Mayor Mike Duggan announced today the appointment Maurice Cox as Detroit’s new Planning Director.
Cox was born and educated in New York City. He received his bachelor's in architecture from the prestigious Cooper Union School of Architecture and was awarded the Loeb Fellowship at the Harvard Graduate School of Design. Early in his career, he taught for Syracuse University’s Architecture Program in Florence, Italy, while practicing architecture in Florence for ten years. He also holds an honorary degree from the University of Detroit – Mercy.
Cox has received national acclaim as a leader in community design and is widely respected for his ability to incorporate active citizen participation into the urban design and planning process. He has a reputation for developing bold – yet achievable – plans that become tools for civic discourse and empowerment, embraced by diverse sectors of the community. His approach led Fast Company business magazine to name him one of America’s “20 Masters of Design” for his practice of “democratic design.”
He served as the design director of the National Endowment for the Arts in Washington, and in that capacity, he led the selection of NEA design grants and leadership programs such as the Mayor’s Institute on City Design, which prepares mayors to be the chief urban designers of their cities.
Cox comes to Detroit from his most recent dual position of director of the Tulane City Center, a community-based design resource center for New Orleans and associate dean for Community Engagement at the Tulane University School of Architecture, where he facilitates a wide range of partnerships between Tulane University, the New Orleans Redevelopment Authority and the City of New Orleans.
Previously, Cox taught at the University of Virginia, where his appreciation of the civic process led to his public service as city councilmember and then mayor of the City of Charlottesville, Virginia, from 1996-2004.
During Cox’s mayoral term (2002-2004) the city was ranked as the “#1 Best Place to Live in the USA & Canada” by Frommer’s Cities Ranked and Rated. Under his leadership, Charlottesville completed several urban design initiatives, including the passage of an award-winning zoning ordinance in support of mixed-use, pedestrian-oriented development; new infill residential neighborhoods and mixed-income, higher-density housing; and the design of a new, two-mile, federally funded parkway entrance into the city.
As required under the City Charter, Mayor Duggan has submitted Cox’s name to City Council for its consideration.
Focus on Neighborhoods
Duggan praised Cox, with his international perspective and track record of community involvement, as a perfect fit for the position of Planning Director.
“We continue to build an administration that represents a mix of the best talent from Detroit and around the country,” Mayor Duggan said. “Adding a Planning Director the caliber of Maurice Cox will strengthen our efforts to improve all of Detroit’s neighborhoods.”
With new businesses and residential developments already going strong in downtown and midtown, Mayor Duggan has charged Cox with focusing his energies on developing strategies to strengthen existing neighborhoods and reuse land in largely vacant areas of the city.
Mayor Duggan has expressed an interest in exploring new uses for large tracts of vacant city land, including green infrastructure to reduce storm water run-off and appropriate urban agriculture. He also has talked about creating more densely populated and walk able urban neighborhoods throughout the city that are sustainable unto themselves with a diversity of residents and small businesses.
Cox thanked Mayor Duggan for this opportunity and said he hopes to build from the uniqueness of Detroit while bringing new ideas that represent the best of what he's seen and done elsewhere.
“Detroit has a once in a lifetime opportunity to re-imagine the American city, transforming an abundance of land into a valuable community asset. We can take advantage of Detroit’s many historic neighborhoods to create new urban housing anchored by revitalized commercial corridors, parks and greenways, all working together to enhance the quality of life in this city for everyone,” Cox said. “Detroit is well positioned to be the place where urban innovation and economic opportunity intersect, creating a new kind of sustainable city--one that is equitable, just and simply more beautiful.”
Pending approval from City Council, Cox will begin immediately on a part-time basis until May, when he completes his last semester at Tulane.