What is the most important factor shaping the success of cities today? According to Charles Bantz, Chancellor of IUPUI in Indianapolis, there are three: education, education and more education. Venture Richmond's Lucy Meade said innovation and creativity, which comes from people who are living, working and playing together from all ages, socioeconomic backgrounds, interests and perspectives. Marvin Hayes of Cleveland, OH agreed, citing accessibility to people, businesses and ideas. Watch these videos of CEOs for Cities partners weighing in at the 2011 Fall National Meeting in Chicago.
Lee Fisher, President and CEO of CEOs for Cities, recently spoke at the National Summit on Near Completion. Hosted by the Institute for Higher Education Policy, the summit focused on the importance of increasing college degree attainment by engaging college dropouts. By recruiting “near completers” and making earning a degree affordable and accessible, institutions of higher learning can increase college completion rates. IHEP’s framework on increasing completion rates complements CEOs for Cities’ 101 Wacky Ideas, a body of research on ways to reclaim pre-graduates. A video featuring Lee Fisher and showing highlights of the conference is available here.
A new initiative by the Speedwell Foundation believes so. According to an article in Atlantic Cities, the project called “Redfields to Greenfields” looks at what could happen if empty commercial sites were converted into parks. Research is currently being developed at the Georgia Institute of Technology with the assistance of the City Parks Alliance advocacy group. In addition, they have partnered with 11 cities in the US including Houston, Denver, Cleveland, and Atlanta to predict what might occur if a city were suddenly able to invest in buying up and converting commercial properties to parks. Some potential outcomes are increased property values and job creation through the demolition, redesign, construction and maintenance of the parks.
The benefits of cities are clear, but the appropriate way to quantify density is not. An article in The Atlantic Cities discusses measuring density by people per square mile. The measurement allows architects and city planners to humanize data and incorporate amenities to create a complete picture of a well-rounded city. The article suggests aspiring to 100,000 people per square mile. This achievable goal allows for a mix of creative building structures. Designing cities for citizens and measuring density by people per square mile can help urban leaders create areas where, “every citizen can enjoy beauty in the form of good design,” an aspiration outlined during the CEOs for Cities Livability Challenge.
Cities are the center of the Occupy Wall Street movement. According to an article on Grist, Occupy Wall Street is using “urban public space as an open source laboratory for social change.” Cities have long served as hubs of activity and connection for citizens. When urban dwellers feel that their needs are not being met, they are the first to react. Occupied cities and public spaces all over the world are indicative of this trend. Using “the city as a medium,” Occupy Wall Street demonstrates the power and change that urban areas can harness through activism.
Michael Crow, Arizona State University president and CEOs for Cities partner, wrote an op-ed piece about the state of higher education in the US that recently appeared in the Washington Post. Education is critical to the prosperity of America because it forges the path for new innovations according to Crow. He states, "Following the Second World War, our nation emerged to lead the world in educational attainment, and from there led the way to scientific discovery, new business start-ups, new industrial sectors like biotech, pioneering military preparedness, and astonishing feats of human creativity and technological genius, like landing humans on the moon or creating an Internet economy." Increasing the nation's college attainment rate by one percentage point would realize a Talent Dividend of $124 billion in additional personal income annually. The global economy is changing. As David Rosen cited in July 2009, "Three-quarters of the workers that were fired over the last year were let go on a permanent, not a temporary basis." Making higher education accessible to all will allow us to retool and reeducate our workforce to retain America's competitiveness.
The Lumina Foundation projects that by 2025 nearly half of the US workforce will be people of Latino descent. With a population of 50 million already living in the US, Latinos are the fastest-growing minority group. In his speech to a joint session of Congress President Obama put the issue of talent squarely on the federal agenda when he said, "The… challenge we must address is the urgent need to expand the promise of education in America. In a global economy where the most valuable skill you can sell is your knowledge, a good education is no longer just a pathway to opportunity – it is a pre-requisite.” The Lumina Foundation recently committed $7.2 million over the next four years in ten states with significant Latino populations. This is one "...part of Lumina's Goal 2025 effort, which aims to increase the proportion of Americans with high-quality degrees and credentials to 60 percent by the year 2025." The Lumina Foundation is also a sponsor of CEOs for Cities’ Talent Dividend Prize, a $1 million prize to be awarded to the city that exhibits the greatest increase in the number of post-secondary degrees granted per one thousand population over a three-year period.
Biking delivers environmental, health, and economic benefits. An article in GOOD cited a recent study in the journal of Environmental Health Perspectives that quantified monetary savings, including data on air pollution, medical costs, mortality rates, car accidents, and physical fitness, from biking. The report, which included a study area of eleven metropolitan areas in the upper Midwest, conservatively found savings of $7.3 billion per year in societal health benefits. More specifically, by biking instead of driving for half of all trips less than five miles, the inhabitants of the study would save $3.5 billion from increased air quality and $3.8 billion from lowered health care costs.
CEOs for Cities has also calculated the savings from reducing driving. According to the Green Dividend, a one percentage point reduction in VMT in the nation’s largest 51 metro areas is worth more than $28.6 billion annually to the nation.
[Philadelphia, November 21, 2011] – Mayor Michael A. Nutter and the Mayor’s Office of Communications announced the launch of the ‘Change By Us Philly’ website. This website serves as an interactive, social media platform that enables citizens to connect with City officials, community-based organizations and each other to share ideas and create projects to benefit the City of Philadelphia. The website is accessed at philly.changeby.us and is operational.
“Our Administration wants to know what is important to its citizens and actively works to make the changes Philadelphians want and need,” said Mayor Nutter. “The ‘Change by Us Philly’ website is an innovative, social media tool that will enable Philadelphians to present ideas to City officials, get involved with existing City projects and create new initiatives to make Philadelphia a smarter, safer, greener, cleaner and better City.”
Change By Us Philly was created by Code for America, CEOs for Cities and Local Projects with the support of the Rockefeller Foundation and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. The website will be administered by the Mayor’s Office of Communication. The Office of Communication will be assisted by non-profit partners with site maintenance and upkeep.
“The City of Philadelphia has been a pioneer with its use of technology to engage citizens, and it is continuing its leadership by launching Change By Us,” Jennifer Pahlka, Founder and Executive Director of Code for America said.
Julia Klaiber, Director of External Affairs at CEOs for Cities said, “Our ambition with Change By Us was to reinvent public participation in America. The traditional models no longer work in a world where technology is a primary method of engagement and where citizens can and should be co-creators of civic solutions. It is a true testament to Mayor Nutter’s leadership that Change By Us is launching in Philadelphia.”
In addition, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation announced a $25,000 civic innovation grant program, which will incorporate the use of the Change By Us Philly platform.
“Philadelphia has long been a city of innovation and invention, and Philly residents are eager to find solutions that strengthen their neighborhoods,” said Donna Frisby-Greenwood, Philadelphia Program Director for the Knight Foundation. “Change by Us is just one of the ways that new technology, in the hands of residents and leaders, can put citizen action at the center of community change.”
Philadelphians create user accounts at philly.changeby.us to begin posting ideas, joining or creating projects on the site and connecting with resources. An “idea” on Change by Us is any solution, insight or question about a local or citywide issue. A “project” is any specific action that helps achieve the goal or mission. For instance, projects to make the city greener might include a neighborhood tree planting project. A “resource” is a link to helpful information or tools from city agencies or community-based organizations for use by project creators and contributors. Participants can select resources to add to a project based on their potential benefit to help accomplish the goals of the project.
The collapse of the housing market during the Great Recession illuminates the future landscape of America’s real estate market. A recent article in the New York Times confirms CEOs for Cities’ findings in Walking the Walk: homes in more walkable neighborhoods are worth more than similar homes in less walkable neighborhoods. According to the article, today’s most expensive housing, as contrasted with the most expensive housing of the 1990s, is located in high-density, pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods. The collapse of the exurbs and the revitalization of inner cities are attributable to the converging desires of two segments of the population: baby boomers and millennials. Together, these two demographics represent half of the population, and they are both seeking walkable urban downtowns. In fact, only 12% of future homebuyers desire drivable suburban-fringe houses.
This massive market movement represents “a profound structural shift — a reversal of what took place in the 1950s, when drivable suburbs boomed and flourished as center cities emptied and withered.” In the future, consumer preferences will force floundering suburban areas to restructure and to include infrastructure for biking, walking, and transit. Dense and connected urban areas “will support the knowledge economy, promote environmental sustainability and create jobs.”
This week, the Chicago Tribune published an op-ed whose author, John McCarron, denounced Mayor Rahm Emanuel's vision for bicycle infrastructure and bus rapid transit, calling it an "undeclared war on the automobile." Yet McCarron missed the mark entirely with his silly references to cycling couture and winner-takes-all rhetoric. In a response on Chicago Now, cycling advocate Brent Cohrs asks, “Is this really a war on cars or an honest assessment of a city's transportation needs for the future?”
CEOs for Cities' research reveals Chicago neighborhoods within three miles of the central business district have seen a 33 percent growth among college-educated 25 to 34 year olds since 2000, compared with only a 5 percent growth in the surrounding metro area. This trend points to the appeal of walkable, urban environments to the city's most valuable economic asset – it’s talent – a demographic segment that increasingly seeks opportunities to get out of their cars or shed them altogether. In fact, the share of automobiles driven by 21 to 30 year olds is a mere 13.7 percent nationally, down 7 percent since 2000. Meanwhile, cycling in Chicago is up 159 percent over the same period of time. These aren't just qualities desired by young adults. Our research further finds home buyers today are paying premiums for houses that have a higher Walk Score, meaning closer proximity to more destinations within walking distance.
This isn’t evidence of a war. It’s evidence of demand for alternatives to the auto-centric land use policy paradigm that is no longer economically or environmentally sustainable in U.S. cities.
Cities play a crucial role in moving the needle on the economy through job creation. At a time when the federal and state governments are often hyperpartisan and dysfunctional, its up to local officials to creatively jolt the economy. According to an op-ed on CNN, cities, which concentrate creativity and innovation, must use political, business, university, and civic leaders to grow jobs and to provide a workforce for the future. Cities, when combined with the larger metropolitan area, are home to 84 percent of Americans and 91 percent of GDP production. Thus, it is crucial for cities to engage globally and capture emerging industries in order to secure the future economy for America. Cities and metropolitan areas “innovate because they must, and ultimately it’s ideas and efforts from these “small places” that will change the game.”
College-educated workers are valuable to the economies of cities. The Young and Restless attests to the large numbers of highly skilled workers flocking to city centers. According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, there are two types of cities attracting workers with a college degree. In the first category are cities long known for their large proportion of educated workers (e.g. San Jose and Washington). These cities are still gaining talented workers, but lesser-educated workers are vacating due to expense. This leads to a higher proportion of educated workers. The second category contains cities with rapidly growing populations (e.g. Raleigh and Austin). Due to their relative affordability, these cities are gaining workers with a mix of education levels. Overall, this second category is gaining the highest in raw numbers of educated workers despite their middle of the pack rankings for percentage gain. Both of these categories are “high-flying places [that] are hoarding a growing share of the nation’s most valuable workers, best paying jobs, and attracting a lopsided share of new investment and young companies.”
For many Americans, walkability plays a key role when choosing a community. An article in the New York Times discusses the rising prevalence of infrastructure for walking and biking in Long Island communities. The Long Island area’s push for greater livability is just a portion of the state of New York’s initiative to make roads safer and more accessible for walking and biking. In August, Governor Andrew Cuomo’s signed “Complete Streets,” a legislation to increase the accessibility of communities. City planners and government officials are not the only people prioritizing livable communities; walkability is an increasingly large priority for homebuyers. The article uses CEOs for Cities’ Walking the Walk to quantify the effect that the increased demand for walkable communities has on home prices: “homes within a walkable mile of ‘common daily shopping and social destinations’ command from $4,000 to $34,000 more than similar homes in more car-centric communities.” The popularity of walkable communities with mixed-use downtown areas indicates that “the pendulum is swinging away from malls and toward walkable village centers.”
Cleveland’s major stakeholders are trying to reinvent the city after decades of decline and outmigration. A New York Times article details their efforts in University Circle and the Uptown arts and entertainment district along the historic Euclid Avenue. Uptown, which has received over $162 million in investments, aims to create a new downtown for the University Circle community which is within a one-mile radius of many of Cleveland’s most successful institutions. Chris Ronayne, CEOs for Cities partner and president of University Circle Inc., said the area, which employs approximately 50,000 people, has “5,000 more jobs here than in 2005.” In a city that had a population decline of 17 percent from 2000 to 2010, “The number of residents grew 11 percent since 2000. And there are 10,000 people who live here now,” cited Ronanyne. University Circle and projects similar to Uptown are the catalyst for Cleveland’s next generation.
Calling it "a remarkable thing" that, given all of our choices about where to live, cities are so appealing, in this short video from CEOs for Cities' Fall National Meeting in Chicago, Harvard economist Ed Glaeser offers his ideas on the policies, both local and national, that would best enable cities' success. He calls on local policymakers to focus on "ephemeral" quality of life issues in addition to safety and schools so as to attract smart, entrepreneurial people. At the federal level, he simply asks for a level playing field that doesn't "act as if cities are un-American, but rather understands that the American Dream doesn't have to mean a white picket fence in the suburbs."
Suburban sprawl may be contributing to the shrinking populations in post-industrial cities as much as the changing economy in those cities. The Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland released a new study highlighting the importance of the core density on the overall population of the metropolitan region. The report, which looked at census data from 1980-2010, found, “that growing cities have maintained dense urban centers, while shrinking cities have not.” The study also highlights the importance of density on production. As more businesses realize that declining population is detrimental to their interests, Kaid Benfield opines in The Atlantic Cities piece “Fixing the Rust Belt by Shrinking It” that we will soon see political policies focused on strengthening our core.
Cities need to be able to control their own destinies. That's the message from Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett in this interview with NPR. "Candidates and Washington in general are not talking about cities. Cities would do a lot better if they had more discretion." Cornett, who is the national president of the Republican Mayors Association, cited long-term capital issues like deferred maintenance and state-level cutbacks as crippling concerns not being addressed by political leaders.
For his part, Oklahoma City is a success story, having famously raised taxes to pay for amenities designed to improve quality of life and attract young, college-educated people to the city. The Kauffman Foundation recently named it the most entrepreneurial city in the country with the most start-ups per capita.
So how did they do it?
"We've been able to convince the people in the suburbs that the vibrancy of the core is directly proportionate to the quality of life in the suburbs," Cornett said. "So the people in the suburbs are willing to invest in downtown."
Akron, Ohio, the former Rubber Capital of the World, is utilizing its anchor institutions to revitalize its core. By uniting the University of Akron, three major hospitals, and Akron Public Schools, Akron is powering a new downtown through collaboration. The University Park Alliance, led by Executive Director Eric Johnson, has big ideas for reshaping downtown Akron into a mixed-use, vibrant community that will provide great places between the anchor institutions. In addition to building affordable real estate and emphasizing placemaking, Akron is creating the Austen BioInnovation Institute to promote healthcare innovation and bring further investment into Akron. With major funders from around the country and a real estate development partnership with KUD International, Akron is remaking its core by creating a multi-sector team of leaders. For more examples of ways to leverage anchor institutions to achieve urban success, read How to Behave Like an Anchor Institution, a piece of research by CEOs for Cities and Living Cities.