Community Design Centers

Community Design Centers host physical space for interdisciplinary collaboration for city & community design. These centers convene citizens, academics, professionals and civic leaders to shape design options and decisions. 

Benefits & Problems Addressed

Participatory design: Centers are physically and programmatically designed to encourage interactive discussions on public spaces and civic projects. By holding a pen, all participants contribute to the final product

A well-equipped convening space:  Design centers can be established within government buildings or in a non-government space.  Off-site campuses signal a design process somewhat separate from government. There are also University-based centers that can take advantage of computer tools and design supplies.

Enrich the professional design community: In convening architects, planners, engineers and civic advocates around best practices, this elevates the quality of projects and the portfolios of local professionals who become more competitive,

Tips & Techniques

Getting started: Off-site centers are candidates where there are two or more stakeholders willing to initiate a center, and can include a college/University, a non-profit, or philanthropic group. If these are not available, establishing a pop-up center within a government building can establish a separate space.

Types of projects: Design centers can tackle upcoming plan updates (comprehensive or sector plans) or specific civic projects (a park, civic building), Centers can also host commission training, 101, speaker series and other events. Design studios are good venues for testing new software and mobile apps, design contests, and brainstorming.

Success factors: Support from city/county management is critical to ensure contributions make their way into projects and plans. Predictable funding for space is critical. Strategic partnerships ensure broad networks, staffing & expertise, and outreach to neighborhoods not usually active in design.

Growing a program: Over time, centers can supply grants & competitive funding. Centers can also tackle regional and regulatory design challenges.

Hot Buttons: Lack of support from elected officials and city/county staff, on-going funding sources.


 Community Design Center of Rochester