Mike Dobbins

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Mike Dobbins

Michael A. Dobbins (born c. 1938) is an architect, urban planner and educator who worked for years as principal urban designer in the Birmingham Department of Community Development and as director of the Birmingham Department of Urban Planning. He is currently a professor of the practice at the Georgia Institute of Technology's School of City and Regional Planning in Atlanta, Georgia.

Dobbins grew up in Denver, Colorado and completed high school at Phillips Exeter Academy in Exeter, New Hampshire. He earned his bachelor of arts in architecture at Yale University in 1960 and went on to complete a master's in architecture there in 1965. He worked as an apprentice in Stockholm, Sweden and New Haven, Connecticut (including a summer internship with Paul Rudolph) and worked for two years as an architect in Aurora, Colorado and Boston, Massachusetts before beginning his career as a public urban planner with the City of New York in 1967.

In 1971 Dobbins moved to New Orleans, Louisiana to serve as technical director for a regional study for transportation connections across the Mississippi River. He joined the faculty of the Tulane University School of Architecture as an assistant professor in 1972 and continued to work as a private planning consultant. In 1977 Dobbins' wife Peggy accepted a job at the University of Alabama and they moved to Birmingham. He was hired as an architect and planner in the Jefferson County Office of Planning and Community Development. In December 1978 he moved across Linn Park to become an urban designer and neighborhood revitalization coordinator for the city of Birmingham.

In the city's Department of Community Development, Dobbins was responsible for promoting urban design at the neighborhood level, attending Neighborhood Association meetings across the city and cultivating a number of "Revitalization Districts" where public investments could be leveraged by private landowners to maximize resources for environmental improvements while also bringing many historic commercial districts under the city's Design Review to help preserve design quality over time.

Among the urban design principles that emerged under Dobbins' tenure were the primacy of neighborhoods as building blocks of the city, and of vibrant streets as shared space creating connections across them. He also emphasized the opportunity to benefit from preserving historic building fabric. His leadership helped the city to avoid some of the problems with large-scale "Urban Renewal" projects that have beset other cities. He worked with C. C. Pei on the urban design elements of the Kirklin Clinic on 20th Street South. He also chaired the American Institute of Architects' National Regional and Urban Design Committee in 1985-1986.

Dobbins was promoted to director of the city's Birmingham Department of Urban Planning in January 1988. He left Birmingham in 1993 to become the Director of Physical and Environmental Planning for the University of California at Berkeley. He returned to the South three years later as Commissioner for the Department of Planning, Development and Neighborhood Conservation for the city of Atlanta. He left that position in 2002 to serve as the Ventulett Visiting Professor at Georgia Tech's College of Architecture. Dobbins also continued to serve as a planning consultant for the City of Atlanta, the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority, and the National Capital Planning Commission

Dobbins is a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects and American Institute of Certified Planners. He is also a member of the Congress for the New Urbanism, and the Urban Land Institute.


  • Dobbins, Mike (March 1983) "Design is the Key". Planning. American Planning Association
  • Dobbins, Mike & Margaret P. Dobbins (January 1992) "In Birmingham, Design Counts." Planning. American Planning Association
  • Dobbins, Mike (2009) Urban Design and People. John Wiley & Sons. ISBN 0470138165
  • Dobbins, Mike (2013) "A Tale of Two Cities – Leveling the Playing Field in Atlanta and Birmingham." Progressive Planner
  • Dobbins, Mike, Leon Eplan & Randy Roark (2016) The 1996 Atlanta Centennial Olympic Games – The Rest of the Story. University of Georgia Press


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