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Cynthia Nikitin

Senior Vice President

Cynthia Nikitin has led numerous large-scale multi-sectoral projects during her twenty- five years with Project for Public Spaces. Cynthia’s technical expertise stretches from the development of downtown master plans, transit facility and station area enhancement projects, to the creation of corridor-wide transportation and land use strategies, to the development of public art master plans for major cities, and the coalescing of government buildings, libraries and cultural institutions into civic centers. Cynthia is currently directing the Citizens’ Institute on Rural Design, a leadership initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts focused on providing technical design assistance to rural communities and small towns across the United States. She also manages the Heart of the Community program, a partnership with Southwest Airlines to create transformative public spaces. The program is committed to leveraging the power of Placemaking to strengthen connections between people and the places they share and to spark social, economic, and environmental benefits in communities across the country.

Cynthia is an expert in using placemaking to create safer cities and upgrade informal settlements in the developing world. She is currently spearheading PPS’s alliance with UN- HABITAT and the Ax:son Johnson Foundation to create 300 great public spaces in cities across the developing world in fulfillment of a UN Habitat General Resolution that seeks to incorporate public space planning and programming as part of slum upgrading, gender mainstreaming, and urban regeneration projects. She has lead placemaking training initiatives for the City Council of Nairobi and the City of Johannesburg. Cynthia is also PPS’s representative on the UN Habitat’s Global Network for Safer Cities.

Cynthia is also a leader on using investments in walking and transit to leverage livability goals. She authored one of the first books on transportation and livable communities, has run more than 30 comprehensive transit and corridor planning projects, and recently completed a research project for the US Federal Transit Administration aimed at developing evaluation and engagement tools to assist low-income communities in becoming involved in the transportation planning process.

Cynthia is also a regular keynote speaker at public forums, training sessions, and public workshops around the world. Most recently, she has been a lead trainer and technical assistance advisor to ThinkCity, an urban regeneration organization in Penang, Malaysia with whom PPS has established a 30 month partnership. She has written and contributed to dozens of books and publications over the year as well.


Clark University, Bachelor of Arts: Art History and Comparative Politics, 1981. New York University, Masters of Arts: Arts Management and Urban Planning, 1991.

Professional Affiliations

Social Navigator for the "Urban Environment" project,  RIA Novosti, Moscow Russia

Member, Future of Places and Placemaking Leadership Council, Stockholm and New York

Grant reviewer for the National Endowment for the Arts Challenge America Fast Track Grants, ongoing

Board Member Ex-Officio, Bronx River Art Center, Bronx, NY

Selected Publications

“Collaborative Placemaking,” Public Art Review, Issue 45, Fall/Winter 2011.

“From Cow Town to Our Town: Is Public Art Part of the American Dream?” Public Art Review, Issue 39, Fall/Winter 2008.

“Achieving Great Federal Public Spaces,” General Services Administration, Washington, DC Spring 2007.

Review of “Environmentally Concerned” at the Bronx River Art Center, Bronx, NY, Sculpture Magazine, April 2001.

“Making Public Art Work,” (a review of key public participation methods and practices), Sculpture Magazine, July 2000.

Review of “Premises: Invested Spaces in Visual Arts, Architecture and Design from France,” Guggenheim Museum Soho, New York.  Sculpture Magazine, January 2000.

“How Community and Transportation Partnerships are Shaping America: Parts I and II,” American Public Transit Association and American Association of State and Highway Transportation Officials, July 1999 and September 2000.

“Art in Transit Catalogue 1999,” for the Bi-State Development Agency’s Arts in Transit Program, St. Louis, MO, October 1999.

Presentations and Lectures

Professional Development Session Leader, “Place-based Tourism: Tourism 2.0,” Ontario Business Improvement Agency Association national conference, London, Ontario, April 13, 2016 Presenter and workshop leader, “Creating Healthy Places,” United Nations Urban Thinker’s Campus, Kuching, Malaysia, January 25, 2016. Panelist, “Building Creative Communities,” New Mexico Main Street Conference, Santa Fe, NM November 15, 2015 Panel Presentation, “Places People Love,” Congress for a New Urbanism, Dallas, TX, April 30, 2015 Keynote Address, “Placemaking: The Ultimate Art,” New York State Historic Preservation Annual Conference, Geneva, NY, April 18, 2015 Keynote Address, “Parks as Multi-Use Destinations and Catalysts for Community Revitalization”, Park Pride Annual Parks and Greenspace Conference, Atlanta, GA, March 23, 2015 Keynote Address, “Planning Public Spaces As The Heart Of Every Community,” New Jersey 2015 APA Conference, New Brunswick, NJ, January 30, 2015 Panelist, “Placemaking:  Reimagining Public Spaces Through Public/Private Partnerships,” Net Impact Conference, Minneapolis, MN, November 7, 2014 Keynote Address, Upper Mississippi Main Street Conference, La Crosse Wisconsin, October 22, 2014 Webinar, “Creative Placemaking,” Kresge Foundation, Detroit Michigan, September 2014 Panelist, “How Placemaking Can Transform Transit Facilities into Vibrant Destinations” Pro Walk Pro Bike Pro Place Conference, Pittsburgh, PA , September 10, 2014

Webinar Leader, Creative Placemaking “Webinar,” Ártscape Toronto, March 31 2014

Webinar Presenter, Americans for the Arts, "Rural Placemaking," February 28, 2014

Panelist, Placemaking and the Global South, APA-New York Metro Chapter Biennial Conference, Columbia University NY, November 8, 2013

Panelist, “Safer Cities Presentation,” Tryggare Sverige - Safer Cities Sweden at Almedalen, Visby Sweden June 2013

Public Presentation and facilitation of a “Lighter Quicker Cheaper Training and Public Lecture,” George Town, Penang Malaysia, February 2013

City of Putrajaya and Khazanah National, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Series of lectures, presentations, public workshops and technical assistance, February 2013

Pro Walk Pro Bike Pro Place, “Thinking Beyond the Station,” Long Beach, CA, September 13, 2012

Training Session, “Placemaking Exercise,” R Squared Risk and Reward Conference, Telluride, CO September 11, 2012

Facilitated. Lead, and Participated in Sessions at the UN HABITAT World Urban Forum VI, including a Networking Event, Training Session, and Expert Roundtable,  Naples, Italy, September 3-6, 2012

Respondent, “Engaging Communities in City Design.” La Fabrique de la Cite conference, Amsterdam, September 2012.

Keynote Address, Bay Area LISC Urban Forum, “Building Neighborhoods Through Economic Development,” San Francisco, CA, June 27, 2012.

Speaker, Strategies for a New Economy Conference, “Reclaiming the Commons: Creating Community Agency and Ownership of Public Spaces and Resources”, Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, NY, June 9, 2012.

Our Town Southeast Houston, “Creative Placemaking,”Lecture funded under an NEA Our Town grant, Houston, TX, May 11, 2012.

Clark University Geography Association, “Practicing Geography”, Lecture, Worcester, MA, March 22, 2012

Keynote Presentation: “Good Public Spaces: the Art of Placemaking”, City Workshop on Public Spaces,

City Council of Nairobi and field sites (Kibera/Silanga and Jeevanjee Gardens), 28th February -2 March 2012

Keynote address, Johannesburg Placemaking Seminar, Mayor’s Council Chambers, Johannesburg, South Africa, 8 November 2011

Panelist., “Strategies for Meaningful Community Involvement,” APA NJ Conference, New Brunswick, NJ, November 4, 2011

Keynote address and interactive workshop, “The Space Lab: Creating Great, Safe, Public Spaces for Everyone,” Waterloo Region Crime Prevention Council, Waterloo and Cambridge, Ontario Canada October 20 and 21, 2011

Keynote address, “TAGS Anti-Graffiti Symposium,” Edmonton Alberta Canada, October 19, 2011

Lecture, “Lighter Quick Cheaper: A Low Cost High Impact Approach to Placemaking,” Edmonton Alberta Canada, October 19, 2011

Panelist, “Cities and Climate Change,” High Level Meeting, World Habitat Day Observance, UN Headquarters, NY, October 3, 2011

Presentation, “Creating Safer Communities for Women and Girls Through Placemaking,” UN Women Stakeholders Planning Meeting, Cairo Egypt, July 2011

Presentation, “Thinking Beyond the Station,” Massachusetts Smart Growth Alliance Great Neighborhoods Forum, Boston MA, June 2011

Placemaker in Residence, George Town Penang Malaysia courtesy of Think City, May 2011

Placemaking lectures:  Seoul National University, University of Seoul, Architecture and Urban Research Institute, Seoul, South Korea May 2011

Visiting scholar, Asia Creative Academy, Seoul, South Korea, May 2011

Keynote Address, “What makes a Great Public Space,” La Fabrique de la Cite Public Space Conference, Barcelona Spain, May 5 2011

“Constructive Approach to Urban Planning with Communities” powerpoint presentation, Visionary Values for Sustainable Cities GlobalCity Forum, Abu Dhabi, UAE, March 15 2011

Planner In Residence, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, February 28 to March 4, 2011

Keynote Address, Saskatoon Heritage Society Annual Fundraising Dinner, Friday March 4, 2011

“The Role of Place-making in Creating Great Heritage Districts” Wednesday, March 2, 2011, Saskatoon City Hall, Council Chambers, SK

“Civic Squares and Downtown Parks, “Wednesday, March 2, 2011, Broadway Theater, Saskatoon, SK

Panelist, “Beyond Housing: Using Art, Parks, and Cultural Events to Build Community,” Neighborhood Preservation Coalition, NY, NY October 2010

Key Note Address, “Museums as Fulcrums of Communities,” Alberta Museum Association Annual Conference, Edmonton AB September 2010

Public Lecture, Two day Placemaking Workshop, Strelka Institute of Architecture, Media and Design, Moscow, Russia, August 2010

Presentation and Workshop, “Placemaking Strategies for Urban Safety,” CSIR and UN Habitat for Safer Cities, Pretoria, South Africa, July 2010

Panelist, Downtown Revitalization, ICSC Conference, Waikiki Business Improvement Association, Honolulu, HI June 2010

Selection Committee Member, US EPA Smart Growth Awards for 2010, Washington DC, May 2010

Presentation, “Principles and Practice in Placemaking for Parks,” International Garden Symposium, Seoul, South Korea, March 2010.

Presentation, “Placemaking and Public Markets,” Market Planning and Design Workshop sponsored by the Korean Ministry of Arts and Culture, Seoul, South Korea, March 2010.

Presentation, “Crime Prevention from Across the World: Taking Stock, Evaluation, and Future Perspectives”, 15th Anniversary International Centre for the Prevention of Crime, December 8th & 9th 2009,Montreal, QC, Canada

Keynote Presenter, “Promoting Public Spaces as Destinations,” Korean Tourism Board’s annual Knowledge Forum, Incheon City, South Korea, November 2009

Walk 21 New York, “Tools for Public Participation in Transit Planning,” Panelist, October 2009

Keynote Presenter, Glocal 2009, LAN 21 Network Agenda Conference, Cascais, Portugal September 23, 2009

Keynote Presenter, Walk On Workshop, Brantford Ontario, September 9, 2009 and Blind River, Ontario Canada, May 2009

Keynote Address, Imagine Miami Changemaker Conference II, Miami Florida, July 2009

Lecturer, ”Public Space Design Guidelines,” Korea Design Foundation, Seoul South Korea, March  2009.

Ontario Library Association SuperConference, Highlighted Speaker, January 2009, Toronto Ontario Canada

Keynote Address, 4th Public Design Exhibition & Seminar: The Value of Design for All, organized by the Hope Institute, Seoul South Korea, November 11-12, 2008

Walk 21 Barcelona, Walkability Conference, Plenary Presenter, Panel Moderator, Workshop Facilitator, Program Committee Member,  October and April 2008, Barcelona Spain

Presenter, “PONTO DE ENCONTRO,” Enova Conference, Lisbon, Portugal, October 2008

Civic Institutions as Community Anchors presentation, International Downtown Association annual conference, Calgary Alberta Canada, September 2008

Context Sensitive Solutions: Designing Transportation Projects for People and Places, “CSS and Transit,” Denver, CO July 2008

Keynote Address, Saskatchewan Library Association Annual Meeting, Regina SK Canada, May 2008

Keynote Address, British Columbia Library Association Annual Meeting, Richmond BC Canada April 2008

TRB Annual Conference, Thinking Beyond the Station, Wash., DC, January 2008

Thinking Beyond the Station Presentation, Railvolution, Miami, FL, November 2007

Facilitator of a one day walkability training workshop for City Councilors from around Canada at the Walk 21 Conference,  October 2007 Toronto, ON

Presentation, Transportation Research Board, Transportation and Land use Conference, Denver, CO, August 2007

Facilitator of two professional conference sessions focused upon Place-based City Design to create sustainable public spaces, Royal Architectural Institute of Canada, Toronto, ON, May 2007.

Participant in the National Library Agenda Roundtable, one of 47 people selected to help develop a national legislative agenda for Libraries to be presented to Congress for federal funding, sponsored by the American Library Association, Washington, DC, December 2006.

Presenter and participant in Building Libraries, Building Communities: A Summit on the Role of Public Libraries in Re-creating Community on the Gulf Coast, convened by the Southern Libraries Network (Solinet) and funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, November 2006.