City Managers’ Design Academy 4: Washington, DC | December 7-9, 2016

AAF’s fourth City Managers’ Design Academy (CMDA), held December 7-9 in Washington, DC convened six city managers with six multi-disciplinary design experts to tackle the managers’ pressing planning and development challenges. Managers Donna Barron of Lewisville, Texas; David Biggs of Hercules, California; Ruffin Hall of Raleigh, North Carolina; Peggy Merriss of Decatur, Georgia; Jon Ruiz of Eugene, Oregon; and Pat West of Long Beach, California discussed the future of transit-oriented development in their communities, the advantages of incorporating landscape architecture early in a planning process to drive better urban design, how creating a central downtown government hub can benefit municipal efficiency and provide a better public amenity, how best to incentivize development through master planning, and how to tackle aging mall infrastructure in addition to complimentary and related topics.

The AAF Resource Team – comprised of a diverse array of field experts in architecture, urban design, real estate and economic development, and landscape architecture – included M. Scott Ball of Commons Planning; Gina Ford, ASLA of Sasaki Associates; Anthony Wolf Greenberg of the JBG Companies; Jee Mee Kim of HR&A Advisors; Matthew Kreilich, AIA, of Snow Kreilich Architects; and Kennedy Smith of CLUE Group and provided expert analysis, insights, and coaching around each city manager’s case study.


In addition to focused review and coaching for each city manager’s project, the three-day Academy included an in-depth tour of Washington, DC’s Capitol Riverfront Business Improvement District, led by Dan Melman, Vice President of Parks and the Public Realm. Design Academy participants learned about how public and private stakeholders came together to plan, develop, and implement one of the District of Columbia’s most successful redevelopment projects that includes award winning Canal Park and Yards Park and provide enhanced amenity along the Anacostia River.

The city managers represented U.S. cities with varying median income levels, populations, and geographic characteristics. This intentional attribute of the Design Academy recognizes the common challenges cities face, identifies best practices that may help solve these challenges, and applies those practices in context-sensitive ways for each city represented. Additionally, the city managers provide feedback and advice on each other’s projects, in addition to AAF’s Resource Team’s recommendations, providing both direct technical assistance and peer-to-peer leadership development during the Design Academy.

When reflecting on her experience, Decatur City Manager Peggy Merriss offered that it was “good to be in a room of professionals who believe in the power of good design for civic spaces.” Additionally, resource team member Matt Kreilich shared that after spending these immersive days with the city managers, he has an “enhanced appreciation for the steady hand of the city managers in the long-term change of cities.”

This session of City Managers’ Design Academy would not have been possible without the generous support of Siemens and 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 and Matt Kreilich.

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Posted in: Center for Design & the City, City Managers' Design Academy, City Managers’ Design Academy, Civic Leaders + Government, Design Leadership, 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.