Sam Carlsen
Saint Paul Riverfront Corporation
St. Paul


“During the Fellowship, it became clear to me that community-based decisions must be made throughout a project, from conception and location, to financing and operation, to design and implementation, in order to make community-driven architecture truly effective.” 

For Minneapolis native Sam Carlsen, community design is inextricably linked to civic contribution. He has been able to further explore this holistic approach during his fellowship at the Saint Paul Riverfront Corporation (SPRC), where he engaged citizens in planning, urban design and placemaking for transit-oriented development.

As an Enterprise Rose Architectural Fellow, Sam worked in a design assistance capacity with the city to integrate and advance the work of city planners, community organizers, architects and landscape architects into affordable housing and other built spaces being proposed all along the University Avenue Light Rail Corridor – a rail line opened in 2014 that links the downtowns of the Twin Cities. As Sam says “For me, the goal of my fellowship was to create neighborhoods of opportunity which are more sustainable, healthy and equitable through the integration of affordable housing and accessible jobs into transit-oriented development and planning.”

Sam also worked with Mayor Chris Coleman’s office to host the 2012 Midwest Mayors’ Institute on City Design (MICD), which brought together seven mayors and seven design and development experts to discuss best practices in city building and using food systems as a lens through which to understand and build better cities. In 2014 Sam worked with Enterprise, The McKnight Foundation, ULI Minnesota and the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency to lead the “MN Challenge to Lower the Cost of Affordable Housing,” an open ideas competition awarding up to $100,000 for the development and implementation of ideas to lower the cost of financing, developing and/or preserving affordable multifamily housing in Minnesota.

After earning a Master of Architecture from the University of Minnesota in 2008, Sam joined the Gulf Coast Community Design Studio, working directly with residents who had lost their homes in Hurricane Katrina, helping them rebuild safer and more sustainably. Sam has also worked with Carlsen and Frank Architects and the Cunningham Group in Minneapolis.

Sam continues to work with the SPRC and its partners to connect planning and development through community engagement and by championing design excellence at all stages.

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