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The Innovative Cities Lecture Series

Downtown Placemaking: Perspectives from Practitioners in Milwaukee, New York, San Antonio, and Minneapolis presentation by with Gabe Yeager, Director of Public Space Initiatives at Milwaukee Downtown, Lisa Middag, Director of Public Space Engagement at Minneapolis Downtown Improvement District, Elizabeth Burt, Director of Urban Activation + Play, Centro San Antonio, Jean Cooney, Director of Times Square Arts / Vice President of Arts and Culture at Times Square Alliance – New York City

Lecture Summary:

Learn more about the work that Urban Place Management Organizations (UPMO) are doing to unite their communities, especially in times of tragedy and triumph, through public art and public space programming. Hear about innovative projects from across the country, including New York City, Minneapolis, San Antonio, and Milwaukee, and learn more about the field of Urban Place Management.


Gabe Yeager: Since assuming a full-time position with Milwaukee Downtown, BID #21 in 2018, Gabriel Yeager has created and managed an ambitious public realm strategy, including new murals and public art, aesthetic lighting enhancements, public space programming, and district-wide wayfinding. He has helped secure significant funding and support from both the public and private sectors, totaling over $750,000 in downtown improvement projects. Recent projects include the Giannis Mural, “Lightfield” by HYBYCOZO, and “Reimagine Red Arrow Park” programming. Yeager holds a Bachelor of Science of Architectural Studies (BSAS) and is pursuing a Master of Urban Planning from UW-Milwaukee’s School of Architecture + Urban Planning.

Lisa Middag: Lisa is an urban planner who collaborates with communities and artists to support equitable, vibrant, and sustainable public spaces through inclusive placemaking and intentional community development. She is responsible for placemaking and public space engagement in downtown Minneapolis, including the historic Nicollet Mall.

Elizabeth Burt: Elizabeth is a passionate underutilized space evangelist known for collaboration, matchmaking + play based troublemaking (snow, alleys, and animated trash cans included). She graduated from the University of Texas at San Antonio College of Public Policy studying Public Administration (#BirdsUp)! More recently, she oversaw the award winning Activate Houston Street Initiative, a placemaking action plan to reinvigorate the historic pedestrian corridor in the heart of Downtown San Antonio, which is recognized as a Best Practice in Public Space Management by the International Downtown Association, for which she is also a proud Emerging Leader Fellow.

Jean Cooney: Jean is the Vice President of Arts and Culture for the Times Square Alliance and Director of Times Square Arts, the public art program presenting the work of contemporary artists in the world’s most iconic urban places. Over the course of the program’s twelve year history, Times Square Arts has worked with hundreds of emerging and established artists across a diverse range of disciplines to engage the district’s electronic billboards, public plazas, and vacant spaces with video work, installations, and performance.

AICP-CM credits will be awarded.

Questions, comments?

All lectures are free and open to planners, students, staff, faculty, and friends of the University. Please contact Jennifer Tasse , Department of Urban Planning Project Assistant at