AAF’s third City Managers’ Design Academy  (CMDA), held May 11 -13 in Dallas, Texas, convened five city managers with five urban design experts to tackle the managers’ pressing planning and development challenges. Managers Jane Brautigam of Boulder, CO; Mick Berry of Hickory, NC; Troy Schulte of Kansas City, MO; Chris Brady of Mesa, AZ; and Clay Pearson of Pearland, TX discussed project challenges related to institutional and civic building reuse, multi-modal transportation planning, equitable neighborhood reinvestment, and cultural district planning.
Assisting the managers and providing best practices from their vast experience were members of the AAF resource team; Tony Pickett of Urban Land Conservancy ; Sujata Srivastava of Strategic Economics ; Richard Wilson of Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture ; Cinda Gilliland of SWA Group ; and Ken Ray of Toole Design Group .
The two-and-a-half day Academy included an in-depth tour of Dallas’ catalytic urban projects. Led by Mary Suhm , former City Manager of Dallas and Senior Fellow of AAF’s Center for Design & the City , the tour highlighted Dallas’ most complex urban design and development challenges to date, including Klyde Warren Park , the Trinity Groves and the Trinity River planning area, Fair Park, and the Dallas Arts District.
The managers represented U.S. cities with disparate income levels, populations, and geographies. This is an intentional attribute of the Design Academy as to recognize common challenges cities face, identify best practices that may help solve these challenges, and then apply those practices in context sensitive ways for each city represented. A common challenge outlined in this third Design Academy, (and similar to the discussion during the first and second  CMDAs), is how to best preserve and maintain a sense of community while cities grow and change. As a result, the managers and resource team members discussed tactics on how to stave gentrification when planning and implementing catalytic projects in their communities; ensuring opportunity for all residents, current and future.
This retreat setting provided the managers an opportunity to take time to reflect and learn from peers that are facing similar challenges in their cities. Kansas City Manager Troy Schulte noted, “My take-away from this experience is that design matters. Sense of place is critical to any public infrastructure investment. These design academies provide managers the luxury to think and get feedback from colleagues and the best design pros in the business.”
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. To learn more about the City Managers’ Design Academy program or next available opportunities for managers and design professionals to participate, contact Program Director Elizabeth Okeke-Von Batten .
Photos courtesy of the American Architectural Foundation.