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Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf Welcomes the Mayors’ Institute on City Design for its 64th National Session



February 2016 — OAKLAND — The Mayors’ Institute on City Design (MICD) was held in Oakland, CA from February 24-26 for its 64th National Session. Hosted by Mayor Libby Schaaf and the city, the event was attended by Bloomington, IN Mayor John Hamilton; Long Beach, CA Mayor Robert Garcia; Nashua, NH Mayor Jim Donchess; Pasadena, CA Mayor Terry Tornek; Reno, NV Mayor Hillary Schieve; and Westminster, CO Mayor Herb Atchison. Experts in architecture, landscape architecture, urban planning, land use economics, 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 design and development challenges facing each of their cities.

The 64th National Session began with tour of Oakland led by Planning Director Rachel Flynn. The tour showcased a number of historic sites and new development projects around the city’s vibrant neighborhoods. Later that evening, the opening reception was held at the historic Camron-Stanford House overlooking Lake Merritt, followed by dinner. Mayor Schaaf welcomed participants to the City of Oakland after remarks were made by the MICD Director Trinity Simons and The United States Conference of Mayors CEO and Executive Director Tom Cochran.

Mayor Hamilton initiated the design discussions the following morning, presenting on Bloomington’s efforts to develop the Switchyard Park, a new linear park south of downtown. The city would like to maximize park access to the adjacent neighborhoods and evaluate land use opportunities around the site. The Resource Team advised the mayor to prioritize funding and implement a housing strategy to ensure equitable development of the park.

Mayor Garcia followed with a discussion on a potential development parcel in Long Beach to help the city prepare for an early internal dialogue about the future uses of the site. After an open conversation with the mayor, the Resource Team offered development scenarios and design strategies for each vision, as well as identifying the short- and long-term challenges and opportunities as the city moves forward with the project.

Mayor Atchison concluded Thursday’s discussions by presenting on Westminster’s efforts to develop a new downtown. Emphasizing an incremental development approach to create authenticity and foster a sense of place, the city is seeking recommendations on the phasing plan and “small-lot” strategy. The Resource Team weighed in on the benefits and shortfalls of the proposed development strategies and gave feedback on the site plan and parking.

Mayor Donchess commenced the discussions on the final day of the Institute with a presentation on the western gateway to downtown Nashua. Building on the momentum of the new Broad Street Parkway, the city would like to conceptualize a vision for the gateway area using sustainable development practices and looking at new street configurations to promote walkability, transit use, and compact development pattern. The Resource Team encouraged the mayor to set a bigger and broader vision that amplifies the existing open space assets and employs green infrastructure solutions to address some challenges of the site.

Mayor Tornek presented on Pasadena’s efforts to re-envision the South Fair Oaks Specific Plan area as a new, large-scale TOD district centered around two mixed-use corridors leading to Old Pasadena. The city is interested in building on the presence of two institutional anchors and the Metro Gold Line station. The Resource Team offered suggestions on the mix of uses for the opportunity sites and recommended urban design strategies that can help strengthen the connection to the light-rail station.

Mayor Schieve concluded the Institute by presenting on the revitalization strategy for downtown Reno. The city would like to transform the area by providing student housing, bringing in neighborhood-serving amenities, and drawing a stronger connection to the university located a few blocks north. The Resource Team gave guidance on a key intersection anchored by city-owned properties, using public art and creative placemaking approaches to help inform the broader revitalization goals.

Joining the mayors at this National Session was a distinguished group of Resource Team members: the City of Boulder Department of Community Sustainability and Planning Senior Urban Designer Sam Assefa; Strategic Economics Founding President Dena Belzer; The Trust for Public Land Senior Vice President and Director of City Park Development Adrian Benepe; AECOM Vice President and Landscape Architecture Practice Leader (Americas) Ignacio Bunster-Ossa; Supernormal Founder and MIT Media Lab Researcher Elizabeth Christoforetti; the University of California, Berkeley Professor Emeritus of City Planning Allan Jacobs; LAND COLLECTIVE Founding Principal David Rubin; and TransitCenter Deputy Executive Director and New York City Public Design Commissioner Shin-pei Tsay.

The Mayors’ Institute on City Design is a leadership initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with the American Architectural Foundation and the United States Conference of Mayors. The 64th National Session was sponsored in part by United Technologies Corporation. Since 1986, MICD has helped transform communities through design by preparing mayors to be the chief urban designers of their cities. MICD conducts several sessions each year. For a list of upcoming events, past participants, or for more information, visit micd.org 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.