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For Better: A look at the non-profits that call ConnexFW home

Updated: Feb 28, 2023

Community Design Fort Worth: Changing the Fort Worth community through design, this non-profit seeks to enhance quality of life, serve as a resource for design and planning assistance, engage the public about key issues and opportunities, and proactively take on long-term projects in anticipation of future challenges.

But what executive director Ann Zadeh has to say about ConnexFW: "I love the eclectic mix of tenants at Connex. I like being near the Evans-Rosedale Urban Village and look forward to growing activity there. I think it's awesome to have an office in a shipping container building with solar panels and roof top gardens. Having HustleBlendz right outside my office door is fantastic."

Community Design Fort Worth was formed in 2016 by a group of design professionals who saw the need to come together to discuss big ideas that empower and strengthen all Fort Worth communities through design. "We work to be the catalyst for collaborative planning and design that elevates and inspires communities," says executive director Ann Zadeh. The former mayoral candidate joined the non-profit after running for city mayor in 2021.

CDFW's work is funded through in-kind staff and services, grants, revenue generating work and supportive community partnerships.

In past two years, CDFW has focused on further diversifying its board, created committees to support growing programming, the development of a new virtual survey tool, a partnership with Texas Wesleyan and UT Arlington on a project in the Poly Heights neighborhood, and a continued effort to redesign University Drive to make it more pedestrian and bicycle friendly. Additionally, the 501(c)3 designed and launched a new logo and website.

Zadeh has made an immediate impact at CDFW by joining the projects listed above, while also focusing on education and engagement, "We are focusing on education through our social media postings on many topics that speak to the mission, with content created by our board members, community partners, and other ally organizations in addition to our Design Talks."

The Urban Design Talks series is a monthly virtual chat session concept in Partnership with AIAFW, or American Institute of Architects (who also share an office with Zadeh and CDFW), for the community to learn and grow their urban design knowledge. Talks cover topics from tiny homes, history, water & design, food deserts and more.

The most recent Urban Design Talks explored the world of placemaking, with Better Block, another 501c3 dedicated to helping communities turn parking lots in plazas and slow down streets for over six years.

Zadeh recounts how she became Executive Director of CDFW, and why she believes in her team, "...I was approached by several board members of CDFW and asked if I was interested in serving as executive director. I saw it as the ideal opportunity to carry on with many of the efforts and initiatives I am passion about. This team is awesome because they are all community members who believe in community-based design and focus on idea and concepts not necessarily addressed by either the public or private sectors."

Zadeh grew up on the campus of a Quaker boarding school in Northern California where she says her first experience of living and being an intentional part of a community began. Before CDFW, she earned an undergraduate degree in Environmental Studies at UC-Santa Cruz before earning a masters in City and Regional Planning at UT Arlington. From there, she worked as a consultant for many small cities that did have no in-house planning department or staff, before taking a break to raise her two children. She then served on the city's Zoning Commission for six years before being elected to represent District 9 on the City Council. She was reelected three times and served a total of seven years in that role.

"We would love to have anyone joins us," said Zadeh. "While many of us participate professionally in urban planning, that is not a requirement at all. In fact, part of our mission is to reach those who don't have planning backgrounds and encourage them to become engaged in discussions and decisions that impact their quality of life."

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