About Our Speaker: Kennedy Lawson Smith

Kennedy Lawson Smith

smithkennedy+copyKennedy Lawson Smith is one of the nation’s foremost experts on commercial district revitalization and development, independent main street businesses, and economically and environmentally sound community development.

After graduate school in architecture, Kennedy directed the downtown revitalization program in Charlottesville, Virginia, where her small business development work led her to create a retail market analysis methodology specifically for older commercial districts that is now used in downtown revitalization programs throughout the US. She joined the staff of the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s National Main Street Center in 1985, and in 1991 she became its director, a position she held for 13 years. During her tenure, the Main Street program was widely recognized as one of the most successful economic development programs in the US, expanding to a nationwide network of almost 2,000 towns and cities.

In 2004 Kennedy co-founded the Community Land Use and Economics (CLUE) Group, LLC, a private consulting firm that blends downtown development, land use management, and historic preservation disciplines into a cohesive approach to solving community development challenges. The CLUE Group helps civic leaders and developers craft dynamic retail development strategies, cultivate locally owned businesses, strengthen community development programs and policies, and improve main street revitalization efforts.

Kennedy 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 United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to the US Army. She is a popular speaker on retail development policy, commercial district development, and historic preservation issues and has given speeches for the Urban Land Institute, World Bank, Congress for the New Urbanism, American Planning Association, American Booksellers Association, International Economic Development Council, National League of Cities, Enterprise Foundation, Local Initiatives Support Corporation, US Department of Energy, US Department of Housing and Urban Development, US Environmental Protection Agency, US Economic Development Administration, Federal Reserve Bank, Local Government Commission, and many others. She has written numerous articles on the economic dynamics of traditional business districts and is a columnist for Planning Commissioners’ Journal. She also teaches preservation economics for Goucher College’s graduate program in historic preservation.

Kennedy’s downtown revitalization and small business development work has been featured in news media ranging from the New York Times, Business Week, Forbes, Governing and Red Herring to “Donahue,” “CBS Sunday Morning,” and Public Radio International’s “Marketplace.” In March 2002, Fast Company magazine named her to its first-ever list of “Fast 50 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. In May 2004, the National Trust for Historic Preservation recognized her achievements with its President’s Award, for her “leadership and vision … in creating one of the most admired and successful preservation programs in the country.” She was a 2005-06 Loeb Fellow at Harvard University.