It's been an amazing year.

Lynn Richards, Monday, July 27, 2015

July 2014 to July 2015.  One year. 

This month marks my one-year anniversary as CNU’s President and CEO.  Over the past twelve months, I have been humbled by the warm welcome and support CNU’s members have given me. The other day, my friend Jim Drinan—the new Executive Director of APA—asked me about the favorite part of the job. Without hesitation, I said, “the members.” 

I have also been inspired. CNU members demonstrate incredible dedication to our mission. Over the past twelve months, I have said countless times that CNU members are THE thought leaders of the placemaking movement. We are the planners, designers, architects, engineers, and advocates that are hired, consulted, and sought after to help reimagine a failing town center, preserve a historic building, develop a new town, or transform a congested corridor. 

It’s this dedication and leadership that will enable us to catalyze and lead national and local efforts to significantly scale up the implementation of new urbanist practices. We are at a tipping point: cities are cool, and people want to live in places that are beautiful and have access to jobs, stores, and green spaces. People want neighborhoods where they can walk, bike, grab a bus, or jump in their own—or the neighborhood shared—car. They want to live in places where community is created, where visitors return, and residents don’t want to leave. 

This is OUR moment. This is the moment in time we have been waiting for since the first Congress in Alexandria, VA in 1993. To take advantage of this moment, we need to work with more partners. We need beautiful designs that serve all socio-economic demographics. And we need to evolve how we talk and write about great places.

At CNU National, we have spent the last twelve months addressing these and other needs. Together, we are working to build a stronger CNU—one that can better amplify our members’ efforts and accelerate the pace of change. Our efforts have included:

  • Launching a new website. The completely new and revamped reflects the extraordinary design tradition of the organization. We wanted to create a platform that invited a conversation with audiences that recognize the potential of New Urbanism. We wanted lots of photos showcasing CNU members’ work and a place where we could post new resources from our members and partner organizations. 
    • With this website, we are also launching our #iamcnu and #thisiscnu campaigns. I previewed these campaigns in Dallas, but the new website officially launches these efforts to highlight the amazing work of our members.
  • Holding an amazing Congress in Dallas and Ft. Worth in April. Many new and returning participants commented on the renewed energy of the Congress, the number of younger attendees, and new speakers and topics. Highlights included:
    • Antwi Akom challenging us to think differently about equity, diversity, and our work in communities. 
    • New Urbanist rock star Peter Calthorpe opening his plenary talk with “I’m back.”
    • Red-dotted first timers feeling welcomed, included, and enjoying the free drink tickets.
    • A tactical urbanism installation in Deep Ellum by NextGen (if you missed it, check it out at:  
    • CNU’s Legacy Charrette program launching with design workshops in Garland, Ft Worth, and Burleson Texas. A fourth site in Dallas will be completed this summer. 
    • Announcing our first-ever class of CNU Fellows.
  • Opening our new DC office. CNU is currently co-located with the Urban Land Institute, keeping with our commitment to strengthen our current relationships with organizations that share CNU’s goals and to forge new alliances with like-minded partners. 
  • Holding our first-ever Chapter retreat in January, with 13 chapters participating, including our newly minted 17th Chapter in Utah. I also had the pleasure of traveling to and meeting with chapter leaders in: New England, Atlanta, Georgia, California, New York, North Texas, Michigan, Cascadia, Washington, D.C., and Ontario, Canada.   
  • Actively engaging on issues that accelerate changes at the state and local level—making us more than just a member services organization. Select projects include:
  • Our new municipal membership program, which includes a customized training on “Creating Great Places: A Core Curriculum.” We road tested the curriculum in Wauwatosa, WI, this winter and are excited about the potential and impact of this program.  
  • CNU Equity + Transportation Summit at the Ford Foundation last Fall. The summit, which featured Mindy Fullilove (author of “Root Shock”), challenged a number of CNU assumptions on community engagement, and transportation planning and implementation. 
  • CNU and partners submitted comments to HUD’s Federal Housing Authority on financing reform for financing 3- and 4-story mixed-use buildings.
  • Building and expanding partnerships with AARP, APA, AIA, ULI, CDC, Eco Districts, Strong Towns, and America Walks, to name a few. Creating a powerful social impact network allows CNU to leverage and amplify our work and the work of our members and partners.  

There’s more, of course. We selected the 2015 Charter Award winners, brought in-house Rob Steuteville and Better! Cities and Towns, and engaged in a number of member-led efforts such as R John Anderson’s Developer Boot Camp and the Health Districts project.

I want to thank each of you for the kindness, generosity of time and spirit, and patience you have given me over the past year. It is because of your efforts that we will continue to be not only placemakers, but change makers. Working together, we can fully realize the vision of our Charter and of every single CNU member.

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