Sustainable Cities Design Academy Creates Sustainable Development Solutions and Helps Reinvigorate Urban Communities in Atlanta, Minneapolis and Philadelphia

Building upon successes of 20 previous urban and community development initiatives, the Sustainable Cities Design Academy (SCDA)—a program of the American Architectural Foundation (AAF)—convenes usually in October of each year.

City leaders, developers and design professionals representing Philadelphia, Minneapolis and Atlanta projects join national sustainable design experts for an intensive, three-day design workshop. SCDA is helping participants formulate action plans for their projects while providing the design leadership training and technical assistance needed to address the specific design challenges that they face in their cities. They will return home with the momentum and knowledge necessary to pursue more environmentally responsible, energy-efficient and livable communities.

SCDA was established in 2009 by the American Architectural Foundation in partnership with United Technologies Corporation (UTC), a global corporation with a long history of pioneering innovation in building technology and international leadership in sustainable design.  

Teams compete to attend SCDA, which provides the resources, education and best practice support needed to make environmentally responsible policy and design decisions.

“Through our programs, the American Architectural Foundation works directly with local leaders in more than seventy cities each year,” said Ron Bogle, AAF President and CEO. “The selected city projects in Atlanta, Minneapolis and Philadelphia each have unique needs. Provided with opportunities to work face-to-face with some of the top practitioners of sustainable design in the nation, these city visionaries can and will create a comprehensive blueprint for sustainable urban development.”

New Bedford, Mass. was one of SCDA’s selected project cities in 2009. Since then, New Bedford Mayor Scott Lang has reported significant economic development in an area impacted by the economic downturn. Tasked with the revitalization of an industrial riverfront parcel, design experts worked with the city to spur comprehensive planning and development that incorporated the city’s environmental goals. Now, residential communities populate once-empty row houses and new businesses have opened in historic commercial corridors. Business is increasing at the city’s port. Design was a vital catalyst for this transformation.  

Listed below are descriptions of the SDCA projects to be featured at the Academy. 

Atlanta
In the heart of an economically depressed area between Midtown and Downtown Atlanta, the Atlanta Shakespeare Company is a bright spot, attracting a young theater-going crowd and providing arts education for thousands of students.  With a detailed plan to expand its offerings, the company seeks to build a new theater facility.  The company faces complex issues, including neighborhood impact, post- expansion financial sustainability, energy use, program accessibility, transportation to and from the theater and the scale of the project relative to the current size of operations. 

Minneapolis
South Quarter, formerly known as the Franklin Portland Gateway intersection, is in the final phase of Aeon and Hope Community’s decade-long transformative development project. Located within a challenged neighborhood, just south of downtown Minneapolis, the final phase will be the capstone of the massive community revitalization effort, and will eradicate the remaining blighted parcel. The team will create a “learning laboratory” that follows Living Building Challenge guidelines and addresses construction, design and cost effectiveness issues. 

Philadelphia
SCDA will assist the Delaware River Waterfront Corporation (DRWC) in developing a sustainable plan for a 16-acre site on the Delaware River Waterfront in Philadelphia, formerly used for the city’s incinerator facility and vehicle impoundment lot.  Established in 2009, DRWC’s goal is to design, develop and manage six miles of waterfront in Center City Philadelphia, with the Spring Garden site targeted to be the first mixed-use development since the release of the Delaware River Waterfront Master Plan earlier this year. The plans for the site include mixed-use development; significant public space; ecological enhancement of the riverfront; and riverfront greenway public access, all of which will serve as key drivers for economic revitalization.