Rip Rapson with Maurice Cox and Toni Griffin, “Designing Detroit”: A Decade of Change and Transformation”

Rip Rapson, Maurice Cox, and Toni Griffin

Join Rip Rapson, president of the Kresge Foundation, and urban planners and designers Maurice Cox and Toni L. Griffin in a discussion about the complex design, economic and political innovations required to create transformational change for the city that helped create the American Dream.



Rip Rapson is president and CEO of The Kresge Foundation, a $3.6 billion private, national foundation dedicated to building and strengthening pathways to opportunity for people with low incomes living in America’s cities, including Kresge’s hometown of Detroit. Since 2006, he has expanded the foundation’s grantmaking and investing tools to improve the economic, social, cultural and environmental conditions of city life across the nation.

He previously served as president of the McKnight Foundation in Minneapolis, where he led early childhood development efforts, created a regional public-private-philanthropic economic development organization, and enhanced environmental protections along the Mississippi River. He earlier served as the deputy mayor of Minneapolis, with responsibility for designing a $400 million neighborhood revitalization program, revamping the municipal budgeting process and elevating the city’s commitment to children and families.


Maurice Cox LF ’05: Mayor Mike Duggan selected Cox from among several national finalists to reorganize and lead the City’s Planning Department in 2015.  Cox, an urban designer, architectural educator and former mayor of the City of Charlottesville, VA, left a tenured position with Tulane University in New Orleans to accept the Detroit position.

An outspoken advocate of neighborhood development, Cox told a Detroit audience at the Museum of Contemporary Art in February that he feels a responsibility “to ensure the Detroiters who stuck it out in the hard times now share in the city’s growing prosperity.”

Cox has taught at Syracuse University, the University of Virginia and Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design. His experience merging architecture, politics and design education led to his being named one of “20 Masters of Design” in 2004 by Fast Company Business Magazine. He served as Design Director of the National Endowment for the Arts from 2007-2010 where he led the NEA’s Your Town Rural Institute, the Governor’s Institute on Community Design, the Mayors’ Institute on City Design, and oversaw direct design grants to the design community across the U.S. In 2013, Cox was named one of the Most Admired Design Educators in America in the annual ranking of Design Intelligence.


Toni L. Griffin LF ’98 is the founder of Urban Planning and Design for the American City, based in New York. Through the practice, Toni served as Project Director the long range planning initiative of the Detroit Work Project, and in 2013 completed and released Detroit Future City, a comprehensive citywide framework plan for urban transformation. Most recent clients include working with the cities of Memphis, Milwaukee and Pittsburgh.

Ms. Griffin was recently a Professor of Architecture and the founding Director of the J. Max Bond Center on Design for the Just City at the Spitzer School of Architecture at the City College of New York. Founded in 2011, the Bond Center is dedicated to the advancement of design practice, education, research and advocacy in ways that build and sustain resilient and just communities, cities and regions. Currently the Center is focused on several design research initiatives including the Legacy City Design Initiative, that explores innovative design solutions for cities that have lost greater than 20% population lost since their peak; “Just City Design Indicators Project” that seeks to define the core values of a just city and offer a performance measure tool to assist cities and communities with evaluating how design facilitates urban justice in the built environment; and “Inclusion in Architecture” that examines the participation of people of color in architecture and related design fields.

Prior to returning to private practice, Toni was the Director of Community Development for the City of Newark, New Jersey, where she was responsible for creating a centralized division of planning and urban design, launching the city’s complete overhaul of its comprehensive master plan and zoning ordinance. Between 2000-2006, Ms. Griffin served as Vice President and Director of Design for the Anacostia Waterfront Corporation in Washington, DC, leading the planning for the Washington Nationals Ballpark District, and held the position of Deputy Director for Revitalization Planning and Neighborhood Planning in the D.C. Office of Planning, responsible for the Anacostia Waterfront Initiative, the downtown City Center redevelopment, and numbers neighborhood revitalization plans.

Between 1998-2000, Ms. Griffin served as Vice President for Planning & Tourism Development for the Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone Development Corporation in New York City. She began her career as an architect with Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP in Chicago, where she became an Associate Partner involved in architecture and urban design projects in London and Chicago.

Ms. Griffin received a Bachelors of Architecture from the University of Notre Dame and a Loeb Fellowship from the Harvard University Graduate School of Design, where she also taught as an Adjunct Associate Professor between 2006-2011. In 2014, Toni was the Visiting Associate Professor and Theodore B. and Doris Shoong Lee Chair in Real Estate Law and Urban Planning, in the Department of City and Regional Planning at UC Berkeley, and serves on the board of the New York Regional Plan Association.

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