February 2012 – LAS VEGAS – The Mayors’ Institute on City Design, for the first time in its history, headed to Las Vegas, Nevada from February 8-10, for its 52nd National Session. Hosted by Mayor Carolyn G. Goodman and the City of Las Vegas, the event was attended by Mayor Alan M. Arakawa of Maui, Hawaii; Mayor Dewey F. Bartlett, Jr. of Tulsa, Oklahoma; Mayor Michael B. Hancock of Denver, Colorado; Mayor Richard L. Kaysen of Cheyenne, Wyoming; and Mayor Nancy McFarlane of Raleigh, North Carolina. Experts in architecture, landscape architecture, urban planning, real estate, transportation, and green infrastructure 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 52nd National Session began with a tour of downtown Las Vegas, led by Flinn Fagg, AICP, Planning Director for the City of Las Vegas. The tour showcased major downtown projects that are instrumental to the renaissance of the city of Las Vegas, including the Fremont East District, the Neon Museum and Boneyard, the Mob Museum, the Bonneville Transit Center, and the soon to open Symphony Park, Smith Center for the Performing Arts, and Las Vegas City Hall. Later that evening, a reception and dinner were held at The Arts Factory, which is located in a burgeoning arts district in the city and showcased works by local artists. At dinner, remarks were made by National Endowment for the Arts Design Director Jason Schupbach; Mayors’ Institute on City Design Director Story Bellows; American Architectural Foundation President & CEO Ronald Bogle, Hon. AIA; the United States Conference of Mayors CEO and Executive Director Tom Cochran; Mayor Carolyn G. Goodman; and United Technologies Corporation Manager of Global Community Affairs Andrew Olivastro.
Denver Mayor Hancock initiated design discussions the following morning, presenting on his city’s efforts to capitalize on Denver International Airport as an aerotropolis. The city wants to ensure walkability and implement sustainable design principles at potential transit stops near the airport along the FasTracks Eastern Line. To achieve this, the resource team offered suggestions on how to promote regional cooperation and appropriate land uses that respond to existing context while complimenting the functions of the airport.
Tulsa Mayor Bartlett followed with a discussion of the Arkansas River development adjacent to downtown. The city wants to attract development along the riverfront across from the city skyline while improving exiting trail and recreational amenities. The resource team encouraged the Mayor to invest in public realm improvements, including strengthening pedestrian connections, which will engage the right developer for the land.
Maui Mayor Arakawa presented on his city’s effort to revitalize the Wailuku town center. The city hopes to reinvent Wailuku town and improve complex existing parking conditions in downtown through a new parking structure. As such, the resource team offered a mixed-use approach to programming the structure in tandem with flexible parking strategies to reduce congestion and promote walkability in the town center.
Raleigh Mayor McFarlane described her city’s initiative to develop the historic Union Depot and Warehouse District. As this area transitions into a multimodal hub and becomes more attractive to developers, businesses, and residences, the city would like to maintain the character of the arts district while promoting new development opportunities. The resource team responded with suggestions on how to prioritize key structures within the district and identify areas for future growth.
Aurora Mayor Hogan started discussions the final day of the Institute by presenting on his efforts to catalyze development on the north end of the Havana Street corridor and the Fan Fare development site. The city is looking to incentivize development at the site to continue the retail success further south along the corridor. The resource team offered alternative suggestions to adaptively reuse structures on the development parcels and promote public interest in the site’s development through programming strategies.
Las Vegas Mayor Goodman discussed her city’s efforts to improve Eastern Avenue, a major north-south arterial corridor in the city. The Mayor focused her presentation on the Hispanic demographics of the area and the cultural strengths of the corridor. The resource team highlighted civic engagement strategies to gain integral community input on corridor improvements to increase walkability and promote comfortable gathering opportunities along the avenue.
Cheyenne Mayor Kaysen concluded the Institute by presenting on his city’s planning efforts to revitalize the downtown. The Mayor focused his discussion on the many opportunities for redevelopment in the city center, including adaptively reusing the strong historic building stock. The resource team encouraged the Mayor to focus on a particular area of downtown to implement design and development efforts, which will catalyze future growth in the heart of the city.
Joining the mayors at this National Session was a distinguished group of resource team members: Steve Benz, PE, LEED AP, Director of Green Infrastructure at OLIN; Reese Fayde, President of RFA Investments; Gabriel Metcalf, Executive Director of San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association; Julie Snow, FAIA, Principal of Julie Snow Architects; Alma Du Solier, Principal at AECOM; William Wenk, FASLA, Principal of Wenk Associates; and Christopher Yake, Senior Development Project Manager at Metro.
The Mayors’ Institute on City Design is a National Endowment for the Arts leadership initiative in partnership with the American Architectural Foundation and the United States Conference of Mayors. The 52nd National Session was sponsored in part by United Technologies Corporation. Since 1986, the Mayors’ Institute has helped transform communities through design by preparing mayors to be the chief urban designers of their cities. The Mayors’ Institute conducts several sessions each year. For a list of upcoming events, past attendees, or for more information, visit www.micd.org.