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What is the Mayors’ Institute?

The Mayors’ Institute on City Design (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 with support from United Technologies. Since 1986, the Mayors’ Institute has helped transform communities through design by preparing mayors to be the chief urban designers of their cities.

MICD achieves its mission by organizing sessions where mayors engage leading design experts to find solutions to the most critical urban design challenges facing their cities. Sessions are organized around case study problems. Each mayor presents a problem from his or her city and gets feedback from other mayors and design experts.

Every year, the partner organizations plan and manage six Institute sessions held throughout the country. Each two and one-half day session is limited to 22 participants comprising eight mayors, eight preeminent design and development professionals, and MICD partners. Mayors present a range of challenges in their case study projects, including waterfront and corridor redevelopment, downtown revitalization, transportation plans, and the design of new civic buildings such as libraries and performing art centers. Following each presentation, mayors and design professionals identify important issues, offer suggestions, and discuss potential solutions. The interchange sparks lively debates, generates new ideas, and inspires creative thinking.


Mayor Joseph P. Riley, Jr. is one of the most visionary leaders in the country. First elected Mayor of Charleston, SC in 1975, Mayor Riley has retired in 2015 after serving an unprecedented ten, four-year terms in office. Under his leadership, Charleston has developed nationally acclaimed affordable housing and has experienced remarkable revitalization of its waterfront and historic downtown business district. As a founding father and champion of the Mayors’ Institute, Mayor Riley has also helped provide critical urban design support to mayors.


The Mayors’ Institute on City Design (MICD) is a leadership initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts leadership in partnership with the American Architectural Foundation and the United States Conference of Mayors with support from United Technologies.

National Endowment for the Arts
The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) was established by Congress in 1965 as an independent agency of the federal government. To date, the NEA has awarded more than $4 billion to support artistic excellence, creativity, and innovation for the benefit of individuals and communities. NEA extends its work through partnerships with state arts agencies, local leaders, other federal agencies, and the philanthropic sector.

American Architectural Foundation
The American Architectural Foundation (AAF) is a national nonprofit organization established in 1943 and headquartered in Washington, DC. In the past decade alone, AAF has worked directly with civic leaders representing every major city and most mid-sized cities in the United States to address the challenges and leverage the opportunities of design in their cities. Through its programs, 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.

The United States Conference of Mayors
The United States Conference of Mayors (USCM) is the official nonpartisan organization of the nation’s 1,398 U.S. cities with populations of 30,000 or more. The primary roles of USCM are to: promote the development of effective national urban/suburban policy; strengthen federal-city relationships; ensure that federal policy meets urban needs; provide mayors with leadership and management tools; and create a forum in which mayors can share ideas and information.

Alumni Participants

MICD brings together a resource team of multidisciplinary design and development professionals along with six to eight mayors at each of its sessions. Our Resource Team consists of distinguished professionals from across the country in the fields of architecture, landscape architecture, urban design, city and regional planning, transportation planning, economic and real estate development, and historic preservation. When combined with participating mayors, MICD provides in-depth discussion and dialogue among those that help shape the built environment of American cities.

Alumni Mayors

Alumni Resource Team


The MICD National Advisory Council, led by MICD Founder and former Charleston, SC Mayor Joseph P. Riley, Jr., consists of an impressive group of 25 nationally-known leaders on urban design issues. The members were selected because of their demonstrated commitment to improving urban design and their belief in its ability to transform cities. They are helping to increase the impact of the program by helping boost visibility and support for the Mayors’ Institute.

Joan Abrahamson
President, Jefferson Institute
Los Angeles, CA

Eugenie Birch
Professor & Former Chair, University of Pennsylvania Department of City and Regional Planning
Philadelphia, PA

Fred Carl
Founder, President & CEO, Viking Range Corporation
Greenwood, MS

Adele Chatfield-Taylor
President, American Academy in Rome
New York, NY

The Honorable David Cicilline
U.S. House of Representatives, 1st District of Rhode Island
Washington, DC

Manuel Diaz
Former Mayor, City of Miami
Miami, FL

Mark Falcone
Managing Director, Continuum Partners
Denver, CO

Reese Fayde
President, RFA Investments
New York, NY

Richard Florida
Author, The Rise of the Creative Class
Washington, DC

Robert Forbes
Founder & Director, Studio Forbes
San Francisco, CA

Shirley Franklin
Former Mayor, City of Atlanta
Atlanta, GA

Harvey Gantt
Founder & Partner, Gantt Huberman Architects
Charlotte, NC

Alexander Garvin
President & CEO, AGA Public Realm Strategies
New York, NY

The Honorable Kay Granger
U.S. House of Representatives, 12th District of Texas
Washington, DC

Mary Margaret Jones
President, Hargreaves Associates
New York, NY

Robert Larson
Managing Director & Chairman, Lazard Freres Real Estate Investors
Bloomfield Hills, MI

Richard Moe
Past President, National Trust for Historic Preservation
Washington, DC

Robert Peck
Director of Workplace Consulting for the Southeast Region, Gensler
Washington, DC

Daniel Pink
Author, Free Agent Nation and A Whole New Mind
Washington, DC

The Honorable Joseph P. Riley, Jr.
Mayor, City of Charleston (1975-2015)
Charleston, SC

Craig Robbins
Founder, Dacra
Miami Beach, FL

Jaquelin Robertson
Partner, Cooper Robertson
New York, NY

Peter Rummel
CEO, Nicklaus Companies
Jacksonville, FL

Stacey Davis Stewart
President, United Way
Washington, DC

Marilyn Jordan Taylor
Dean, University of Pennsylvania School of Design
Philadelphia, PA

Home Page Photo Credits
Main image: Photo by MICD
Top row: Photos by Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum, George Scheer, and John A. Johnson, courtesy of the American Architectural Foundation
Bottom row: Photos by the City of Chicago Office of the Mayor courtesy of the American Architectural Foundation