The American Architectural Foundation Announces 2016 Sustainable Cities Design Academy Grantees

The Sustainable Cities Design Academy, a program of the Center for Design & the City at the American Architectural Foundation, provides resources, education, and best practices to support environmentally, fiscally, and socially sound design decisions for municipal leaders working to transform their communities. Public-private project teams complete to apply for a position in annual Sustainable Cities Design Academy workshops, and this year AAF selected four public-private projects teams to participate in a Washington, D.C.-based workshop during August 3-5, 2016.

Over the course of three days, civic leaders, developers and design professionals representing projects from Baltimore, Maryland, Canajoharie, New York, Fresno, California, and Wichita, Kansas will collaborate with internationally recognized multi-disciplinary design experts to maximize the potential for sustainability of their in-process public-private partnership projects:

Baltimore, Maryland: The Pigtown Main Street Strategic Plan

Located near downtown Baltimore, Pigtown Main Street is a community development organization dedicated to the revitalization of Washington Boulevard’s commercial corridor, a primary business artery of the city. Building on a 2014 master plan to revitalize the corridor and provide more fluid connection to the adjacent neighborhoods, this project team, led by Pigtown Main Street, will identify implementation steps toward a long-term economic development and urban design plan on this critical corridor. Ben Hyman, Executive Director, Pigtown Main Street said: “We are thrilled for the opportunity to participate in the 2016 Sustainable Cities Design Academy.  Our selection by the American Architectural Foundation validates our hard work on behalf of the residents, small business owners, and commercial property owners in Pigtown.  We look forward to working with AAF to accelerate our vision for Pigtown.”

Canajoharie, New York: Beechnut Factory Project

The Village of Canajoharie and Montgomery County in New York State will explore adaptive reuse and environmental clean-up opportunities for the former Beechnut Factory Site. Once a center of employment and identify for this Mohawk Valley village, the site is ripe for clean-up and reuse. As Montgomery County Executive, Matthew L. Ossenfort, said: “There is tremendous potential for the redevelopment of the site in Canajoharie, adjacent to Exit 29 of the New York State Thruway. To be selected by a prestigious organization like the American Architectural Foundation, which has previously worked with cities such as Atlanta, Philadelphia, and New Haven, Conn., is truly an honor. Being part of the Sustainable Cities Design Academy will help build on our community development goals to return this site to reuse. Our local team recognizes that we need the assistance from partners like SCDA to strengthen an otherwise already charming downtown and achieve greater success by creating more opportunity for future growth.” The Mayor of Canajoharie Village, Francis Avery, added: “The redevelopment of this site is critical to the village’s future. Previously, that site accounted for a large chunk of the village’s tax revenue, and it would be great to see that type of investment return. This site provides great access, being adjacent to the Thruway and along the [Mohawk] river, but it is an enormous site, with a lot of work to be done. Having the site returned to reuse would create job opportunities and recreational activities. The possibilities are endless.”

Fresno, California: Mariposa Plaza

Building on Fresno’s 2012 Sustainable Cities Design Academy participation focused on a phased retrofit plan for the downtown Fulton Street Pedestrian Mall, a team consisting of the Downtown Fresno Partnership, the City of Fresno, and multi-modal transit and arts consultants will attend SCDA to analyze reuse and programming options for a large public plaza at the heart of Fulton Mall. Gretchen Moore, Vice President of the Downtown Fresno Partnership shared: “We are delighted and honored to be selected. As the site of the nation’s first High Speed Rail station, downtown Fresno and Mariposa Plaza are the gateway to our city. Sustainable Cities will help us harness that investment and energy to create a space that is functional, beautiful, and accessible to both residents and visitors.”

Wichita, Kansas: Project Downtown: Douglas & Market

Representatives from Bokeh Development, the City of Wichita, and the Wichita Downtown Development Corporation (WDDC) will investigate the design concepts and development program proposed on several key downtown parcels to date. “This opportunity will allow us to look at the Douglas & Market area of Downtown through a new lens. Bokeh Development’s holdings are a key to unlocking future development in this area. Through strategic and sustainable design principles, we can ensure successful connectivity. We also know that partnerships between the City and the private sector will continue to play a critical role going forward,” stated Jason Gregory, WDDC Executive Vice President. “Bringing buildings to life through sustainable design is what our company is about. We look forward to the Design Academy and the expertise it affords our projects and this community,” stated Bokeh Development’s Mike Ramsey.

Each 2016 SCDA project was selected based on a series of criteria that determined the impact assistance would lend to each team’s short-term and long-term sustainability goals for the municipalities these projects serve as well as the regions. Since establishing SCDA in 2009, AAF has served over 55 project teams in 44 unique communities across the United States through the generous support of program sponsor United Technologies Corporation.

“The Sustainable Cities Design Academy is a marquee program of our Center for Design & the City,” said Ronald E. Bogle, Hon. AIA, President and Chief Executive Officer of the American Architectural Foundation. “Through convening intensive and diverse design collaborations, it has served urban communities and helped to elevate the quality of life in those communities.”


Established in 1943, the American Architectural Foundation (AAF) is a national nonprofit organization headquartered in Washington, D.C. AAF works directly with civic leaders representing U.S. municipalities to address the design challenges and opportunities in their cities. Through Sustainable Cities Design Academy, the Mayors’ Institute on City Design, City Managers’ Design Academy, and Design for Learning, AAF serves as a national platform, information center, and collaborative hub for those leaders working on the ground in cities across the country to use the design of place as a means to improve lives and transform their communities

To learn more about the upcoming session or to learn more information on the Sustainable Cities Design Academy, contact Center for Design and the City Director Elizabeth Okeke-Von Batten at

Image courtesy of Wichita Downtown Development Corporation.

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Posted in: Civic Leaders + Government, Community Engagement, Creative Placemaking, Design Leadership, Economic Development, News, Partnerships, Print, Public Spaces, Sustainability, Sustainable Cities Design Academy

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.