Community Design Collaborative director named to city planning commission

Community Design Collaborative Executive Director Elizabeth Kay Miller has been named to the Philadelphia City Planning Commission.

“I am very pleased to appoint someone with the qualifications, the imagination and the energy of Beth Miller,” said Mayor Michael Nutter in a written statement about the appointment. “She has demonstrated real leadership in the areas of planning and design for many years.”

Since 2001, Miller has led the Community Design Collaborative, an organization that connects local nonprofits with its network of 1,000 plus volunteer design professionals to provide pro bono design assistance in service to neighborhood revitalization.

In 2010, the Collaborative provided nearly $1 million and 9,500 volunteer hours in pro bono design assistance throughout the Philadelphia region, helping 46 nonprofit and public agencies strengthen neighborhoods through design.

Since 2005, the Collaborative has been known for its annual Infill Philadelphia initiative. The Collaborative picks a different topic each year – urban supermarkets and vacant industrial sites have been recent topics – and assigns teams of design volunteers to work on the problem for several non-profits.

“A big part of my work at the collaborative has been focused on neighborhood reinvestment, and I’m really interested in strengthening neighborhoods and how to engage the broad community – neighborhood residents, students, design professionals – in planning,” Miller said in an interview. She is interested in teaching people who are not design professionals about the importance of design, and how much it impacts everyone’s life. She is also interested in fostering as much non-professional involvement in design as possible. “Everybody has a role in design,” she said. “It takes everybody’s action and interest to make anything great.”

Miller said her nomination is “a huge honor,” and is especially exciting at a time when the city is very focused on planning. “ I do think it’s an opportunity to showcase how comprehensive planning and neighborhood planning can be done, and done well,” she said.

Miller said she will be spending a lot of time “listening and learning” on the Commission.

She holds a bachelors degree in the growth and structure of cities from Bryn Mawr College and a masters in government administration from the Fels Center of Government at the University of Pennsylvania.

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