2016 Design for Evolving Downtowns

13th Annual Urban Design Conference

Design for Evolving Downtowns: People. Place. Practice.

Friday, March 18, 2016 at the Sheraton Raleigh Hotel

DesignForEvolvingDownTowns_LogoDowntowns are in a continual process of evolution in response to global changes—demographic swings, lifestyle trends, increased mobility, capital availability, resource scarcity, and other shifting factors. By understanding these factors and their impact on the built environment, designers play a lead role in shaping the evolution of downtowns. The 2016 Urban Design Conference will explore the role of people, places, and models of practice in designing for our ever-changing urban cores, with particular focus on the public realm, housing, development innovation, social justice, and transportation.

Approved for 7 hrs. AIA, AICP credit and7.25 hrs. NCBOLA credit.

Keynote Speakers:

Tom Balsley, FASLA | Thomas Balsley Associates
Tami Door | Downtown Denver Partnership
Adam Glaser, AIA, Leed AP | Benjamin’s Desk
Stockton Williams | Terwilliger Center for Housing
Dr. Robin Abrams, FAIA, ASLA | FRAMER | NC State College of Design
Elizabeth Alley, AICP | MODERATOR

Sheraton Raleigh Hotel

Pre-Conference Opportunities – Thursday, March 17:
City Center Segway Tours
Workshop: Why Urban Design (Still) Matters 
Free Public Lecture: Bridging the Gap Between History and Possibility


Clancy & Theys Construction Company
Clark Nexsen
McAdams Company


Adams an Oldcastle Company
AIA Triangle
Balfour Beatty Construction
Clearscapes, PA
Cline Design Associates
ColeJenest & Stone, PA
Danis Construction Company
DHM Design
Duda | Paine Architects
Empire Properties
Highwoods Properties
Holt Brothers Construction
JDavis Architects
Surface 678
ULI Triangle

Media support provided by NC ASLA and AIA NC.
Header photo credit: Jordan Petersen

In collaboration with the Raleigh Department of City Planning and supported by the NC State Foundation.

Call for Case Study Presentations

Conference committee members of Design for Evolving Downtowns: People, Place, Practice, are seeking presenters to come forward with case study presentations. Do you have a case study related to urban resilience that our conference participants would find valuable? Let us know! Information below.

Each case study presentation is expected to be approximately 20 minutes long with an additional 5 minutes for questions.

The case study presented (preferably one project, but no more than two) should describe a project example that advances methods for downtown design as a solution to one or more of the following issues/concerns:

  • open space
  • affordable housing
  • development innovation
  • social justice
  • public transportation
  • economic impact of design

The selection committee will evaluate your proposal based on the following criteria:

  • How the case study advances the understanding of designing for downtowns.
  • Overall quality and potential to contribute to a well-balanced conference program
  • Ability of the proposed case study to provide relevance to the Mid-South region (The case study does not have to be in the our region, but it must have transferable qualities to the region.)
  • Speaker’s experience
  • Ability of the presentation to contribute to the continuing education needs of architects, landscape architects and planners.

Monday, February 1, 2016 (end of day). You will be notified of your status by Wednesday, February 10.

Presenters will be granted a complimentary registration to the conference. (Past conferences have conferred 7 hours of AIA/HSW, NCBOLA and AICP credits, as well as GBCI for LEED AP.)

Case study presentations will be paired by topic for each session by the selection committee. Presenters will be asked to have their presentation available on a thumb drive as well as bring a personal laptop with their presentation on a hard drive for back-up.

Conference Schedule

Thursday, March 17
City Center Segway Tours | 1:00 to 2:30 pm or 2:00 to 3:30 pm
Free Public Lecture: Bridging the Gap Between History and Possibility | 6:00 to 7:30 pm

Click here for details on these pre-conference opportunities

Friday, March 18

7:15am Registration and check-in opens/Continental Breakfast Buffet
8:00am Welcome and Opening Remarks by Dr. Robin Abrams, FAIA, ASLA, NC State Design School of Architecture
8:30am Keynote presentation by Tom Balsley, FASLA | Thomas Balsley Associates
9:30am PANEL DISCUSSION: “What Makes Downtowns Vibrant?” led by Jackie Turner, AICP, LEED AP

  • David Diaz | Downtown Raleigh Alliance
  • Roberta Fox, AIA, ASLA | City of Raleigh Urban Design Center
  • Emil Malizia, FAICP | UNC Department of City & Regional Planning
  • George Stanziale, ASLA | STEWART
11:00am Keynote Presentation by Stockton Williams | ULI Terwilliger Center for Housing
Noon Lunch Buffet
12:30pm Case Study Break-Out Sessions
1:45pm Adam Glaser, AIA, LEED AP | Benjamin’s Desk
3:15pm Tami Door | Downtown Denver Project
4:15pm Closing Remarks by Dr. Robin Abrams, FAIA, ASLA
4:45pm ADJOURN


Videos of keynote presentations and panel discussion can be found here.


Thomas Balsley, FASLAUncommon Ground – Transforming Downtowns with Iconic Shared Spaces
Founder and Principal, Thomas Balsley Associates

Mr. Balsley’s urban parks, plazas, and waterfronts that have successfully transformed neighborhoods and cities of varying scale will be presented as case studies with particular emphasis on effective strategies for advocacy planning and public support, as well as specific design approaches that led to their public embrace. With each case and its compelling images will come the fascinating backstories of political intrigue, stakeholders with conflicting interest, and physical/environmental constraints that can be valuable nuggets of understanding when designing and managing design in the complex public realm.

It is incumbent upon all designers to search for ways to direct their expertise and passion beyond conventional sustainability measures and into the urban arena where millions of lives can be enhanced. In our dense downtowns, how can we reconcile the sometimes competing interests of environmental, social, and economic sustainability? Advocating for urban public open spaces, from large to small, and ensuring the long-term health of a city is critically linked to our role in making cities livable. Our role as design leaders in the public realm requires guile, as well as passion and technical knowledge or creativity.

The participants will learn new subtle approaches to designing within and managing the public process with complex diverse stakeholder groups. Effective strategies for achieving excellence in this process will include effective stakeholder outreach, dialogue and management, presentation tactics, and collaborative design approaches, taking into account program synergies between spatial flexibility, public furniture, food and beverage, urban dog runs, and lighting, to name a few. The case will be made that design excellence and iconography can emerge from a meaningful public process and “listening” forever ensures the sustained success of our public spaces.

Watch Thomas Balsley’s presentation.

Stockton Williams:  New Neighborhoods Downtown – Solving for the Housing Equation(s)
Executive Director, Urban Land Institute Terwiliger Center for Housing

Downtowns in many cities have emerged in recent years as vibrant housing markets. As downtowns become more viable as residential neighborhoods they increasingly confront issues familiar to more traditional neighborhoods: ensuring a balanced supply of market rate and affordable housing options, meeting the evolving lifestyle needs of different households types, and ensuring delivery of services and amenities that residents need and expect This session will explore the economic, demographic, and real estate factors driving the current trends in downtown residential development. Stockton Williams, Executive Director of the Urban Land Institute Terwilliger Center for Housing, will discuss an array of approaches and examples from U.S. cities.

Watch Stockton Williams’ presentation. Lecture sponsored by ULI Triangle.

Adam Glaser, AIA, LEED AP: CoUrbanism: Startups, CoWorking and the New American Downtown
Chief Design Officer, Benjamin’s Desk

Over the past few decades, enormous forces have shaped post-war American downtowns, including the spread of large companies; corporate real estate strategies and private automobiles. Today, historic changes effecting all these forces are disrupting our cities – fueled by new partnerships connecting companies, institutions and entrepreneurs in unprecedented ways. Going forward, architects and urban designers must leverage these trends to foster cities that are more dynamic, creative and equitable.

One new real estate strategy that epitomizes these trends is CoWorking – a prominent, but still nascent model that promises to revolutionize how we work, collaborate and utilize real estate. In the coming years, CoWorking offers a chance to transform American downtowns from transaction-centered, real estate holdings into dynamic, flexible networks of talent informed by flexibility, economy and place-making.

Watch Adam Glaser’s presentation.

Tami Door: Connecting Everyone to Everything: Mobility in the Center City
President and CEO, Downtown Denver Partnership

Cities across the country are at various stages in the development of their mobility systems, ranging from trains and buses to shuttles and streetcars. The effective build out and integration of these systems calls for a holistic approach to leverage housing, retail, office and public space benefits.

Through significant strategic planning, Downtown Denver has built a regional transit system with Denver as its hub. Through the engagement of the community, urban planners, architects and designers, the hub has become a high density mixed-use neighborhood. The new transit platform has been complemented by an expansion of Downtown circulator shuttles, bike infrastructure and car share programs. Denver’s approach and progress provides insight in to the importance of innovation, inclusion and integration in the development of successful mobility programs in Downtowns.

Watch Tami Door’s presentation.

PANEL DISCUSSION: What Makes Downtowns Vibrant?

Led by Jackie Turner, AICP, LEED AP | RATIO


  • David Diaz | Downtown Raleigh Alliance
  • Roberta Fox, AIA, ASLA | City of Raleigh Urban Design Center
  • Emil Malizia, FAICP | UNC Department of City & Regional Planning
  • George Stanziale, ASLA | STEWART

Watch panel discussion.

Speaker Biographies

Thomas-Balsley-headshot_smallTom Balsley, FASLA

Thomas Balsley, FASLA is the founder and principal designer of Thomas Balsley Associates, a New York City-based design firm best known for its fusion of landscape and urbanism in public parks and plazas. For over 35 years, Mr. Balsley has created public spaces that enrich the community through landscape architecture and urban design. His work often exists in the margins of the city, the industrial edges, the waterfronts and vestigial spaces found in and around the urban grid. Mr. Balsley has reshaped social and cultural spaces around the world by sparking the public’s imagination with robust sustainable landscapes that are teeming with public life and a source of civic pride. In New York City alone, Mr. Balsley has completed more than 100 parks and plazas including the 2014 ASLA Honor award-winning Hunter’s Point South across the East River from the UN, Riverside Park South, Gantry Plaza State Park, Chelsea Waterside Park, Peggy Rockefeller Plaza, Capitol Plaza and the recently completed plaza 51 Astor Place across from Cooper Union. His impact throughout the United States can be seen in iconic new downtown spaces such as Main Street Garden in Dallas, West Shore Park at Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, Cleveland’s Perk Park, and Denver’s Skyline Park in Denver. The award-winning Curtis Hixon Park in Tampa has proven a worthy example of the ways in which Balsley fuses urban design, programming, and innovative landscape architecture in ways that public and private interest are best served. His work appears in numerous publications including LAM, Architectural Record, Topos, Japan Landscape, Sculpture, I.D., KLA, and more. Mr. Balsley was recently awarded the 2015 ASLA Design Medal for body of exceptional work.

T.Door_smallTamara (Tami) Door

Tami Door is the President & CEO of the Downtown Denver Partnership, a membership organization that creatively plans and manages Downtown Denver so that it remains vibrant and economically healthy. The Partnership dedicates its efforts to development, retail, public policy, transportation and housing initiatives. The Partnership currently has over 600 member businesses. In addition, her organization produces popular community events that bring more than one million people Downtown each year, including A Taste of Colorado, the 9News Parade of Lights, and New Year’s Eve Fireworks Downtown. The Partnership led an 18-month process to create a twenty-year vision for Downtown, the Downtown Area Plan. It was formally adopted by City Council in July of 2007 and is now in its implementation phase. Door serves as co-chairman of the 2027 Committee which is responsible for driving implementation of the Plan.

AdamGlaser_smallAdam Glaser, AIA, LEED AP

Adam is the Chief Design Officer of Benjamin’s Desk, a coworking community for mobile professionals, entrepreneurs & startups, with more than 25 years of experience in architecture and planning. He specializes in mixed-use, science-based design for research universities and anchor institutions. Adam’s work encompasses a wide range of projects for numerous clients including the University of California, Berkeley, Pennsylvania State University, Wexford Equities, Forest City Enterprises, Pfizer and Amgen. He has also taught design at several institutions, including Washington University in St. Louis and at the University of Pennsylvania. Deeply committed to urbanism, Adam has served as a resource for the Mayor’s Institute on City Design and is involved in university-based initiatives with the Association of University Research Parks and the Urban Land Institute.

Stockton Williams_ULI-smallStockton Williams

Stockton Williams is Executive Director of the Urban Land Institute Terwilliger Center for Housing, which represents the interests and priorities of ULI’s 36,000 members in all aspects of residential land use and development, including a deep commitment to affordable and workforce housing. Stockton has more than 20 years’ national experience in housing and economic policy, research, advocacy, and development and has held senior leadership positons in the public, private, and nonprofit sectors. Before joining ULI in January 2015 was Managing Principal of the Washington, DC office of HR&A Advisors, which advises cities across the U.S. on complex real estate and economic development projects. Prior to joining HR&A, Stockton served as Senior Advisor in two Federal Cabinet agencies: the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the U.S. Department of Energy. He has also been Senior Vice President and Chief Strategy Officer at Enterprise Community Partners; a Senior Advisor at Living Cities; a Senior Legislative and Policy Associate at the National Council of State Housing Agencies; and a developer of affordable housing. He is Chairman of the Board of Groundswell, an innovator in harnessing community economic power for the common good. He holds an M.S. from Columbia University and a B.A. from Princeton University.

Case Study Presentations

with David Diaz, moderator

Kris Larson | Downtown Grand Rapids, Inc. : Incorporating Equity and Inclusion into Planning

The crux of the presentation will focus on how an asset-based traditional Downtown strategic planning process (entitled GR Forward) pivoted to expand its scope to propose the first set of community metrics to support greater social equity and inclusion. GR Forward brings together ideas from thousands of Grand Rapidians who collectively imagine a transformed waterfront, a thriving commercial and residential Downtown neighborhood, and a better transportation network for their City’s future.

GR Forward envisions a Downtown and Grand River corridor where all people and communities come together and thrive –regardless of race, ethnicity, age, gender, sexual orientation, language, income, ability and other identity markers. This collaborative planning effort sought out new and better solutions to ensure that ALL Grand Rapidians have the opportunity to participate and thrive in the “new” Grand Rapids.

Jedidiah Gant | Myriad Media : Citizen, Informed: Hybrid Media Infrastructure for Raleigh

Citizen, Informed proposes a new Hybrid Media Infrastructure, overlapping technologies on top of physical space to create new types of media infrastructure to be used in urban settings. These new types of media infrastructure and Digital Urbanism are a new way to look at our current cities and how they are transitioning in the mobile world. As more people move back to cities, bringing with them a large amount of technology and mobile devices, this type of infrastructure is necessary for our future urban landscape.

The project is an investigation into the next generation of urban technology for the City of Raleigh. It proposes a model to help citizens to be more involved in their urban surroundings through technological interventions located and connected all across the city. These interventions, a system of four types of urban frameworks, can be implemented in any city to create a future standard for digital urban life.

with Dan Douglas, AICP, moderator 

Andy Boenau, AICP | Timmons Group : Parking: Bike Infrastructure Nemesis

Few issues are as contentious in downtown projects as parking. Americans want convenient parking in front of every door they enter. In the last few years, there has been growing support for bike infrastructure in Virginia cities.

In 2014, Richmond began its effort to implement the bicycle master plan by launching a design study for the first bike boulevard in Richmond. The proposed Floyd Avenue Bike Boulevard was a two-mile corridor through a residential district and the Virginia Commonwealth University campus. The project included a mobile workshop through the study area, public workshops, and education sessions about traffic calming and bike accommodations. 

The overwhelming consensus was that people wanted bike infrastructure in the City. And yet the project was nearly scrapped more than once – because of a demand for on-street parking. Design techniques were not a challenge; persuasion was a challenge. Ultimately a design concept was approved and the Floyd Avenue Bike Boulevard is expected to be completed during spring 2016.

Ken Bowers, AICP | City of Raleigh + Trisha Hasch | City of Raleigh : Connections That Count: Raleigh’s Downtown Plan

This presentation explores Raleigh’s new downtown plan, including the background, planning process and implications of the current development plan.  It will discuss why the breakdown of the vision, framework, themes, catalytic project areas, and priorities work for the next stage of Downtown development. 

The presentation will focus on recommended development activities, public realm enhancements, revitalization initiatives, transportation infrastructure priorities, and public-private partnerships and will also discuss how the planning process engendered widespread public engagement, how the implementation strategy will unfold and what are the anticipated successes. 

with Rodney Swink, FASLA, moderator 

Walt Havener, RLA, LEED AP | Surface 678 + Kimberly Van Dyk | City of Wilson, NC : Embracing Uniqueness: Culture-Based Economic Development

One of the key initiatives resulting from the City of Wilson’s 2030 Comprehensive plan was the creation of a public park in the downtown’s Historic Tobacco Warehouse District. The project highlights the work of Wilson’s most famous folk artist, the now late Vollis Simpson, creator of the Whirligig sculptures. The authenticity and uniqueness of the park became a calling card for the community to draw developers interested in revitalization and historic preservation work. One of the driving factors in the project’s success was the effort of a grassroots group of volunteers that were passionate about the vision for the world-class park and the idea of creative placemaking. Creative placemaking partners public, private, not-for-profit, and community sectors to strategically shape the physical and social character around arts and cultural activities. The session will explore the challenges, successes, lessons learned, and impact of a culture-based economic development.

Emily McCoy, RLA, ASLA | Andropogon Associates : Preserving & Retrofitting Cultural Resources for Tomorrow: A Look at Adaptive Management of 2 Historic Psychiatric Hospitals

After the de-institutionalization of America’s psychiatric system, many historic facilities built during the Dix and Kirkbride-era of social reform in the mid-1800’s were decommissioned, abandoned and/or sold for adaptive reuse. Many local and state governments have struggled with how to economically sustain these facilities for public good, while maintaining their unique cultural and natural stories. This presentation will look at 2 successful case studies with two very different approaches to adaptive management of these campuses- Richardson Olmsted Complex in Buffalo, NY and St. Elizabeths West Campus in Washington, DC.

The new design for the Richardson Center Corporation enhances and transforms the Richardson Olmsted Complex, a National Historic Landmark, to serve as an important new civic space that provides access to a new hotel, conference center, and architecture center within the City of Buffalo. 

The redevelopment of St. Elizabeths West Campus, under the guidance of the General Services Administration (GSA), involved the rehabilitation of a historic campus to house new offices for various federal agencies in southeast Washington, D.C., including historic rehabilitation and green infrastructure to support the upgraded campus.

with Clymer Cease, FAIA, moderator

William Eubanks, FASLA, LEED AP | Urban Edge Studio of SW+ : Urban Farm: The Medical University of South Carolina Urban Farm

The Medical University of South Carolina created a half acre urban farm in the heart of their urban campus in Charleston, South Carolina. This farm has had a transformative effect on the MUSC and the City of Charleston and has impacted the lives of employees, students, patients, and families. The urban farm is a place where people can learn to grow their own food and understand the benefits of eating healthy, fresh food. This case study will explore how the project came into being and how it it used today. The case study will also touch on the nearby Medicinal Garden, adjacent to the Drug Discovery Building, as a companion project to the Urban Farm. Both projects address the role of healthy food in creating a healthy community.

Patty West, PLA | Andropogon Associates Bartram’s Mile: The New, Old Waterfront is Still Working

Left over, post-industrial waterfronts represent a significant opportunity to reclaim large tracts of open space in typically under-served areas, re-establish connections back to urban waterfronts and re-define what the waterfront means to our cities as we move away from a manufacturing-based economy in many of our older cities and towns.

Large portions of Philadelphia’s waterfront had been heavily used for decades; modified for specific purposes and then left sitting derelict with the residue of former use still in the soil and water.  In this case, also adjacent to low-income housing projects and poor neighborhoods which more often than not,  bear the brunt of living next to environmental contamination and then typically get pushed out once the area is cleaned up and desirable again.

The Bartram’s Mile project is currently in construction after three years of community outreach/engagement, multi-agency coordination, fundraising, planning/design and a significant clean-up effort, all of which are still ongoing. It represents the first phase of transitioning over a mile stretch of waterfront adjacent to downtown and lays the groundwork for connecting and transforming an area that has been neglected and considered dangerous for years.

Conference Committee:

Principal, ClarkNexsen

Senior VP, Director of Design Studio, STEWART

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

Elizabeth Alley, AICP
Urban Designer + Planner

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

David Diaz
President & CEO, Downtown Raleigh Alliance

Sean Dolle
President, Grounded Engineering

Daniel Douglas, AICP
Senior Planner, Benchmark Planning

Lisa Esterrich, PLA
Landscape Architect, RATIO Architects

George Hallowell, Ph.D., AIA
Adjunct Professor
NC State University College of Design

Daniel Howe, FASLA, AICP
Adjunct Professor, Department of Landscape Architecture
NC State University College of Design

Robby Layton, FASLA
PhD Student, NC State University College of Design
Principal, Design Concepts

Paul Lipchak, AIA, AICP, LEED AP
Project Architect, RATIO Architects

Roula Qubain, AIA, LEED AP
Senior Associate, Moseley Architects

Graham Smith, ASLA
Principal, DHM Design

Michael Stevenson, FAIA

Rodney Swink, FASLA, PLA
Senior Associate for Planning and Development, PlaceEconomics
Adjunct Professor, Department of Landscape Architecture
NC State University College of Design

Ex officio

Interim Dean Art Rice, FCELA
NC State University College of Design

Ken Bowers, AICP
City Planning Director, City of Raleigh


Assistant Dean for External Relations
NC State University College of Design

Event and Program Specialist
NC State University College of Design