Lynn Richards Named New President of CNU

Richards to Debut at CNU 22

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Nationally recognized smart growth expert Lynn Richards will become the next president and chief executive officer of CNU. Formerly with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Sustainable Communities, Richards will assume her role at CNU July 1.

Richards has had a distinguished career at EPA, including authoring significant research and implementing policy changes at the federal, state, and local levels.  She helped break down roadblocks and coordinate funding among HUD, DOT, EPA and other agencies that affect the built and natural environment.  As an urban design expert, Richards has worked on placemaking issues with state and local governments, helping them reimagine their towns and cities.

“Lynn is dynamic and motivating,” said incoming Board Chair Doug Farr. “I’m excited to work with her to build CNU’s core asset—our fearless and creative members. Together, we will inspire designers, planners, and community advocates everywhere to build places people love.”

“I’m thrilled to be joining CNU, “ says Richards. “We want to see more great places built. We want to build neighborhoods where more people can walk and bike. We want to create more vibrant and prosperous places that celebrate great design and development approaches. To do this, we need to road-test innovative designs and policies, leverage the collective strength of our chapters together with allied state, regional and local organizations, and expand our partnerships.”  

Richards joins CNU at a defining moment. Across the country, people are demanding neighborhoods where they can live, work, shop and play. Market studies and demographics clearly support this trend, and local governments and developers are responding. The tide is turning, but more needs to be done. Local land use regulations still heavily support single-family, large-lot development; antiquated financing rules create barriers to building walkable urban places; and federal policies continue to subsidize sprawl at $450 billion a year.

 CNU is perfectly poised to address these issues. “Since starting the national dialogue on the value of urban places more than two decades ago, CNU has pursued a comprehensive reworking of local and national standards to both permit and promote urbanism,” said Farr.

Members will get their first chance to meet Richards at CNU 22, June 4-7 in Buffalo, NY. CNU has more than 3,000 members and 17 U.S. chapters, and CNU 22 will expand national conversations about sustainability, transportation, architecture, urban design and public health. Speakers such as architect Robert A.M. Stern, former Bogota mayor and current Colombia presidential candidate Enrique Penalosa, Toronto planning director Jennifer Keesmaat, UK “shared streets” guru Benjamin Hamilton-Baillie, and newly appointed head of the Office of Economic Resiliency Harriet Tregoning will kick-start conversations about what’s next for cities, the movement and CNU members.

“Lynn’s track record of forging strategic alliances to implement changes to state and federal policies will be a major asset to CNU,” said board chair Ellen Dunham-Jones, who led the search committee for the CEO position. “She will accelerate CNU’s work reforming regulations and easing the connection of affordable housing to affordable transportation and the creation of great streets & networks, health districts, low carbon communities, sprawl retrofits, competitive financing for Main Street buildings, district scale water, heating and power systems and all of the other great new urban initiatives. At the same time, her passion and respect for design—the core value guiding CNU’s past, present and future—will keep design front and center.”

Richards was awarded a Loeb Fellowship at Harvard's Graduate School of Design for the 2012-2013 academic year. Prior to EPA, Richards lived and worked in the former Soviet Republics from 1988 to 1995, helping environmental groups increase their organizational and political effectiveness.  She holds a Masters of Science in Environmental Science and a Masters in Public Affairs from Indiana University. She is passionate about cycling, calling her tandem bike “the family station wagon.”

Richards succeeds John Norquist, CNU’s president and CEO since 2004.  Norquist, the former four-term mayor of Milwaukee and author of The Wealth of Cities, will teach real estate and public policy issues and plans to write a new book. More on John's illustrious career here.