Charleston Mayor Riley, Jr. Welcomes Return of Mayors' Institute on City Design for 51st National Session
October 3, 2011
The Mayors' Institute on City Design (MICD) returned to Charleston (SC) September 14-16 for its 51st National Session. Hosted by Mayor Joseph P. Riley, Jr. and the city, the event was attended by Detroit Mayor Dave Bing, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer, Lexington Mayor Jim Gray, Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price, Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan, and Providence Mayor Angel Taveras. Experts in architecture, landscape architecture, urban planning, real estate, and transportation joined the mayors in the two-and-a-half-day discussions and offered pragmatic advice on how the mayors could approach the urban design challenges facing each of their cities.
The 51st National Session began with a tour of downtown Charleston, led by Charleston Civic Design Center Director Michael Maher. The tour showcased major downtown sites that have been instrumental to Charleston's transformation as a destination city, including King Street, the waterfront park, and the historic preservation efforts of many of the city's residences. Later that evening, a reception and dinner were held at City Gallery, which prominently features Charleston's waterfront revitalization. Riley presented on the role of design in Charleston's transformation after remarks were made by the National Endowment for the Arts Chairman Rocco Landesman; MICD Director Story Bellows; American Architectural Foundation President and CEO Ronald Bogle, Hon. AIA; and The United States Conference of Mayors CEO and Executive Director Tom Cochran.
Gray initiated the design discussions the following morning, presenting on his city's efforts to re-imagine an area of downtown called the Arena, Arts, and Entertainment District. The city wants to ensure connectivity and accessibility of the district to adjacent neighborhoods, Town Branch Creek, and the University of Kentucky and has organized an extensive civic engagement process to inform the urban design of the district. To achieve this, the resource team offered suggestions on how to activate surrounding areas with arena-related activities.
Sullivan followed with a discussion of Ship Creek, a natural resource amenity adjacent to downtown. The city wants to improve the trail system along the creek as well as improve overall connectivity of the waterfront to downtown and its surrounding neighborhoods. The resource team encouraged the mayor to pursue low-cost alternatives to trail development that can be upgraded over time while enhancing the historical and ecological context of the creek.
Bing presented on his city's efforts to revitalize the Coleman A. Young Municipal Airport. The city hopes that airport improvements will increase local economic development, particularly in the surrounding neighborhoods. The airport is city-owned and is required to stay operable by the Federal Aviation Administration. To maximize the assets of the airport, the resource team focused their comments on how to diversify the usage of the airport through mixed uses and programming.
Price described her city's efforts to encourage revitalization of the West 7th Urban Village. This area has been successful in attracting several new mixed use developments but they are disconnected from each other and, at times, from the nearby museum district. As such, the resource team focused their suggestions on how to create better accessibility within the Urban Village by unifying the vision and urban design of the area.
Fischer started discussions on the final day of the Institute by presenting on his initiative to create an education district south of downtown and north of Churchill Downs. The mayor highlighted the numerous institutional assets located within the district and it's potential to be the innovation heart of the city. The resource team offered suggestions on how to create a common vision for the district to guide transportation, housing, and public realm improvements in the area.
Taveras discussed his city's efforts to redevelop land that has opened up as a result of the Interstate 195 realignment. The mayor focused his presentation on six acres of land on the east side of the Providence River that maintains excellent views of the waterfront and downtown. The resource team highlighted the need for new development to be contextually appropriate and responsive to the fine grain of the adjacent neighborhood, including the street connections and block sizes.
Buckhorn presented his city's efforts to redevelop the Old Federal Courthouse, which resides on the Zack Street Promenade of the Arts in the downtown area. Although the Courthouse has been vacant for several years, the mayor recognizes its historic significance and ability to energize the Promenade if put back to use. The resource team offered advice on how to fund rehabilitation of the Courthouse while also engaging local stakeholders and institutions in the process of developing the Promenade as an asset for the city.
Rybak concluded the Institute by presenting on his city's planning efforts in North Minneapolis, particularly after a spring tornado caused significant property and tree damage. The mayor focused his discussion on Penn Avenue, an important north'south arterial connection in the city. The resource team encouraged the mayor to focus on an identity for Penn Avenue that considers the context and demographics of the area to guide appropriate transit and housing development.
Joining the mayors at this National Session was a distinguished group of resource team members: Deborah Berke, FAIA, LEED AP, Principal at Deborah Berke & Partners Architects; Mark Dawson, FASLA, Principal at Sasaki Associates; Daniel Hernandez, LEED AP, Managing Director of the Planning Practice at Jonathan Rose Companies; John Inglish, Chief Executive Officer of the Utah Transit Authority; Michael P. Kelly, Administrative Receiver at the Philadelphia Housing Authority; Nicholas de Monchaux, Assistant Professor of Architecture and Urban Design at the University of California at Berkeley; Kennedy Smith, Principal at the Community Land Use and Economics Group, LLC; and Peg Staeheli, LEED AP, Principal at SvR Design Company.
MICD 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. 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 attendees, and for more information, visit www.micd.org.