top of page

Street, suburb retrofits in the spotlight at the 57th IMCL conference IN PERSON, June 8-12

New zoning codes, street standards, sustainable energy systems, and much more will be examined in depth, at International Making Cities Livable (IMCL), a premiere peer-to-peer gathering of city leaders and researchers since 1985 -- this year in Carmel, Indiana, a successful laboratory of suburban retrofit innovations

Entrance to the Carmel Arts and Design District, a walkable mixed-use main street in Carmel, Indiana.

CARMEL - As the US approaches 100 million people with full vaccination against COVID-19, and many more poised to get the vaccine soon, preparations are in full swing for the 57th International Making Cities Livable (IMCL) conference. News about international travel is also more encouraging. Although we expect that all or virtually all attendees will have been vaccinated, our beautiful and spacious venue will still provide ample room for social distancing (photo below), and many tours and other activities will be outdoors.


NEWS UPDATE, APRIL 27th: The City of Carmel is now offering any registered attendee who has not been vaccinated a FREE Johnson and Johnson (one-shot) COVID-19 vaccination on arrival at the conference. This includes international travelers! Contact us for details at (Note: a negative COVID test may be required for travel.)


This will be an important opportunity to gather as we emerge from the pandemic -- too slowly and painfully -- and assess its many lessons for cities, towns, and suburbs. Our host city, Carmel, Indiana, is a splendid case study of street and suburb retrofit tools and strategies. We'll gather with representatives of other cities and towns too, and discuss their successes and lessons learned, and share their specific tools and strategies, as well as their lessons from the pandemic.

Among the key topics examined will be health and well-being, equity and affordability, transportation choice and walkability, age-friendly design, public space and social infrastructure, smart city technologies, and of course, ecological, low-carbon and energy-efficient innovations. Carmel is a showcase of many of these innovations, and our conference sponsors will present detailed case studies. Among them are Johnson Controls, Solential Energy, Inovis Energy, and Stockholm's KTH Royal Institute of Technology.

We'll also discuss new trends in urban design, architecture and placemaking, with help from a number of leading architects, planners and universities. But we'll focus especially on "how to do it," with detailed examination of tools and strategies, and lessons from multiple case studies demonstrating the latest innovations.

Our speakers include Ellen Dunham Jones, co-author of the new book Case Studies in Retrofitting Suburbia; Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, co-author of Suburban Nation; Chris Leinberger, author of The Option of Urbanism; Patrick Condon, Professor at the University of British Columbia, and author of Sick Cities: Disease, Race, Inequality and Urban Land; Andrew Rudd, Human Settlements Officer for UN-Habitat; Richard J. Jackson, MD, MPH, former Director, US National Center for Public Health at the CDC; Paul Mugambe, Mayor-elect for Kampala, Uganda (Nakawa Division); Sven von Ungern-Sternberg, former Mayor of Freiburg, Germany, and current governor of the region; and George Ferguson, former Mayor of Bristol, UK, and Past President of the Royal Institute of British Architects.

Speakers also include our host, Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard, whose formidable accomplishments in street and suburb retrofitting (with his able Carmel team) have earned a national and international reputation. We will learn about their many innovations, including skinny streets, extensive pedestrian and bike paths, and roundabouts. Here he is on the public radio program Freakonomics, discussing Carmel's remarkably low traffic fatality rate (just one-sixth of the national average):

This is attributable to roundabouts. Because almost all fatalities happen in intersections because of the conflicting traffic flows. We had no fatalities last year in our intersections. The fatalities were in other places, a motorcycle that collided with a tree. An elderly gentleman that walked out right in front of a vehicle, we’re not sure why he did that.

Ellen Dunham-Jones (left), another keynote speaker, is co-author of the new book Case Studies in Retrofitting Suburbia, a compendium of tools and strategies from successful examples across the USA. (Her co-author June Williamson is at right in the photo.) Here are excerpts from their interview in The New York Times about the book:

...According to [the authors], a growing number of design and planning schemes are helping to make suburbs more walkable, sociable, healthy and equitable.

“Case Studies in Retrofitting Suburbia: Urban Design Strategies for Urgent Challenges” (Wiley) features 32 projects through the lens of ambition, or rather six ambitions: reducing car dependency, boosting health, supporting seniors, promoting diversity and justice, creating job opportunities and protecting the environment. The book is a sequel to the authors’ 2008 “Retrofitting Suburbia” (and its 2011 update), which made their reputations as hopeful chroniclers of big boxes, dead malls and sunset strips...

Ellen Dunham-Jones: "Since 2005, more Americans in poverty have lived in the suburbs than have lived in cities. So there’s a great need to improve opportunities for the very poor and disadvantaged...."

June Williamson, co-author: "One of our main challenges [is] retrofitting to improve public health. And that’s something we learned more about since the first book — all of the interesting research that links the built environment to North Americans’ chronic levels of obesity and diabetes, and their lack of physical activity. Those are some of the complicating conditions that make this pandemic so much more risky and deadly...."

"Investing in planning, design and community processes early on costs little and can have really significant benefits further down the line. [In] the example of Wyandanch on Long Island, from 2000 to 2016 they calculated a 75-to-1 return-on-investment ratio from the public-sector investment to the new investment that came to that location. That’s pretty significant."

We hope you'll join us for this important IN PERSON conference in Carmel! More information is here.

50 views0 comments


bottom of page