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City Managers’ Design Academy 2: Dallas, TX | October 28 – 30, 2015



AAF’s second City Managers’ Design Academy (CMDA), held October 28 – 30 in Dallas, Texas, convened six city managers with six urban design experts to tackle the managers’ pressing development challenges. Hailing from Charlotte, NC; Fort Lauderdale, FL; Fort Collins, CO; Tacoma, WA; Hampton, VA; and Palo Alto, CA, the group discussed project challenges related to brownfield development, transportation, and community communications. They focused intently on solving the complex and often sensitive issues, zeroing-in on solutions that make for healthy, sustainable, and inclusive cities for all people, both now and in years to come.

The two and a half day Academy included an in-depth tour of Dallas. Led by Mary Suhm, former City Manager of Dallas and Senior Fellow of AAF’s Center for Design & the City, and Brent Brown, AIA, Founding Director of bcWORKSHOP, the tour highlighted Dallas’ transformation of urban design challenges into community benefits. Klyde Warren Park, for example, was once unused space above a freeway. Now, the unused space is a vibrant, sustainable urban oasis, financed through a public-private partnership.

City managers tour Klyde Warren Park.

The Trinity River Audubon Center site was an illegal dump in Dallas’ urban forest. Now it is a LEED Platinum-certified building where Dallas children interact with nature and come to an understanding of their city’s ecological systems. Each tour stop highlighted spaces intentionally designed with the surrounding community’s needs and the environment in mind. As Brent Brown told the Academy, “Good solid city design is about people and places. It’s a highly contextual relationship between the physical world and the social structures.”

CMDA participants at the Trinity River Audubon Center.

For the workshop, the city managers presented challenges including:

  • Charlotte City Manager Ron Carlee discussed how best to redevelop a former shopping mall site and stitch this large parcel back into the fabric of the city.
  • Fort Collins City Manager Darin Atteberry presented a communications challenge between public and private interests.
  • Fort Lauderdale City Manager Lee Feldman asked how best to balance continued growth and development along Fort Lauderdale’s beach front without creating an overcrowded environment.
  • Hampton City Manager Mary Bunting showcased the wealth of modest size dwelling units that the city hopes to celebrate and revitalize to bolster aging neighborhoods.
  • Palo Alto City Manager James Keene, discussed how best to position his city for continued economic growth while respecting the public’s wish to keep Palo Alto’s current character.
  • Tacoma City Manager T.C. Broadnax discussed how to encourage economic development in a neighborhood that would like measured growth, but is worried about gentrification and change.

The managers represented diverse cities from across the country with disparate income levels, populations, and environments, but an overarching theme became apparent: how to preserve and maintain a sense of community while managing physical and economic growth.

The honest conversation and diverse attendees proved to be a successful combination. City Manager Mary Bunting of Hampton, VA reflected, “I learned so much here, not only with my own case study where I feel like I’m really energized to go back to Hampton.” Similarly, City Manager Jim Keene of Palo Alto told Academy members, “I appreciate the generosity of the Foundation and everyone who is here: frank, honest, creative, caring…This has been a gift.” Lee Feldman of Fort Lauderdale concluded, “There are hundreds of managers I can think of that should be at this table for round three and round four. Just the diversity of talent that was around this table makes me humbled to be here.”

CMDA participants congregate on the reconstructed Continental Avenue Bridge.

This session of City Managers’ Design Academy would not have been possible without the generous support of the Edward W. Rose, III Family Fund of The Dallas Foundation, in addition to in-kind support from Matthews Southwest, Trinity River Audubon Center, and the Dallas Center for Architecture, which not only gave Academy members a place to convene and stay, but also offered inspiration through their sustainable and dynamic designs.

Photos 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.