance and reimagine the design and use of the existing site. A successful project would provide a coherent redevelopment vision for other commercial centers in Plano. The Resource Team laid out some development options for the city to consider, including the adaptive re-use of building structures for senior and mixed-generation housing, as well as a network of open spaces.

Albany Mayor Sheehan commenced the discussions on the final day of the Institute by presenting on her city’s effort to redevelop key parcels along the eastern boundary of the Park South neighborhood. The city is seeking appropriate uses for these properties that are located blocks away from downtown. The Resource Team weighed in on the possibility for the area to become a medical/healthy living district with the hospital and grocery store as anchor institutions, and encouraged the city to invest in the existing housing stock in the neighborhood.

Santa Rosa Mayor Bartley followed with a presentation on the annexation of Roseland, an unincorporated “county island” surrounded by the city. The mayor would like to develop a strong vision for the area and build momentum for annexation and future development. The Resource Team advised the mayor to take a community development approach when investigating the benefits of annexation and its impact on the people in the Roseland community, looking at the annexation issue through the prism of social equity and equitable development in addition to physical design.

Palm Bay Mayor Capote concluded the Institute by presenting on his city’s efforts to develop the Bayfront Village downtown entertainment district. The city would like to build and market the site, providing a variety of housing options to attract young professionals to Palm Bay. The Resource Team offered the mayor a pragmatic, step-by-step strategy to obtain the necessary pieces, build community support, and engage the university as partner in the longer-term planning effort.

Joining the mayors at this National Session was a distinguished group of Resource Team members: Ellen Greenberg, FAICP, Principal at Arup; Meea Kang, President at Domus Development; M. David Lee, FAIA, Vice President at Stull and Lee; Mukul Malhotra, Principal and Director of Urban Design at MIG; Mitchell Silver, AICP, PP, Chief Planning and Development Officer and Planning Director at the City of Raleigh; Daniel Solomon, FAIA, Partner at Mithun Solomon; and Christine Ten Eyck, FASLA, Principal at Ten Eyck Landscape Architects.

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 58th 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 and follow @MICDdotORG on Twitter.

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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.