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A leadership initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with the United States Conference of Mayors

  • Responding to the COVID-19 Crisis

    Mayors' Institute on City Design

    As cities grapple with the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, know that we’re thinking of all the mayors, city staff, and community members on the front lines. Below, we’ve compiled upcoming webinars and other resources that we hope will be useful to you.

    We’d be honored to share any additional resources that are helpful to your cities, organizations and firms during this challenging time. Please send them our way at


    The below webinars will cover the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on a variety of topics we often address at MICD, from transportation to public space.

    Rebalancing Streets for People (Recording)
    Toole Design
    Essential techniques for quickly rebalancing streets to create more safe places for people to walk, bike, and run while maintaining a safe physical distance from each other

    Transportation & COVID-19 – Practices from other disease outbreaks (Recording)
    Transportation Research Board (TRB)
    How can the transportation industry deal with and manage the COVID-19 outbreak? Presenters discussed their experience with other outbreaks and what their agencies are doing to adapt and mitigate risks, as well as to enhance the resiliency of our transportation systems in the future.

    Landscape Architecture Practice in a Time of Physical Distancing (Recording)
    Landscape Architecture Foundation (LAF)
    A candid conversation with three landscape architecture principals about the changes they’re seeing and the longer-term impacts they anticipate for the field of landscape architecture

    Park Leaders and COVID-19: Serving the Community in Challenging Times (Recording)
    City Parks Alliance
    Panel discussion of park professionals who are adapting their facilities, programming, and messaging in creative ways to help residents maintain physical and mental wellness 


    Here are some of the many resources other organizations have published to help cities navigate the COVID-19 crisis, as well as a few articles we find especially useful about the plethora of issues always on the minds of mayors and design/development professionals.

    COVID-19: What Mayors Need to Know
    United States Conference of Mayors

    Operational best practices, examples of city guidelines, and other critical updates for city leaders

    COVID-19 Resources for Artists and Arts Organizations
    National Endowment for the Arts

    News and resources for arts organizations, from loan guidance to navigating postponements and cancellations

    Coronavirus Local Response Initiative
    Bloomberg Philanthropies

    Open to all U.S. mayors; receive up-to-date information on the virus and coaching on crisis leadership and communications

    COVID-19: Transportation Response Center
    Rapid response tools, real-time forums, information about federal funding assistance, and more

    Role of Architecture in Fighting COVID-19
    MASS Design
    Best practices for using design to promote infection control, from floor layouts to the choice of materials to air circulation

    Planning During a Pandemic: 6 Resources for Planners
    American Planning Association
    Resources to help city planners adjust to a different way of working, gathering, and communicating

    How Transit Agencies are Responding to the COVID-19 Public Health Threat

    Roundup of how U.S. transit agencies are approaching short-term and long-term challenges

    What Cities are Doing to Stall Evictions and Foreclosures

    How city leaders are halting evictions, utility shut-offs, foreclosures during the crisis

    In the Age of Social Distancing, Government Meetings Go Virtual
    Route Fifty

    A look at how nimble governments are holding public meetings online

    Maintaining Business Continuity with a Remote Workforce
    Architect Magazine

    Tools and best practices for design firms transitioning to remote operations

    COVID-19 GIS Hub

    Maps, datasets, and applications to help cities and organizations respond to COVID-19

    2020 Census Adapting Quickly to the Coronavirus Pandemic

    Eleven million U.S. households have already responded to the 2020 Census questionnaire already, and operations continue.

    Design in the Age of Pandemics

    A historical look at how the threat of disease has shaped the built environment

    Other Interesting Finds

    What the Future Looked Like Before the Coronavirus

    MICD’s January survey of how mayors design professionals view the coming decade, reminding us of long-terms trends and goals that will inform cities’ recovery 

    How to get your art and design fix from your couch
    Fast Company

    From virtual museum tours to podcasts, ways to engage with art and design from home

    We are physically distant, but still in this together

    How cities in the Bay Area and beyond will survive the coronavirus

  • Shared Micromobility Playbook

    Transportation for America


    Scooters, dockless bikes, and other “micromobility” devices are rapidly growing in popularity while cities race to keep up with the changing mobility environment. The Shared Micromobility Playbook from Transportation for America offers specific policy ideas for harnessing these new transportation options while addressing safety, equity, and operational challenges.

    “Cities will need to create adaptive, yet consistent, processes that will help them integrate new technologies into their communities and contribute toward their long-term outcomes. Helping cities do so is the intent of this playbook.”

    View the Shared Micromobility Playbook >>


    Published: January 2019

    (Photo: Transportation for America)

  • Creative Placemaking on Vacant Properties

    Center for Community Progress

    Creative Placemaking on Vacant Properties: Case Studies from Four Cities” makes the case for tackling the problem of vacancy through an artistic and community-centered lens. This report from the Center for Community Progress examines the success of projects in Kalamazoo, MI; Wilkinsburg, PA; Newburgh, NY; and Macon, GA. 

    “Incorporating the arts into place-based community development can spark fresh interest in vacant property. At the same time, creative placemaking, as a community-centered process, is a powerful tool to support equitable revitalization. This Center for Community Progress report offers practical guidance for communities curious about how to leverage the power of creative placemaking to transform vacant properties. “

    Read “Creative Placemaking on Vacant Properties” >>

    Published: 2018

    (Photo: Transportation for America)

  • Our Town Grants

    National Endowment for the Arts

    “Creative placemaking projects strategically link communities and local governments with artists, designers, and arts organizations to improve quality of life, create a sense of place, and revitalize local economies.” 

    The National Endowment for the Arts offers matching grants to arts organizations, nonprofits, and local governments for creative placemaking projects. Funding is available for engagement, design, and planning phases; construction and operating costs are not eligible for funding. The application period is typically open in late summer/early fall. 

    Funding amounts: $25,000 to $200,000

    Apply for Our Town grants >>

    Explore past projects >>

    (Photo: National Endowment for the Arts)

  • How to Do Creative Placemaking

    National Endowment for the Arts


    Learn how communities are using arts and culture to enhance the built environment in this book from the National Endowment for the Arts.

    “How to Do Creative Placemaking is an action-oriented guide for making places better. This book includes instructional and thought-provoking case studies and essays from today’s leading thinkers in creative placemaking. It describes the diverse ways that arts organizations and artists can play an essential role in the success of communities across America.”

    Published: November 2016

    Read “How to Do Creative Placemaking” >>

    (Photo: National Endowment for the Arts)

  • Community Planning Assistance Teams

    American Planning Association

    The Community Planning Assistance Team (CPAT) initiative at the American Planning Association pairs a multidisciplinary team of expert planning professionals with community members, key stakeholders, and relevant decision makers to address challenges including social equity and affordability, economic development, sustainability, consensus building, and urban design. Projects focus on localities with a demonstrated need for assistance, where planning resources and expertise may not otherwise be available.

    Four to six teams take on a wide variety of topics each year.

    Learn more about the Community Planning Assistance Team program >> 

    (Photo: APA)

  • Design Assistance Teams

    American Institute of Architects

    Based at the American Institute of Architects, the Design Assistance Team program has engaged over 500 professionals from over 40 disciplines to provide millions of dollars in professional pro bono services to more than 200 communities across the country. The program offers technical assistance and process expertise to help communities develop a vision and framework for a sustainable future. The program offers assistance with eight to 10 projects a year, at varying scales from neighborhood to regional.

    Learn more about the Design Assistance Team program >>

    (Photo: American Institute of Architects)

  • Designing New York: Quality Affordable Housing

    NYC Public Design Commission


    Through an exploration of seven case studies, Designing New York: Quality Affordable Housing illustrates how good design can help achieve a myriad of city goals. Published by the NYC Public Design Commission, this guide shares examples of excellent affordable housing developments in New York City and gives leaders concrete ideas for improving the stock of affordable homes in any city.

    “Housing not only can transform residents’ lives, but also forms the building blocks for vibrant, diverse neighborhoods… Superbly designed residential developments can be lasting, place-based interventions that foster greater equity, sustainability, resiliency, and healthy living.”

    Published: May 2018

    View the Quality Affordable Housing guide >>

    (Photo: NYC Public Design Commission)

  • Advisory Services

    Urban Land Institute

    Advisory Services panels from the Urban Land Institute (ULI) are multi-day workshops that provide strategic advice on land use and real estate development issues. Panels link developers, public agencies, and other sponsors to the ULI staff and members.

    “Advisory Services panels provide expert, independent, timely, candid, and unbiased input from national real estate, land use, design, and planning experts. Panels bring outside points of view to help kick-start critical conversations and move beyond decision-making dead ends. They help communities gain fresh insight and come to innovative solutions for complex land use and real estate development challenges.”

    With 15-20 events per year, Advisory Services panels work on a variety of urban scales and topics, such as housing, economic development, infrastructure and transportation, universities and institutions, policy, and neighborhoods.

    Learn more about ULI Advisory Services in your region >> 

    (Photo: ULI)

  • City Design Glossary

    Mayors' Institute on City Design

    The City Design Glossary is a collection of the most commonly-used words in the fields of urban planning, design, and architecture. Featuring over 100 terms from “acessible” to “zoning”, this resource helps prepare readers for engaging conversations about city design.

    The glossary was compiled by the Mayors’ Institute on City Design in cooperation with the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

    View the City Design Glossary >>


  • Street Design Guides

    National Association of County Transportation Officials

    Full of concrete and practical guidelines, the National Association of County Transportation Officials (NACTO) has created a variety of Design Guides with cutting-edge best practices for urban streets. Topics range from immediate safety improvements to remaining flexible as autonomous vehicles become more common. Broad principles as well as engineering specs are included in the following guides:

    Urban Street Design Guide
    Urban Bikeway Design Guide
    Transit Street Design Guide
    Urban Street Stormwater Guide
    Bikeshare Station Siting Guide
    Blueprint for Autonomous Urbanism

    View all NACTO Design Guides >> 

    (Photo: NACTO)


    Design Funding Trailblazers


    With 30+ resources and growing, Design Funding Trailblazers hosts an extensive list of grants and funding streams for design work with a positive social and environmental impact. Each listing includes contact information for the program’s key players.

    Visit >> 

    (Photo: Design Funding Trailblazers)

  • A Mayor’s Guide to Public Life

    Gehl Institute

    This booklet focuses on concrete tactics, with seven case studies showing how mayors have improved their streets, plazas, parks and city spaces for the benefit of their residents. The Gehl Institute is an offshoot of the world-renowned Gehl studio, which focuses on building “cities for people”.

    Published: 2017

    Read A Mayor’s Guide to Public Life >>

    (Photo: Gehl Institute)

  • Brownfields Grants

    U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

    The EPA provides competitive grants to communities assessing, cleaning up, and rebuilding environmentally contaminated areas.

    Learn more about Brownfields grants >>


    (Photo: EPA)

  • Smart Growth Workshops

    Smart Growth America

    Smart Growth America offers a limited number of free technical assistance programs to communities who want to “make their communities more livable, sustainable, and vibrant.”

    Learn more about SGA’s free workshops >> 


    (Photo: Smart Growth America)

  • Arts, Culture and Transportation

    ArtPlace America & Transportation for America

    Arts, Culture and Transportation: A Creative Placemaking Field Scan

    Commissioned by ArtPlace American and produced by Transportation for America’s Arts & Culture team, this report identifies ways that cities can weave arts and culture into transportation planning efforts for stronger projects. The field scan includes case studies showing how creative placemaking can contribute to the success of transportation and mobility projects in seven ways:

    1. “Generating creative solutions for entrenched transportation problems
    2. Making streets safer for all users
    3. Organizing transportation advocates
    4. Engaging multiple stakeholders for an inclusive process
    5. Fostering local ownership
    6. Alleviating the disruptive effects of construction
    7. Healing wounds and divisions”

    View the Creative Placemaking Field Scan >>

    (Photo: Transportation for America)

  • 10-Minute Walk Campaign

    Trust for Public Land

    “The Trust for Public Land, in partnership with the National Recreation and Park Association and the Urban Land Institute, is leading a nationwide movement to ensure there’s a great park within a 10-minute walk of every person, in every neighborhood, in every city across America.”

    Over 100 mayors have pledged to work toward the 10-minute walk standard, recongizing the physical, social, and economic benefits of having parks within walking distance of residents’ homes.

    Learn more about the 10-Minute Walk campaign >>


    (Photo: Trust for Public Land)

  • Community and National Initiatives

    Knight Foundation


    Focused on 26 cities where the Knight brothers once published newspapers, the Knight Foundation offers funding and assistance to help cities become more equitable, inclusive and participatory. The Community and National Initiatives program funds projects that boost the civic assets of communities, aiming to:

    “Attract and nurture talent: by supporting and networking diverse leaders from all sectors. Enhance opportunity: by building inclusive pathways to economic prosperity. Foster civic engagement: by enabling people to contribute to – and take an active part in – the life of their community.”

    The Knight Foundation works with the following communties: Akron, OH; Charlotte, NC; Detroit, MI; Macon, GA; Miami, FL; Philadelphia, PA; San Jose, CA; St. Paul, MN; Aberdeen, SD; Biloxi, MS; Boulder, CO; Bradenton, FL; Columbia, SC; Columbus, GA; Duluth, MN; Ft. Wayne, IN; Gary, IN; Grand Forks, ND; Lexington, KY; Long Beach, CA; Milledgeville, GA; Myrtle Beach, SC; Palm Beach County, FL; State College, PA; Tallahassee, FL; and Wichita, KS.

    Learn more about Knight Foundation’s Community and National Initiatives >>


    (Photo: The Better Block project in Akron, OH. Tim Fitzwater, Fitzwater Photography)


  • Smart Growth Technical Assistance

    U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

    The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) offers various technical assistance programs to communities interested in smart growth, which incorporates economic growth and environmental conservation efforts to strengthen cities.

    Learn more about technical assistance from EPA >>

    (Photo: EPA)

  • Daniel Rose Fellowship

    The Rose Center for Public Leadership

    The mayors of four large cities are selected as Daniel Rose Fellows each year. Together with three additional city officials, each mayor participates in a yearlong technical assistance program to tackle a local land use challenge. By providing public officials with access to information, best practices, peer networks, and other resources, the Rose Center seeks to foster creative, efficient, practical, and sustainable land use policies.

    The Rose Center is a joint program of the National League of Cities and the Urban Land Institute.

    Learn more about the Rose Fellowship program >>

    (Photo: The Rose Center)

  • Creative Placemaking Resources

    ArtPlace America

    ArtPlace America is a collaboration between foundations, federal agencies and financial institutions that promotes creative placemaking projects across the United States. With a library of resources specific to creative placemaking, ArtPlace America helps share best practices and ideas for shaping stronger communities through design.

    Explore the creative placemaking resources >>

    (Photo: ReVision)


  • Resources for Rural Communities

    Citizens' Institute on Rural Design

    The Citizens’ Institute on Rural Design (CIRD) is a leadership initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts. Much like the Mayors’ Institute, CIRD brings experts, tools, and resources to help small towns and rural communities improve the built environment.

    CIRD has an extensive library of resources for local leaders and residents in communities of 50,000 people or less, from economic development to transportation and beyond.

    Explore CIRD’s Resources >>

    (Photo: Citizens’ Institute on Rural Design)

  • Designing Policy: The Game

    Enterprise Community Partners

    With a unique and modular format, Designing Policy: The Game allows leaders and community members to start conversations about shaping the built environment. This tool from Enterprise Community Partners serves as a “virtual tip jar” to spark a dialogue about a design project or challenge of your choosing.

    View Designing Policy: The Game >>


    (Photo: Enterprise Community Partners)

  • ArtWorks Grants

    National Endowment for the Arts

    “The National Endowment for the Arts recognizes design’s ever-present impact on society by funding activities that encourage, preserve, and disseminate the best in American and global design.”

    The National Endowment for the Arts offers matching grants for design projects that have a public benefit or enhance the design field. Funded projects include design competitions, arts and cultural buildings, historic preservation projects, community charrettes, and more. Capital and construction costs are not eligible for funding.

    Funding amounts: $10,000 to $100,000

    Apply for ArtWorks grants >>


    (Photo: Courtesy of MICD Resource Team member Antonio Fiol-Silva)

  • Public Art Challenge

    Bloomberg Philanthropies



    The Bloomberg Philanthropies Public Art Challenge funds unique city projects that use art to develop creative solutions to pressing issues. By forging partnerships between mayors and artists, cities gain new tools to

    Funding from the Public Art Challenge is designed for cities with populations of 30,000 or more.

    Learn more about the Public Art Challenge >> 

    (Photo: Bloomberg Philanthropies)

  • National Complete Streets Coalition

    Smart Growth America

    The National Complete Streets Coalition, a program of Smart Growth America, empowers local decision makers to design streets that better serve the people who use them.

    “Complete Streets are streets for everyone. They are designed and operated to enable safe access for all users, including pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists and transit riders of all ages and abilities. Complete Streets make it easy to cross the street, walk to shops, and bicycle to work. They allow buses to run on time and make it safe for people to walk to and from train stations.

    There is no singular design prescription for Complete Streets; each one is unique and responds to its community context. A complete street may include: sidewalks, bike lanes (or wide paved shoulders), special bus lanes, comfortable and accessible public transportation stops, frequent and safe crossing opportunities, median islands, accessible pedestrian signals, curb extensions, narrower travel lanes, roundabouts, and more.”

    Resources include technical assistance workshops, policy templates, and step-by-step explanations of how cities have successfully enacted Complete Streets policies.

    View resources from the National Complete Streets Coalition >> 


    (Photo: Smart Growth America)