Urban Studio

Auburn University’s Urban Studio

While Auburn University’s Rural Studio gets plenty of attention, its counterpart, Birmingham-based Urban Studio, has also made a lasting and beneficial impact on Alabama communities. The Urban Studio was founded in 1991 as an outreach initiative to seek out projects to engage students and make Birmingham and Alabama towns a better place to live. Its Small Town Design Initiative, developed by former Urban Studio Director Cheryl Morgan, expanded the Urban Studio philosophy of promoting good design and planning statewide, serving more than 70 Alabama neighborhoods and communities. Alex Krumdieck is director.

Photo Credit: Auburn University’s Urban Studio


Your Town Alabama

Your Town Alabama

“This is the workshop full of love, information and learning to help build our community,” said a participant of Your Town Alabama, a program that leverages a town’s assets – economic, historic/cultural and natural resources – to revitalize and invigorate the town. The first workshop was in 1998, adapted from a National Trust for Historic Preservation program. Alabama was the first state to implement the program and more than 1,000 citizen-leaders have participated in the 2 ½-day workshop. Partners include the Alabama Historical Commission, the Alabama State Council on the Arts, DesignAlabama, CAWACO RC&D, University of Alabama’s Center for Economic Development and Auburn University’s Rural Studio.

Photo Credit: Your Town Alabama


Alabama Innovation Engine

Alabama Innovation Engine

Alabama Innovation Engine – the name conveys it all – converting the power of new ideas into motion. Funded by the University of Alabama’s Center for Economic Development and Auburn University’s Urban Studio, the organization is a design-based community development initiative that fosters large scale constructive change by the use of design to encourage economic development in Alabama’s rural communities. The aim is to support communities as they realize the potential of their greatest resources. Partnerships are built between mission-driven organizations and design firms to create opportunities for design to have an impact on local innovation projects.

Photo Credit: Alabama Innovation Engine


Main Street Alabama

Main Street Alabama

Community-led revitalization is challenging work and Main Street Alabama makes it easier by offering towns the resources, technical services and educational offerings to help navigate downtown and commercial district management.   Main Street Alabama was incorporated in 2010 and before that time the Alabama Historical Commission served as the state Main Street coordinating program, providing guidance, support, services and certification to communities. Main Street Alabama follows the nationwide Main Street model that has been successful in many states by using its proven method of leveraging local assets to create sustainable and comprehensive revitalization plans. 

Photo credit: Main Street Alabama


Alabama Communities of Excellence

Alabama Communities of Excellence

Alabama is fortunate to have many organizations working to improve the quality of life in communities. Alabama Communities of Excellence (ACE) is one of these organizations.  Founded in 2002, the nonprofit ACE partners with the private and public sectors as well as universities to help communities with a population of 2,000-18,000 achieve their goals in three phases. Phase 1 is assessment; Phase 2 involves leadership development and strategic planning; and Phase 3 implementation and comprehensive planning. After completion, communities get an ACE designation and are recognized by the Alabama League of Municipalities.

Photo credit: Alabama Communities of Excellence




Communities across Alabama are thriving thanks to the ongoing efforts of DesignAlabama. Incorporated in 1987, the Montgomery-based nonprofit organization unites design professionals and citizens to create master plans for community development and downtown revitalization, along with supporting other organizations with similar goals. Programs include: Alabama Mayor’s Design Summit that brings together mayors to address their community design issues; DesignPlace in which professionals visit selected communities to offer assistance with design, planning and community identity; and Connectivity that provides itineraries for discovering Alabama’s people and places. Gina Clifford serves as executive director.

Photo credit: DesignAlabama