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City Managers’ Design Academy: Follow-Up | September 21 – 23, 2015



In April, Tulsa City Manager, Jim Twombly, attended the American Architectural Foundation’s (AAF) inaugural City Manager’s Design Academy (CMDA). The Academy, which brings together urban designers, architects, economic development specialists and other experts to develop solutions to urban challenges, assisted City Manager Twombly with his vision to grow Tulsa’s East Downtown Investment Area. It became clear to City Manager Twombly during the Academy that follow-up assistance would continue to benefit his project, so AAF convened a public and private sector workshop to identify next steps for the implementation of the East Downtown revitalization.

Tulsa’s downtown area.

The three-day intensive workshop kicked-off with Dawn Warrick, City of Tulsa Planning & Development Department Director, and staff providing a comprehensive overview for AAF resource team members Brent Brown, AIA of bcWORKSHOP and John Southgate of John Southgate Consulting, LLC. The City of Tulsa team showcased successful recent redevelopments in the city’s downtown such as the Guthrie Green — an outdoor gathering place for music and theater — located in the northern Brady Arts District. This popular and well-designed project helped attract new private investments in residential, commercial, and cultural properties, thus attracting many new users who appreciate this urban neighborhood setting. Conversely, the group visited blighted sites such as the Performing Arts Center (PAC) and Santa Fe lots — two surface parking lots in the East Downtown Area – that are primed for redevelopment and located next to the bustling Blue Dome District.

Tulsa city staff take the AAF resource team on a tour.

Back at City Hall, the group joined Tulsa’s Mayor Bartlett, City Manager Twombly, city staff, and the local development community to outline and clarify a redevelopment vision for the East Downtown area based on the current Downtown Master Plan and accounting for current market realities. After much review and discussion, the group agreed on a renewed vision that spoke to an urban, dense, pedestrian-friendly, and mixed-use environment with supporting objectives like more housing choices to foster a diverse downtown population, better street and trail connections between downtown and Tulsa’s new riverfront park, and streetscaping interventions that help calm vehicular traffic to provide for a more pedestrian-friendly and welcoming place. Additionally they identified necessary procedural and financial steps to redevelop the Santa Fe and PAC lots through a Tax Increment Financing (TIF) Plan for the East Downtown Tulsa Investment Area that will help leverage approximately $150 million in private investment and catalyze other appropriate infill investment and development across the city. Finally, the group identified that sharing increased revenue with taxing jurisdictions, especially the school district, will be critical to establish a vibrant, 24/7 urban core.

AAF resource team and Tulsa city staff collaborate on plans.

The workshop concluded with a realistic and aggressive action plan for East Downtown Tulsa that the Mayor, the City Manager, and senior staff believe will help to take steps toward making this long-awaited downtown revitalization a reality. AAF’s staff and resource team are proud to support Tulsa move toward creating a downtown that is walkable, a great environment for local business development and residential living, and a place to educate, serve, and entertain Tulsans, ultimately creating a better sense of community and a sustainable vision.

This special session of the City Managers’ Design Academy was made possible by a generous gift by the Edward W. Rose, III Family Fund of the Dallas Foundation and the City of Tulsa.

Photo courtesy of the American Architectural Foundation.

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Posted in: Center for Design & the City, City Managers’ Design Academy, Print

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.