2011 Sustainable Suburbs: Re-Imagining the Inner Ring

Urban Design Conference 2011

NC State University College of Design in conjunction with the Department of City Planning, Urban Design Center and NC State Foundation

8th Annual Urban Design Conference

Urban Design Conference draws record number for sustainability topics

The 8th Annual Urban Design Conference – “Sustainable Suburbs: Re-Imagining the Inner Ring” – drew 300 participants to Downtown Raleigh on Feb. 12, 2011. Speakers talked about ways to reinvigorate and vitalize city suburbs.
Watch the presentations / Read coverage

February 12, 2011

Marriott Raleigh City Center

500 Fayetteville Street

8 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

The 8th Annual Urban Design Conference, Sustainable Suburbs: Re-imagining the Inner Ring will frame the issues, respond to questions, and describe innovative solutions on how and why design and planning can redefine the urban in suburban to transform auto-centric, disposable building practices into more complete, vibrant, and healthy communities. Suburbs remain the predominant urban form of development even as downtowns and central cities redevelop. It is these older, existing and future suburban developments –home to a rapidly diversifying and aging population with complex needs and desires – that present some of the greatest challenges and opportunities for designers, planners, developers, students, and concerned citizens. This conference will focus on the issues and opportunities before us all as we seek to balance changing markets, demographics, climate change, resource scarcity, and economic realities meanwhile pursuing a more sustainable and livable future.

Approved for 7 hours AIA/CES HSW SD. Applying for credits from NCBOLA and AICP. Engineers may self report PDH as appropriate to board requirements.

Conference Schedule

Time Event
7:45 am Registration and check-in
8:00 am Continental Breakfast Buffet
8:30 am Welcome by Dean Marvin Malecha, FAIA
8:45 am The Fork in the Road Facing First Tier Suburbs
presented by William Hudnut
9:45 am Networking break/Poster session
10:00 am Seven Simple Urban Design Rules to Save the Planet
presented by Patrick Condon
11:00 am Retrofitting Suburbia
presented by Ellen Dunham-Jones
NOON Lunch buffet
12:30 pm Case study solutions: ULI /Gerald D. Hines Student Urban Design Competition
1:00 pm Sustainably Restoring the Health of our Cities
presented by John Knott
2:00 pm Latino Urbanism: Transforming the Suburbs
presented by James Rojas
3:00 pm Networking break
3:15 pm Not Your Father’s Housing Market: Observations Following the Crisis, and What it Means for Sustainable Suburbs
presented by Patrick Phillips (sponsored by ULI Triangle)
4:15 pm The Suburban Challenge: Beyond Design
discussion led by moderator Mary Newsom
4:45 pm Closing remarks by Dean Marvin J.Malecha, FAIA
5:00 pm Adjourn to closing reception


Session Descriptions

The Fork in the Road Facing First Tier Suburbs
presented by William Hudnut

Bill Hudnut will discuss what the first tier suburbs look like at this stage of their evolution, where they are heading, and what can be done to salvage their potential from continuing deterioration. His PowerPoint presentation will be based on research he did for his book Halfway to Everywhere: A Portrait of America’s First Tier Suburbs, and serve as an introduction to the day’s discussion. He will describe these communities as metropolitan pivot points, and suggest that what they need are small doses of investment, not big projects that beguile them into thinking that they are a silver bullet that will solve all problems. He calls this process “urban acupuncture.”

Seven Simple Urban Design Rules to Save the Planet
presented by Patrick Condon

It took fifty years to transform the country from one where most people got to where they needed to go by walking and streetcar to one where more than 90 percent of all trips are made by people driving alone. Each year the amount of time and energy and money spent driving by the average American increases. This is not financially, socially, or ecologically sustainable. How then would we use the next fifty years to transform, yet again, the North American landscape – for enhanced health, for money saved, for quality of life improved, and for the planet to be preserved. Many theorists have provided answers. Yet simple and achievable solutions seem rare. Professor Condon’s Seven Rules for Sustainable Communities provide a simple set of rules specifically applicable to the American Urban landscape, and to the American way of life. Foremost among these rules is his first and most important: restore the streetcar city. In the US virtually every community over 5,000 people once had a streetcar. Understanding this fact and the particularly American urban pattern that created, a pattern that can be revived, is the key.

Retrofitting Suburbia
presented by Ellen Dunham-Jones

Wondering what to do with dead malls, vacant commercial strips, and aging office parks and garden apartment complexes? Ellen Dunham-Jones, co-author of the award-winning book, Retrofitting Suburbia, will present successful built examples of re-inhabiting, redeveloping, and regreening these properties in order to convert our least sustainable landscapes into more sustainable, less auto-dependent places. She will present these urban design strategies in relation to rapidly changing market forces and public policies, outlining specific next steps for planners, architects, policymakers and other design professionals. How can the next generation of retrofits raise the bar on architectural quality on the one hand and contribute to a more coordinated metropolitan network on the other? She will argue that building suburbia was THE big design and development project for the past fifty years; retrofitting it for greener, healthier, more affordable, and more engaged lifestyles will be THE challenge for the next fifty years.

Sustainably Restoring the Health of our Cities
presented by John Knott

John Knott, Jr., president and CEO of The Noisette Company, LLC, will take us through the ten-year story of the revitalization and restoration of the award-winning Noisette Community. Situated in the center of the Charleston, SC, metro region and bordering the Cooper River, the Noisette Community developed a nationally recognized master plan to revitalize its urban core in a manner that is equally attuned to the social needs, environmental responsibility and economic vitality of the community. Now the region’s “green village,” the community includes several National Historic Districts and is the only LEED Neighborhood Development in the state. The Charleston Naval Base, which was closed in 1996, is being transformed into a mixed-use urban living development with a diverse community that celebrates its history and natural environment. Along with several examples of strategies that have transformed the Noisette community, Knott will address triple bottom line decision-making, the process of public participation, public-private partnerships and the development and financial challenges along the way.

Latino Urbanism: Transforming the Suburbs
presented by James Rojas

As great numbers of Latinos settle into the suburbs they bring with them a different understanding and use of this landscape. The Latin American ciudads, pueblos, and ranchos where many of the residents come from are physically and socially structured differently than the suburb. Latinos are transforming the once staid ubiquitous suburban streets, sidewalks, front yards, and commercial strips. Street vendors carrying their wares, pushing carts or setting up temporary tables and tarps create economic opportunity. Hand painted store signs, murals, and shrines add to the cultural, visual landscape. Clusters of people socializing on street corners and over front yard fences, are important. Enclosed front yards, furniture, and props make these yards into personal statements. All this contributes to the vivid, unique landscape of the barrio. The resulting enacted environment is a fluid place, one composed of front yards and commercial streets, of private and public places unified by human behavior. These hard-working people, many newcomers to this country, have created something many other Americans desire: a vibrant street life, sharp public spaces, and the sense of belonging to a community.

Not Your Father’s Housing Market: Observations Following the Crisis, and What it Means for Sustainable Suburbs
presented by Patrick Phillips and sponsored by ULI Triangle

Despite the severity of the financial crisis, and the widely felt current impacts on the housing market, a recovery will come faster and more sharply than many expect. One reason is the demographic wave ahead, a generation even larger than the baby boomers, who are just now beginning to form households and generate housing demand. However, current housing production is falling well short of what’s required to serve this demand over the next decade. And these new consumers are likely to demand new kinds product types and locations. What’s the role of first-tier suburbs in this recovery? How can they balance the attractive potential of locations close to jobs and transit against the forces of obsolescence? Could the inner suburbs be the optimum testing ground for a new kind of neighborhood?

The Suburban Challenge: Beyond Design
discussion led by moderator Mary Newsom

The need for connected, walkable streets, higher-density buildings, mixed uses and access to transit is well understood by designers and planners. Policy and laws, financing, local ordinances, Americans’ cultural expectations and even politics present major stumbling blocks to the strategies discussed throughout the day. Moderator Mary Newsom will engage conference presenters and participants in a discussion on how to begin to tackle these issues so that communities can begin the work at hand.

Speaker Biographies

Patrick M. Condon, Professor, School of Architecture + Landscape Architecture, University of British Columbia, has more than twenty-five years experience in sustainable urban design; first as a professional city planner and then as a teacher and researcher. He started his academic career in 1985 at the University of Minnesota, moving to the University of British Columbia in 1992, acting first as the Director of the Landscape Architecture program and later as the James Taylor Chair in Landscape and Livable Environments. He is now senior researcher with the Design Centre for Sustainability at UBC, a sustainable urban design think tank that evolved from the original efforts of the Chair. In that capacity he has worked to advance sustainable urban design in scores of jurisdiction, both here in Canada and abroad. Condon and his partners have recently received awards from the Planning Institute of Canada and the American Society of Landscape Architects for this work. He has lectured widely, and is the author of several books, most recently Design Charrettes for Sustainable Communities (2008), and Seven Rules for Sustainable Communities (2010), both from Island Press.
Ellen Dunham-Jones is an award-winning architect, professor of architecture and urban design at the Georgia Institute of Technology and a leading authority on suburban redevelopment. She and co-author June Williamson recently published Retrofitting Suburbia: Urban Design Solutions for Redesigning Suburbs (Wiley & Sons, 2009). The book’s documentation of successful retrofits of vacant big box stores, dead malls, and dying office parks into more sustainable places has received significant media attention in The New York Times, Harvard Business Review, Urban Land, Planning, and Architectural Record. The book received a PROSE award from the American Association of Publishers, was featured in TIME Magazine’s March 23, 2009, cover story, “10 Ideas Changing the World Right Now” and is the subject of her 2010 TED talk. She has published over 50 articles linking contemporary theory and practice, serves on several advisory boards, and is Vice Chair of the Board of Directors of the Congress for the New Urbanism. She received undergraduate and graduate degrees in architecture from Princeton University and taught at UVA and MIT before joining Georgia Tech’s faculty to serve as Director of the Architecture Program from 2001-2009.
The Honorable William H. Hudnut III is the former four-term Mayor of Indianapolis and Congressman, author, public speaker, TV commentator, think-tank fellow, elected official, and clergyman and a Senior Fellow Emeritus at The Urban Land Institute. He is managing partner of Bill Hudnut Consultants, LLC, a faculty member at Georgetown University teaching real estate development, and an associate with SGBlocks LLC. Hudnut helped Indianapolis record spectacular growth during his sixteen years in office He spearheaded the formation of a public-private sector partnership that led to Indianapolis’s emergence during the 1980s as a major American city. During his time at ULI, Hudnut chaired or participated in fifteen Advisory Services Panels, a Mayor’s Institute of City Design charrette, and 27 Mayors forums focusing on the revitalization of cities, ranging from the impact arts and culture and parks and open space have on property values and a city’s quality of life, to affordable housing and urban design. He is the author of Minister/Mayor, The Hudnut Years in Indianapolis, 1976-1991, Cities on the Rebound: A Vision for Urban America, Halfway to Everywhere: A Portrait of America’s First Tier Suburbs; and Changing Metropolitan America: Planning for a Sustainable Future. Hudnut is the recipient of Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson Award for Public Service and City and State Magazine’s “Nation’s Most Valuable Public Official.” He graduated from Princeton and from Union Theological Seminary in New York City.
John Knott Jr. John L. Knott, Jr., President/CEO and co-founder of the Noisette Company, LLC, leads the Noisette Project development team, which is collaborating with the City of North Charleston, South Carolina, in the sustainable restoration of 3,000 acres of the city’s historic urban core and areas of the former Charleston Naval Base. A third generation developer, Knott has 38 years of experience in urban redevelopment, historic preservation and community rehabilitation fields. He specializes in ecologically sound development, emphasizing energy efficient design in the holistic development of sustainable communities. In addition, Knott serves as the CEO/Managing Director of Island Preservation Partnership, which developed the 1,206-acre Dewees Island oceanfront retreat dedicated to environmental preservation. In 2001, Dewees Island was honored with the Award for Excellence by the Urban Land Institute. The American Society of Landscape Architects selected the Noisette Community Master Plan for its 2005 Professional Award. Noisette was the only recipient in the ASLA’s Analysis and Planning Category, with the Award of Excellence, the organization’s highest honor. The City of North Charleston was the 2009 recipient of The Home Depot Foundation award as the nation’s leading sustainable small scale city centered on the partnership with The Noisette Company and the Sustainability Institute.
Patrick L. Phillips is the Chief Executive Officer of the Urban Land Institute, a global non-profit research and education organization with nearly 35,000 members representing all aspects of land use and development disciplines. Its mission is to provide leadership in the responsible use of land and in creating and sustaining thriving communities worldwide. Phillips has a career in the economic analysis of real estate and land use that spans more than twenty years. Prior to taking the position as the top staff executive at ULI, he was President and Chief Executive Officer of ERA AECOM (formerly Economics Research Associates). His own consulting practice focused specifically on the intersection of private investment and public policy. At ERA AECOM he focused on economic and feasibility analysis, strategic planning, and transaction-related services for real estate investors and developers, public agencies, financial institutions, universities, and non-profit organizations, involving all major categories of urban land use, with a recent emphasis on the market, economic, and financial aspects of downtown and suburban mixed-use projects. Phillips teaches at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design Executive Education Program and at the Carey Business School of Johns Hopkins University. His academic training includes a graduate degree in public management and finance from Syracuse University’s Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. Presentation sponsored by ULI Triangle District Council.
James Rojas is an urban planner, community activist, and artist. He is one of the few nationally recognized urban planners to examine U.S. Latino cultural influences on urban planning/design. He holds a Master of City Planning and a Master of Science of Architecture Studies from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His influential thesis on the Latino built environment has been widely cited. Growing out of his research, Rojas founded the Latino Urban Forum (LUF), a volunteer advocacy group, dedicated to understanding and improving the built environment of Los Angeles’ Latino communities. Interactive planning is a new initiative developed by James Rojas designed to engage underserved communities and children in the planning process. This process breaks down the planning process into simple terms and helps participants translate conceptual planning ideas into physical forms. It serves as a valuable tool to inform and educate constituents about the value of planning through two primary methods.
Conference moderator:
Mary Newsom Mary Newsom is an associate editor, op-ed columnist and editorial board member at the Charlotte Observer, where she writes about metro growth, urban design, neighborhoods and the built environment, among other topics. She’s a graduate of UNC Chapel Hill. She was a fellow in the Knight Program in Community Building at the University of Miami in 2005-06, and studied as a Nieman Fellow at Harvard in 2007-08. She lives in a 1950s, inner-ring suburban neighborhood in Charlotte.




Clark Nexsen


Pearce Brinkley Cease + Lee


Adams Products Oldcastle
AIA Triangle
Christopher Counts Studio
ColeJenest & Stone
Duda/Paine Architects
Empire Properties
The Freelon Group Architects
Greenleaf Strategies, LLC
JDavis Architects
K&L Gates
Kimley-Horn and Associates, Inc.
North Carolina Solar Center
RATIO Architects
Rodgers Builders, Inc.
Office of Rodney Swink
ULI Triangle

Conference Advisory Committee

Adjunct Professor, Department of Landscape Architecture
NC State University College of Design

Robin Abrams, Ph.D., AIA, ASLA
Head, School of Architecture
NC State University College of Design

Elizabeth Alley
Planner II, City of Raleigh Urban Design Center

Kofi Boone
Assistant Professor, Department of Landscape Architecture
NC State University College of Design

Gene Bressler, FASLA
Head, Department of Landscape Architecture
NC State University College of Design

Douglas Brinkley, FAIA
Partner, Pearce Brinkley Cease + Lee

Nilda Cosco, Ph.D.
Education Specialist, The Natural Learning Initiative
NC State University College of Design

Sean A. Dolle, PE, LEED AP
Project Manager, Falcon Engineering

Daniel T. Douglas, AICP
Director of Urban Planning and Design, KlingStubbins

George Hallowell, AIA
Ph.D. in Design Student
NC State University College of Design

Paul Lipchak, AIA, LEED AP
Architect, The Freelon Group

Grant Meacci, ASLA, LEED AP
Division Manager, City of Raleigh Urban Design Center

Paul F. Morris, FASLA
President, Greenleaf Strategies, LLC

Rebecca Myers, MLA, LEED AP
Ph.D. in Design Student
NC State University College of Design

Celen Pasalar, Ph.D.
Assistant Dean for Research and Extension, Extension Associate Professor
NC State University College of Design

Mack Paul, LEED AP
Partner, K & L Gates LLP

Traci Rose Rider, Ph.D., Assoc. AIA, LEED AP
Director, Downtown Studio, Research Associate
NC State University College of Design
Partner, Trace Collaborative

Dona Stankus, AIA
Manager, High Performance Buildings Program
Director, NC Healthy Built Homes Program
NC State University NC Solar Center

Matthew Tomasulo, LEED AP
Dual Degree Candidate:
Master’s in Landscape Architecture, NC State University College of Design
Master of City and Regional Planning, UNC Chapel Hill

Ex officio

Dean Marvin J. Malecha, FAIA
NC State University College of Design

Mitchell J. Silver, AICP
Director, City of Raleigh Department of City Planning

Staff liaison

Jean Marie Livaudais
Director of Professional Relations
NC State University College of Design