Day 4 of the Leadership Institute kicked off with an energetic presentation by Jess Zimbabwe, ED of the Daniel Rose Center, National League of Cities. Tracing an arc from Plato to Homer (Simpson!), the program offered not just food for thought and a historical context for what we do, but also a motivational call to arms for how to engage as land use professionals and how to positively impact the policies and processes that shape our built environment.
The day continued with a group effort to tackle difficult problems experienced by individual members of the cohort, and robust discussion tackled issued from inspiring millennials to work as part of a team; communicating clearly and setting expectations when delegating tasks; dealing with the high expectations resulting from consistent high performance; how to bring in new generations of skilled labor to execute construction contracts; and the challenges of incentivizing benefits through development in the absence of regulatory requirements.
The theme of the day was design and construction. Lead with creativity, humility, integrity, and transparency were key takeaways from all program presenters today. People and politics matter. Patience and perseverance are required.
Case studies today including EDENS’ Mosaic and Comstock’s Reston Station challenged the class to mine lessons learned. How do you balance market fundamentals with the public interest, and deliver on a vision that truly proves the added value of good design.
Taking advantage of the setting of today’s session in the Mosaic district, Christina Alire, Mosaic General Manager, gave the group a post-lunch tour of the district, and spoke about the completed development and the upcoming phases, with additional retail due to deliver in Fall 2017. She spoke about the concepts behind decisions for the sidewalk paving patterns, following focus groups with women. This design decision was implemented to appeal to women, anticipated shoppers, to facilitate a smooth surface for high heeled shoes. Parking garage design was also influenced by women who shared in focus groups, the dangers of dark corners in parking garages, leading to an open, airy design, with ample security phones on every level.
Following the tour, Bill Caldwell, Director of Design and Construction for EDENS, and Katie Bucklew, Vice President – Development for EDENS, spoke candidly about the decade and a half design and construction journey for the Mosaic district, on a panel moderated by David Kitchens of Cooper Carry. The panel used a conversational approach with the group, sharing EDENS’ unique approach to retail developments, retaining ownership and control of all of the retail in a mixed-use project in order to achieve a comprehensive approach to design, merchandising and engagement throughout the center. The privately-owned, curbless streets were critical from a placemaking perspective, enabling a range of activities and events to utilize the public spaces in creative ways. They also spoke about the challenges of managing and event planning in this very successful mixed-use project, and future challenges in a development that has built-out is plan potential, with no density remaining for retailers to take advantage of high ceilings with mezzanine-level expansions.
Matthew Bell from Perkins Eastman brought the day home with a compelling lecture (and arguably the day’s sexiest slides) taking a deep dive into the building blocks of good urban form. Matthew used three Perkins Eastman projects in Washington DC as case studies in his presentation, starting with redevelopment of Dunbar High School, with a design that opened up the long-closed O Street creating an additional development parcel for the city, leveraged the opportunity to create a design relationship between the school and an adjacent park parcel, and honored the original 1917 design of the school. The second case study was redevelopment of Brookland Manor, a residential development, incorporating neighborhood serving retail, as well as affordable housing to a range of income levels, including 30% AMI. Finally, he spoke of the design for the McMillan Filtration Plant, including the technical challenges of the historic property, including development atop unreinforced concrete, incorporation of historic structures into the final design, and honoring the site as an historic landmark.
For believers in cities, and advocates of regionalism, today’s lineup was a powerhouse of talent and leadership, and the generosity of time required from really strong mentors. They truly inspire respect for our related professions.