Menu Close

Julia Robinson (School of Architecture)

Headshot of Professor Julia Robinson

Julia Robinson is a professor in the U of M College of Design. Over her career, she has published countless books and papers covering a wide range of design topics, including design programming, methods, and pedagogy. Her role spearheading the Investing in North Minneapolis Project was born from an earlier project, Design for Youth: Equity and Opportunity (accessible here: ). The awareness gained from her study of sociatal disparaties on urban youth prompted her current passion for the role of urban design for equity. She currently leads the Investing in North Minneapolis Project to advance equity in North Minneapolis’ urban fabric.

Jamil Ford (Mobilize Design)

Headshot of Jamil Ford

Jamil Ford brings a community vision to the Investing in North Minneapolis project. Owner and founder of the Minneapolis Architecture Firm Mobilize Design in 2010, he is native to the north side. He attended North High School and studied architectural design at the University of Minnesota, before founding Mobilize Design. His firm has engaged several North Side projects, including the 5 Points building, the Estes Funeral Chapel, and the NEON entrepreneur center. His wider vision is excellence in the North Side built environment, beyond expectations. He has devoted his life to seeing positive community growth in the neighborhood.

Savannah Steele (HGA Architects; School of Architecture)

Headshot of Savannah Steele

Savannah Steele is co-teaching the Investing in North Minneapolis design studio with Julia Robinson. She dances between practicing architecture, teaching design skills, and advocating for community wellbeing. Savannah has contributed to design and construction of residential and commercial properties in North Minneapolis since 2015, and currently practices at HGA Architects and Engineers in the Arts| Cultural| Educational Studio. Savannah has offered design, coordination and technical detailing to a range of project types—she is particularly proud of successes in collaboration that helped to realize 1800 Chicago (Hennepin County’s Mental Health Urgent Care) and the Masonic Institute for the Developing Brain. Savannah foregrounds rigorous listening, playful testing, and somatic feedback in her creative process. She offers from her broad range of knowledges in development, architecture, construction, mental health, fabrication, sustainability, and her rich lived experiences as a woman of color in Minneapolis to fulfilling projects that share her values. Savannah is seeking to underwrite beauty, wellbeing, and justice into the future built environment of Minneapolis’ Northside by sharing leadership in the Investing in North Minneapolis Studio.

Timothy Griffin (Minnesota Design Center)

Headshot of Timothy Griffin

Timothy Griffin is a senior research fellow at the Minnesota Design Center and a Design PhD candidate in Architecture. He has led many community engagement projects and workshops in and beyond the Twin Cities. He is the co-lead for the Design Center’s Design for Community Regeneration project and a member of the University of Minnesota’s Sustainable Development Goals working group. He also continues to serve in the College of Design as a research and community engagement consultant in the Investing in North Minneapolis Studio.

Jaycie Thomsen (Northside Safety NET at Environmental Initiative)

Headshot of Jaycie Thomsen

Jaycie Thomsen (she/her), the Senior Program Coordinator for Northside Safety NET at Environmental Initiative, is leading the engagement of young adults in the Investing in North Minneapolis project. She is a 2021 graduate of the University of Minnesota with a degree in Environmental Science, Policy, and Management with a minor in food systems. In her spare time she enjoys spending time outdoors moving her body (running, biking, hiking, etc.), cooking with homegrown vegetables, and listening to 89.3 the Current.

Michael Chaney (Project Sweetie Pie)

Headshot of Michael Chaney

Michael Chaney brings deep interest in community building and sustainable green design to the Investing in North Minneapolis project. He is the founder of Project Sweetie Pie and a co-founder of and Growing North Minneapolis. Project Sweetie Pie is a local nonprofit organization founded in 2010 that engages stakeholders in grass roots initiatives to address issues of structural racism and equity, advocates community-led green restorative development, and coordinates youth-led/youth-fed green initiatives and other gardening and urban farming operations. He has become the Johnny Appleseed of urban farming in North Minneapolis and is also a member of the North side Green Zone Task Force.

Special thanks to all the community members who have and continue to assist this project in various ways. This would never have been possible without you.

Research Team

Julia Robinson

Jamil Ford

Tim Griffin

Brandon Champeau

Cathy Spann

Savannah Steele

Michael Chaney

Research Team
*Exhibition Advisory Committee

Artiste Mayfield

Christopher Johnson

Cynthia Hickman*

Deris Morgan

Helen Jackson Lockett-El*

Jacie Thomsen

Kessa McAfee

Kyle Samejima

Markel Langford

Michael Chaney*

Patsy Parker

Rakeisha Langford

Seda Williams*

Shamari Austin

Sharieon Long

Velma Nelson-Thomas*

Vicky McMillan*

Class Speakers, Panel Discussants, and Reviewers

Ada Smith

Adam Arvidson

Adam Arvidson

Alicia Belton

Alysha Price

Angela Cousins

Bruce Jacobson

Christopher Johnson

Dan Treinen

Drew Lemmie

James Garrett

Jessica Holmes

Jessica Rogers

Jonee Brigham

Joseph Hang

Kjersti Duval

Kjersti Munson

Kristine Miller

Kristine Miller- Landscape

Len Kne- Geography

Leonard Kne

Lexi Prahl

Nathan Johnson

Paola Sanchez

Pat Nunally

Paul Bauknight

Peter Brown

Peter Brown

Rattana Sengsoulichanh

Richard Graves

Savannah Steele

Tom Fisher

Velma Nelson-Thomas

Yuichiro Onishi

To ensure inclusivity throughout this project we are putting together a Community Liaison Group of organizations based in or focused on serving North Minneapolis. This group will be a source of expertise coming from a wide range of North Minneapolis community members. These Liaisons will collaborate on project planning, identifying participants, fundraising, and publicizing promotional content for the Co-Design events. The group will meet twice during the summer, and once or twice in the fall and winter to review the project, and plan for next steps.

Current Liaison Groups

Environmental Initiatives

Project Sweetie Pie

American Institute of Architects – Minnesota

The fantastic team of research assistants have been working throughout the summer to help the Project Team with a variety of tasks. Notably, they have assisted in compiling and formatting student work, executing exhibitions, and building out this very website!

Jonathan Breuer: B.S. Architecture, UMN, 2023

of Jonathan Breuer

Mortimer Ackerman: B.S. Architecture, UMN, 2023

Headshot of Mortimer Ackerman

Allemu Slattery, Pre-Architecture, UMN, 2025

Naomi Schroeder: B.S. Architecture, UMN, 2022

Headshot of Naomi Schroeder

Riley Houlihan: B.S. Architecture, UMN, 2022

Headshot of Riley Houlihan

Robert Gay: B.S. Architecture, UMN, 2022; M. Architecture, UMN, 2024

Headshot of Robert Gay

Fall 2021

In the Fall Semester of 2021, the undergraduate studio of Architecture 5212 at the University of Minnesota began this project under the name of Northside Community Connections. Led by Julia Robinson, with consultant Timothy Griffin, these students developed the projects on this website. After some restructuring, this course will engage graduate students studying for their master’s in architecture in the fall of 2022. Julia Robinson will be teaching this course in collaboration with adjunct faculty member Savannah Steele and Timothy Griffin as consultant. This course will recruit and engage graduate students in the final year of their professional program.

Fall 2021 studio students after their final review with Julia Robinson and Timothy Griffin

From left to right, top row: Josh Ziehwein, Chris Chayet, David Sheldon, Jack Foley, Riley Houlihan, Danny Ogranovich, Robert Gay

From left to right, bottom row: Timothy Griffin, Cody Kashmark, Emily Dam, Rachel Forseen, Maria Berg, Olivia Mantsch, Naomi Schroeder, Julia Robinson.