Kennedy Smith is a principal and co-founder of the Community Land Use and Economics (CLUE) Group in Arlington, VA, a consulting firm that helps communities revitalize older commercial districts, preserve historic buildings, and weigh the economic pros and cons of development decisions. Before launching the CLUE Group in 2004, Kennedy served on the staff of the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s National Main Street Center for nearly 20 years, the last 13 years of them as its director. During her tenure the Main Street program grew to encompass more than 2000 communities, expanded from small towns to urban neighborhoods, and gained a reputation as one of the USA’s most effective economic development programs.
Kennedy is one of the nation’s leading advocates of preservation-based commercial district revitalization. Early in her career she crafted a retail market analysis methodology specifically for older downtowns, which she has used to help hundreds of communities strengthen the economies of their historic commercial corridors and to measure the impact of proposed commercial development. She has conducted research and provided testimony for a number of key land use decisions. She has served as a consultant to towns and cities in all 50 US states, Canada, the United Kingdom, Italy, and Singapore, and to organizations ranging from the World Bank to the US Army. In 2002, “Fast Company” magazine selected her for its first list of “Fast Fifty Champions of Innovation”, recognizing “creative thinkers whose sense of style and power of persuasion change what our world looks like and how our products perform.” She is a columnist for “Planning Commissioners Journal” and is a popular speaker on downtown revitalization issues.
Kennedy is concerned about the gradual erosion of programs that cultivate and support small retail businesses, about the impact of big-box retailers on communities, and on the effect of architectural design guidelines in historic commercial districts in discouraging creative new design. She explored these issues during her Loeb Fellowship, examining downtown retail trends, municipal tax policy, historic preservation policy, and the “cool cities” movement.