Quantcast
Channel: CEOs for Cities Blog
Mark channel Not-Safe-For-Work? cancel confirm NSFW Votes: (0 votes)
Are you the publisher? Claim or contact us about this channel.
0

Promoting Community Development through Visual Arts: Skid Row Los Angeles

0
0


Photo from Los Angeles Poverty Department

Visual arts help to create new narratives and give ways to “re-think” many issues affecting impoverished communities.  Skid Row Los Angeles has the largest concentrated homeless population in the U.S. and visual arts have been influential in creating a soundboard for those living and working in the community by connecting their experiences to the social and political forces that shape their communities.

Over the last ten years, the Los Angeles Poverty Department has successfully incorporated visual arts through arts-based engagement within the Skid Row community.  The Los Angeles Poverty Department recently partnered with the REEL Recovery Film Festival to launch Biggest Recovery Community Anywhere, a 3-day festival centered on recovery in performance by members of the Skid Row theater group, as well as film, discussion, and fellowship.

Biggest Recovery Community Anywhere depicts Skid Row as a site of both recovery and transformation, highlighting the accessibility of professional resources and programs in the area.  To the Los Angeles Poverty Department, “getting clean and sober happens in funded programs, but recovery happens in the community.

REEL Recovery Film Festival is a project of Writers in Treatment, a nonprofit organization seeking to save lives by promoting and providing treatment for addiction through the arts.  In Biggest Recovery Community Anywhere, the Los Angeles Poverty Department and REEL Recovery Film Festival draw on the knowledge and experiences of the members of Skid Row’s recovery community, creating a “recovery consciousness.”

A 2008 study by the Urban Institute assessed the cultural vitality in the Skid Row community by engaging in discussion with individual respondents and neighborhood groups.  Individual respondents highlighted how artistic and cultural activity gave them a sense of empowerment through a greater ability to express themselves.  Artistic and cultural activity on the neighborhood level was considered essential to increasing the livability of the community and creating a community identity.

From its successes in working with recovery programs, shelters, advocates, and art organizations in the Skid Row community, the Los Angeles Poverty Department has been invited to create similar projects in communities throughout the US, in the UK, France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Bolivia, and Nicaragua.  For more information and a list of upcoming Los Angeles Poverty Department events, visit their website here.

***

Jenna Chilingerian is a CEOs for Cities Summer Success Fellow. Jenna is a Fresno, California native and recent graduate of the University of California, Los Angeles.  Jenna received her Bachelor of Arts in Political Science with a minor in Civic Engagement, and earned both College Honors and Summa Cum Laude Latin Honors.  She recently moved to Cleveland, Ohio to complete a summer City Success Fellowship with CEOs for Cities.

Artists: The Urban Crusaders

0
0


Photo from Market Wired

Even America’s most struggling cities are showing signs of resurgence.  In increasingly larger numbers, corporations are choosing to move their offices away from the silence of the suburbs to the excitement of bustling downtowns.  Downtown occupancy rates are increasing significantly, leading to construction of new apartments and condos even in some of America’s poorest cities.  However, a city needs more than just businesses and residents to thrive.  The role of arts in this urban revival cannot be ignored.

The artistic community often plays one of the most significant roles in gentrification.  From the Paseo Arts District in Oklahoma City to the Westside Arts District in Atlanta, artists have gathered to open galleries, renovate neglected buildings, and create a sense of community that fosters further development.  Where crime was once rampant and buildings were vacant, artists moved in and created vibrant neighborhoods.  These artists, like crusaders, make a concerted effort toward a worthy cause: reviving our cities.

Artist-driven urban renewal has been met with so much success that it is now common for cities to specifically target artists to revitalize struggling neighborhoods.  For example, Cleveland’s Gordon Square, historically the economic cornerstone of Cleveland’s West Side, experienced a severe decline in the 70s and 80s. However, through the efforts of the Detroit Shoreway Community Development Organization, the Gordon Square Arts District was established and the arts community stimulated the revival of the district.

In addition to creating a strong community, an arts community can  also help contribute to the physical makeup of the city.  The state of a city’s public space can make a city feel welcoming or downright unfriendly.  The arts play a very important role in making public urban space aesthetically pleasing, thus improving the city as a whole.  A public space that is welcoming will promote a safer environment where street life thrives.

In theory, it is easy to create a park or plaza.  A park only needs some grass, trees, and benches.  However, it takes a certain skill to make public space appealing; the skill of an artist.  Flint, Michigan has learned to embrace public art as a way of improving public space and bringing the community together.  The Flint Public Art Project focuses on reclaiming abandoned parts of the city through public art.  Within the last year, the Project has held the Flat Lot Competition, which brought over 200 designs from across the world; the Three-City Art Festival, which temporarily reclaimed an abandoned manufacturing site; and the contest at Spring Grove, which is seeking designs to restore abandoned silos near a nature reserve.

More and more cities are using these types of artistic gatherings to boost their economies.  Also in Michigan, Grand Rapids hosts the ArtPrize competition which draws artists from all over the globe.  This year it will be held from September 18 to October 6.  Time Magazine listed ArtPrize as one of the “Five Festival Events You Won’t Want to Miss in 2013.”  CEOs for Cities’ annual national meeting will be held in Grand Rapids on September 29, 2013, to discuss the “Art of the Collaborative City.”  Attendees will also be able to attend this year’s ArtPrize competition and witness first-hand the positive influence of the arts in our nation’s cities.  Join us for our conference and live the art movement in a distinctive city by registering for our national conference.

***

Ethan Lawson is a CEOs for Cities Summer Success Fellow.  Ethan is a senior at Baldwin Wallace University, majoring in political science and history with a minor in urban studies.  He has also spent time studying at the University of Cape Town in Cape Town, South Africa, while also volunteering for the SHAWCO program, which provides education for low-income children in the greater Cape Town area.  He plans on pursuing a graduate degree in Urban & Regional Planning after graduating in 2014.

Take a Second Look at Detroit

0
0

Guest Contribution by Trina Shanks, Paula Allen-Meares, Larry Gant & Rachel Williams


Photo from Buzz Feed

The City of Detroit has been in the news lately, mostly in ways that make it seem like the city is beleaguered with one problem after another.  A new emergency manager has been appointed who recently published a report of the City’s finances that makes the prospect of looming bankruptcy seem even greater. Then there are the ongoing issues of rising crime, declining population rolls, and failing city services. Yet, in spite of what you hear and read trumpeted daily, there are many individuals and organizations working quietly and tirelessly in local neighborhoods to improve life for residents and/or children. They realize the challenges to their beloved city, yet they continue to strive to make it better. This type of passion and commitment is what keeps hundreds of thousands of people living in Detroit. This is why people, young and old, continue to move into the city, hopeful that better days still are ahead. Along with support from political leaders, the business community and philanthropic community, these local champions are the ones that keep the city viable. In their honor, we invite you to take a second look at Detroit.

One ongoing effort to improve the city, by enhancing the developmental outcomes of children, is being led by the Skillman Foundation. In 2006, the Foundation launched its Good Neighborhoods community change initiative, a 10-year $100 million commitment to Detroit families in six areas of the city. Our teams (the University of Michigan-School of Social Work Technical Assistance Center and the University of Illinois at Chicago) provide intellectual leadership and technical assistance to this effort, working closely with the foundation, residents, neighborhood stakeholders, and other partners involved in the change process. We have facilitated and participated as residents and others in the six neighborhoods gathered to discuss urgent matters, review social and economic indicator data, generate action plans, elect governing boards, and initiate activities to improve the lives of young people in the city of Detroit.

In addition, there are many funded improvements that are either scheduled or ready to be implemented in the city of Detroit as well as existing jewels.  Examples include the M-1 Rail system on Woodward Avenue, state of the art wastewater systems installations along Joy Road in the Cody-Rouge neighborhood, and a new Whole Foods Market and two Meijer supermarkets underway. These improvements benefit both long time residents of and newcomers to Detroit. And a public - philanthopic partnership recently spearheaded by the Kresge foundation generated a promising strategic framework plan called “Detroit Future City.”
But perhaps most importantly, there are committed residents who continue to contribute even through the coming bright future may still seem a bit distant and cloudy. These include Hanan Yahya.  As a high school student, Hanan Yahya spent her free time engaging her peers in Chadsey/Condon to participate in neighborhood revitalization efforts, park clean-ups, community meetings, and trainings to build capacity in Arab American community organizers.  She worked to reach across cultural divides to be inclusive in community outreach strategies.  After receiving a scholarship to the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor and starting classes in the fall of 2012, Hanan returned to her own community for service as part of the Semester In Detroit program.  This winter Hanan started her own ACT prep class for high school students to be held at a local library in Chadsey/Condon so that she can continue to build capacity in others and prepare them for success. Young people like Hanan represent the future of Detroit and demonstrate that capacity comes in many forms.

Another example is Bertha Marsh. Instead of cutting back since retirement, Bertha Marsh has become even more active in her community.  She volunteers every day at Osborn High School, providing tutoring for students, training parents how to organize around issues related to education, and connecting with local nonprofits to find resources to meet students’ needs.  Mrs. Marsh traveled to Chicago with a group of residents and stakeholders from Osborn last December to learn from the Logan Street’s parent mentor program model.  Applying lessons learned, she is helping to develop a local parent mentor program in Osborn. Mrs. Marsh is a changemaker. If a student needs help learning, she teaches.  If a parent needs information, she finds it.  If a student needs a winter coat, she gets someone to donate it.  If you walk into Osborn High School, everyone knows Mrs. Marsh. Seniors like Bertha represent the long term strength of the City and demonstrate there are many that have given their lives to keep Detroit great.

One final example is Martin-Louis Escobedo. It is true that many crimes are committed by young men of color in the city of Detroit.  But what doesn’t get publicized is the fact that many of these young men are not only turning their lives around, but some are even turning around their communities.  Martin is a teenager who lives in Southwest Detroit.  He used to be a gang member.  When he decided to get his life on the right track, it was not enough to merely stop his involvement with gangs.  Martin decided to become a youth cadet and be an active participant in the crime prevention effort in his community.  He trains others in his neighborhood – both youth and adults – how they can be part of the solution. People like Martin show that there is potential in all of us, but that it sometimes must be harnessed for good to keep communities strong.

So rather than shake your head at the headlines that you hear about the City of Detroit, we invite you to take a second look at the city where we live and/or work. Like many urban cities today, Detroit has challenges, but it has also has a celebrated history and many strengths. Take time to get to know the people that keep the city going, giving of themselves to halt what might have been a swift decline in some distressed communities. Better yet, join in to assist with the work that is already underway.  Add your commitment to make a better tomorrow for Detroit!

***
NOTE
Any communication or queries regarding this submission may be sent to Dr. Trina Shanks (734-764-7411).

Transportation: Who Is Responsible?

0
0


Photo from flickr user Complete Streets

The state of the nation’s transportation infrastructure continues to be at the forefront of national dialogue.   With the dwindling funds from Washington, state and local governments are becoming increasingly innovative in their efforts to modernize and fund transportation projects.

Metropolitan areas and localities are simultaneously becoming talking points in the national economic dialogue as “metro economies,” which has also led to the emergence of successful ‘have’ and struggling ‘have not’ metros.  As national transportation policy and funding patterns continue to change and adapt, perhaps localized investment in transportation infrastructure will bridge together these two groups.

The Federal Government and Transportation

Last year’s Federal Transportation Bill, passed by the House and Senate, extended federal highway, rail, and transit programs for two years.  The legislation authorized $120 billion in spending, or roughly $54 billion a year- essentially averting crisis for federal transportation projects all across the nation.

This legislation follows the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).  Through ‘stimulus funds,’ the ARRA aimed to stimulate the national economy, create and expand job opportunities, and address infrastructure challenges.  A major component of addressing infrastructure was the allocation of funding for construction and repair of roads.

According to the Department of Transportation (DOT), the ARRA has been influential in pushing the modernization of the nation’s infrastructure.  This map from the DOT shows the number of ARRA projects in each state, totaling 15,217 nationwide projects (Jan. 2013).  The ARRA’s High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail Program is providing funding for the very recently approved modernization program of the California statewide rail system, headed by the California High Speed Rail Authority.

The Metropolitan Approach to National Infrastructure

Robert Puentes, Senior Fellow of the Brookings Institution Metropolitan Policy Program, suggests looking at the efforts to shift to a more productive economy through the “lens of transportation.”  Federal stimulus funds and the two-year funding extension only reach so far, however, leaving a looming uncertainty for state and metropolitan planning agencies.

States and localities are developing new ways to fund and build transportation infrastructure.  Long before the 2012 Federal Transportation Bill and ARRA, states and localities nationwide were adopting their own transportation policy: complete streets.  Today, 500 states and localities have a complete streets policy.

According to Smart Growth America’s National Complete Streets Coalition program, streets are important to the livability of communities and should be designed with the consideration of all users- whether bicyclists, public transit riders, or pedestrians.   In other words, Complete Streets addresses the equitability of transportation infrastructure and networks.

Hinting of a Joint Approach

The movement to “complete” streets by building safer, more livable, and more welcoming road networks has recently picked up speed.  Last week, representatives from the National Complete Streets Coalition gathered at a briefing on Capitol Hill to make the case for a complete streets policy and the proposed Safe Streets Act.

The Safe Streets Act, proposed by Reps. David Joyce (R-OH) and Doris Matsui (D-CA), would ensure that federal transportation projects provide long-lasting equitable access and safety.  This Act also has implications for traffic congestion relief and addresses environmental concerns, such as air pollution.

According to Rep. Matsui, “Too many of the roads in our country are designed solely with drivers in mind. The risks of such design are evident in the number of pedestrian and bicyclist deaths and injuries we see every year, and often discourage more people from considering other transportation methods.”

Testing Out the Complete Streets Policy: The Better Block

I recently had the privilege to talk with Andrew Howard of The Better Block.  According to its website, The Better Block project is a “demonstration tool” that engages and promotes community involvement in the planning and design processes of transportation infrastructure development.  The Better Block works mostly with cities because, as Howard put it- “they are the innovators.”

Because there is less funding for transportation, there is a simultaneous need to spend less time planning and designing, and more time doing and building.  The Better Block seeks to change the project delivery process through “innovative interim design.”  Their philosophy is to not get stuck in the planning process and thwarted by the fears of change.  The cities The Better Block works with have their own planning processes, but The Better Block helps to augment public outreach and get whole communities involved.  Thus, there is a great deal of authenticity added to transportation projects because these projects are designed and built by the community and volunteers.

In recent projects, The Better Block has been testing out the “complete streets” idea.  Something unique with The Better Block’s approach to complete streets is the importance placed on the private sector- which is oftentimes overlooked.  For example, it seems counterintuitive to have bike lanes without places to bike to.  The Better Block integrates pop-up shops to encourage a new streetscape and to facilitate a more vibrant economy.

To see if The Better Block has been to your city, this map shows and describes the projects completed and underway.  The Better Block just returned from a project in Australia- cities up next include Toronto, Fresno, CA, and Boston.

***

Jenna Chilingerian is a CEOs for Cities Summer Success Fellow. Jenna is a Fresno, California native and recent graduate of the University of California, Los Angeles.  Jenna received her Bachelor of Arts in Political Science with a minor in Civic Engagement, and earned both College Honors and Summa Cum Laude Latin Honors.  She recently moved to Cleveland, Ohio to complete a summer City Success Fellowship with CEOs for Cities.

Artists: The Urban Crusaders

0
0


Photo from Market Wired

Even America’s most struggling cities are showing signs of resurgence.  In increasingly larger numbers, corporations are choosing to move their offices away from the silence of the suburbs to the excitement of bustling downtowns.  Downtown occupancy rates are increasing significantly, leading to construction of new apartments and condos even in some of America’s poorest cities.  However, a city needs more than just businesses and residents to thrive.  The role of arts in this urban revival cannot be ignored.

The artistic community often plays one of the most significant roles in gentrification.  From the Paseo Arts District in Oklahoma City to the Westside Arts District in Atlanta, artists have gathered to open galleries, renovate neglected buildings, and create a sense of community that fosters further development.  Where crime was once rampant and buildings were vacant, artists moved in and created vibrant neighborhoods.  These artists, like crusaders, make a concerted effort toward a worthy cause: reviving our cities.

Artist-driven urban renewal has been met with so much success that it is now common for cities to specifically target artists to revitalize struggling neighborhoods.  For example, Cleveland’s Gordon Square, historically the economic cornerstone of Cleveland’s West Side, experienced a severe decline in the 70s and 80s. However, through the efforts of the Detroit Shoreway Community Development Organization, the Gordon Square Arts District was established and the arts community stimulated the revival of the district.

In addition to creating a strong community, an arts community can  also help contribute to the physical makeup of the city.  The state of a city’s public space can make a city feel welcoming or downright unfriendly.  The arts play a very important role in making public urban space aesthetically pleasing, thus improving the city as a whole.  A public space that is welcoming will promote a safer environment where street life thrives.

In theory, it is easy to create a park or plaza.  A park only needs some grass, trees, and benches.  However, it takes a certain skill to make public space appealing; the skill of an artist.  Flint, Michigan has learned to embrace public art as a way of improving public space and bringing the community together.  The Flint Public Art Project focuses on reclaiming abandoned parts of the city through public art.  Within the last year, the Project has held the Flat Lot Competition, which brought over 200 designs from across the world; the Three-City Art Festival, which temporarily reclaimed an abandoned manufacturing site; and the contest at Spring Grove, which is seeking designs to restore abandoned silos near a nature reserve.

More and more cities are using these types of artistic gatherings to boost their economies.  Also in Michigan, Grand Rapids hosts the ArtPrize competition which draws artists from all over the globe.  This year it will be held from September 18 to October 6.  Time Magazine listed ArtPrize as one of the “Five Festival Events You Won’t Want to Miss in 2013.”  CEOs for Cities’ annual national meeting will be held in Grand Rapids on September 29, 2013, to discuss the “Art of the Collaborative City.”  Attendees will also be able to attend this year’s ArtPrize competition and witness first-hand the positive influence of the arts in our nation’s cities.  Join us for our conference and live the art movement in a distinctive city by registering for our national conference.

***

Ethan Lawson is a CEOs for Cities Summer Success Fellow.  Ethan is a senior at Baldwin Wallace University, majoring in political science and history with a minor in urban studies.  He has also spent time studying at the University of Cape Town in Cape Town, South Africa, while also volunteering for the SHAWCO program, which provides education for low-income children in the greater Cape Town area.  He plans on pursuing a graduate degree in Urban & Regional Planning after graduating in 2014.

Making Historic Preservation Economically Viable: Heritage Tourism

0
0


Photo from Historic Fresno

Historic Preservation + Tourism = ?

On the most basic level, historic preservation is a way to embrace the unique development of a community and serves as a vital educational tool for future generations.  Historic preservation is also an important tool for economic development and the revitalization of distressed communities and has become a major resource for the U.S. travel and tourism industries. 

The U.S. travel and tourism industries are crucial to the nation’s economic vitality.  In 2010, travel and tourism directly contributed $759 billion to the U.S. economy, employed over 7.4 million workers, created a payroll income of $188 billion, and brought in $118 billion in tax revenues for federal, state, and local governments.  In general, travel and tourism spur economic growth and vitality, and historic preservation helps facilitate foot traffic and fosters city distinctiveness.    

Together, the historic preservation movement and travel and tourism industries have the potential to improve the quality of life of a community and build civic pride. Preservation of historic structures, traditions, customs and stories of the past attracts visitors and tourists willing to spend money and time in distinct communities, and the result is heritage tourism. 

Answer: Heritage Tourism

According to the National Trust for Historic Preservation, heritage tourism involves travel to experience places, artifacts, and activities that authentically represent the stories and people of the past.  Heritage tourists have the opportunity to explore the cultural values, architecture, and history of ethnic groups.  These tourists take part in cultural activities such as traditional dances, art-making, and ethnic cooking. 

The heritage tourism movement has picked up momentum since the late 1990s because of its measured economic and experiential impact: studies have consistently shown that heritage travelers stay longer and spend more money.  Between 1996 and 2002, heritage travel increased by 13 percent compared to U.S. travel overall (5.6 percent).  A 1997 Travel Industry Association of America study showed that heritage tourists had higher educational attainment, were more affluent, spent more money per trip, and stayed longer than other tourists. 

A heritage tourism platform can be an attractive economic revitalization strategy, providing a larger source of sustained revenue for a community, creating new businesses, increasing tax revenues, and fostering job growth.  Heritage tourism has the potential to make historic preservation economically viable by using historic structures and landscapes to attract visitors and improve the quality of life for residents simultaneously. Historic preservation enhances heritage tourism, and helps to further generate communities’ unique character and civic pride.  

Where to go from here?

Many communities and states have increasingly embraced historic preservation as a policy tool for economic development, seeing the great potential for attracting visitors and tourists.  On the national level, there are many tools and resources available for localities to partake in preservation projects that will ultimately attract more tourists.  States have begun to form cultural commissions that designate cultural landmarks and regional heritage areas, opening up an opportunity for collaborative efforts on the regional level to protect landscape, preserve historic structures, and stimulate regional economic development. 

On the local level, you can support local communities through participating in “buy local” campaigns, spending an afternoon on Main Street, or even choosing to advocate to save historic structures important to your community’s identity. 

Share your story on the Cultural Heritage Tourism website dedicated to providing resources for historic preservation practitioners.  Interested in embarking on your own heritage tour? The National Trust for Historic Preservation provides an interactive site where you can find historic places, heritage tours, and historic hotels of America.

***

Jenna Chilingerian is a CEOs for Cities Summer Success Fellow. Jenna is a Fresno, California native and recent graduate of the University of California, Los Angeles.  Jenna received her Bachelor of Arts in Political Science with a minor in Civic Engagement, and earned both College Honors and Summa Cum Laude Latin Honors.  She recently moved to Cleveland, Ohio to complete a summer City Success Fellowship with CEOs for Cities.

Historic Preservation and the Identity of a City

0
0


Photo from flick user JasonParis

Each and every city is unique.  The distinctiveness of a city lends to the idea that each city has its own separate identity. The identity of a city largely depends on the identity of its citizens, and vice versa.  In a way, we are our cities.  We come to love cities mainly because of how we identify with them and when someone truly identifies with a city, they will often choose to live in that city for life.  This is why it's important for a city to find and embrace its own unique identity.  There are many factors that help shape a city’s identity, but one of the most important factors is the city’s history. 

Urban history is shaped by location and trade.  For example, Chicago’s history was shaped by the many railroads and canals that brought various industries and cultures to the region; San Francisco’s history was shaped by the industries and cultures brought by the gold rush and Navy bases.  Both of these cities were affected by devastating disasters (a fire and an earthquake, respectively), which led to dramatic changes in their urban framework. These two examples, like other cities, are truly embodiments of the historical events of the past. 

A city’s architecture is perhaps the most concrete representation of its history.  Architecture is much more than just the physical design of buildings; instead architecture can, in many ways, be viewed as a reflection of the cultural movements of the past.  Every city has its own unique story to tell, and those stories are told not only through its citizens, but through its buildings.  Preservation of historic architecture is imperative to preserving the unique identities of our cities.  A concept that went out of fashion in the 1960s and 1970s, historic preservation is making a comeback as cities embrace their identities. 

From the Spanish colonial architecture of California and the Southwest to the English colonial style of the Northeast, architecture acts as a physical representation of a city’s history.  Detroit’s many factories and warehouses speak for its industrial heritage, while New Orleans’ elaborate iron balconies speak for its French colonial past. Walking through a historic city like Boston, one witnesses the city’s history manifested in its winding streets and dense brick buildings.  Boston embraces its revolutionary past and is thus able to maintain a strong and unique identity that stands apart from many other urban centers.  Without historic preservation efforts, many cities like Boston and New Orleans would have lost touch with their history.


Photo from flick user KatjusaC

However, as cities modernize they find that they must change their identities to remain relevant.  This raises the important question: how can cities respect the past while also forging new identities?  Many cities are finding ways to build their future on the past by utilizing its history and landmarks as a core for attracting tourism and social activities.  For example, Cleveland and other Ohio cities have invested millions into preserving the old Ohio & Erie Canal and transforming its towpath into a biking and hiking destination.  The canal, which once brought commerce and prosperity to Cleveland, is now a modern tourist attraction.

Cities can also enhance their landmarks with the use of public lighting.  Innovative lighting helps to modernize a space, while embracing its historical significance.  From the Eiffel Tower to the Statue of Liberty, lighting frames historical landmarks which contribute to their branding and, ultimately, their identities.  Historic preservation means that cities can maintain their historic identities, but it does not mean that cities cannot expand upon their identities in a modern, globalized world.

***

Ethan Lawson is a CEOs for Cities Summer Success Fellow.  Ethan is a senior at Baldwin Wallace University, majoring in political science and history with a minor in urban studies.  He has also spent time studying at the University of Cape Town in Cape Town, South Africa, while also volunteering for the SHAWCO program, which provides education for low-income children in the greater Cape Town area.  He plans on pursuing a graduate degree in Urban & Regional Planning after graduating in 2014.

Re-Imagining America through the Lens of Municipal Innovation

0
0


Photo from CNNMoney

The Post-Industrial-Knowledge-Service Economy

Rising out of the depths of the Great Recession, we are living in turbulent and fiscally uncertain times.  We’re trapped between employment and financial uncertainties, and an ever-widening knowledge and skills gap.  We are feeling the reverberation of the push for a post-industrial, service-industry economy that has resulted in low-skill, low-pay jobs; at the same time, technological advancements have given way to a “knowledge-based economy” characterized by greater flexibility, innovation and knowledge production, and a shift away from labor toward social capital and the exchange of ideas. 

In spite of this perplexing narrative, one piece of the story has remained consistent: skepticism of the usefulness and effectiveness of government is on the rise.  The public is not happy with the public sector.  But Americans are rethinking what is no longer working; many have figured out that the directional nature of change does not have to be the traditional top-down flow from Washington to states to localities. 

Municipal Innovation: The Bottom-Up Solution

It is true that the challenges cities face cover a wide variety of issues.  Tack on budget deficits, looming bankruptcies, and the temptation to contract out government services, and it is clear that community improvement is not an easy task.  Yet city governments across the country realize that they cannot afford to sit idly, waiting for Washington to make change.

Instead, through municipal innovation city governments have taken a cross-sector, cross-generational approach to tackle some of the most serious issues in their communities.  Innovative government leaders have established collaborative infrastructures to more effectively connect the human, social, and physical capital of their communities.  These leaders work to facilitate and foster greater efficiency and transparency within government and throughout public service careers in order to better provide public services.

Municipal innovation has opened the doors to greater collaboration between government agencies, community-based organizations, the private sector, and citizens.  Cities are learning to do more with less, and improve upon the assets of their communities.  As a result, cities have become the drivers and incubators of social change and better governance.  And by sharing their innovative ideas and success stories, cities are paving the way for greater change across America everyday.   

The Marriage of Technology and Civic Engagement

Municipal innovation is unique because it utilizes technology and intensifies public engagement in the decision-making process.  Through technological advancements, city governments can easily measure performance as well as identify and preempt internal problems.  The use of data analytics has changed government personnel and administrative procedures, in turn improving the effectiveness and transparency of government.

Cities have also incorporated the use of technology in the provision of services.  Social media and online forums have transformed the traditional “town hall” meetings.  City agencies can hear directly from the community, quickly identify problems, and use the information to create immediate solutions.  With digital interactive platforms, city agencies can easily upload plans and proposed solutions that are accessible to community members, who in turn can provide their comments and suggestions. 

The instantaneous movement and exchange of ideas central to municipal innovation embodies the flexibility of the knowledge economy.  Constant creation and reinvention facilitates a new awareness of where money is being channeled in a community, which has subsequent implications for resource allocation and problem-solving.  The use of technology to fuel innovation also empowers whole communities by bringing life to voices of those previously unheard from. 

Re-Imagining America through the Lens of Innovation

Through the innovative use of 21stcentury technological advancements, cities are helping propel the country out of uncertainty, away from the inadequacies of the envisioned post-industrial economy, and toward a more sustainable future fully utilizing the resources of the knowledge economy.  Municipal innovation showcases an intrinsic strength of cities: they are big enough to make a difference, but small enough to make things happen quickly and effectively. Innovative cities, the emergence of a new, creative class of thinkers, and an active and engaged public sets a strong foundation to a bottom-up solution that unites all levels of a community.  Strong and successful cities have become essential to a strong America, but re-imaging America through the lens of innovation makes for longstanding change.   Cities will come to embody the change you wish to see, because change will be your vision of a better future. 

***

Jenna Chilingerian is a CEOs for Cities Summer Success Fellow. Jenna is a Fresno, California native and recent graduate of the University of California, Los Angeles.  Jenna received her Bachelor of Arts in Political Science with a minor in Civic Engagement, and earned both College Honors and Summa Cum Laude Latin Honors.  She recently moved to Cleveland, Ohio to complete a summer City Success Fellowship with CEOs for Cities.

Youngstown: A Shrinking City with Big Ideas

0
0


Photo from Model D Media

“Here in Youngstown. Here in Youngstown. My sweet Jenny I’m sinking down. Here darlin’ in Youngstown.” Bruce Springsteen’s folk ballad Youngstown describes the rise and fall of the rust belt city that sits on the Mahoning River, from the discovery of iron ore in the early 19th century to the decline of the steel industry in the 1970s. Typical of his heartland rock style, Springsteen laments about fall of the working class and the destruction of the American dream.

Springsteen’s tale is one that Youngstowners are all-too familiar with. Since the decline of the steel industry, the city’s population dropped from 140,000 in 1970 to a meager 65,000 in 2012. As a result of the sudden economic downturn, crime and poverty rose dramatically. During this period of severe decline, Youngstown gained some unflattering nicknames, like “Murdertown, USA” and “the armpit of Ohio.” In many ways, it appeared that The Boss may have been right: the city was “sinking down.”

But despite its deteriorating reputation, Youngstown has refused to give up. The rapidly shrinking population forced the Youngstown municipal government to innovate. Such severe problems require unique solutions; in 2005, the city partnered with Youngstown State University to create its “Youngstown 2010” plan, which called for a safer, cleaner, and smaller Youngstown. The main component of Youngstown 2010 is simple: downsizing the city’s infrastructure to match its declining population. Youngstown has decided to fully embrace the model of the shrinking city, and so far, the results have been positive.

Dilapidated houses are being torn down left and right to make room for green space and urban gardens, as abandoned buildings promote more crime. Youngstown has accepted that its population will continue to shrink, and the Youngstown 2010 plan is setting out to fight the negative symptoms that are associated with this dramatic population drop. The plan offers a clear and comprehensive vision of the future land-use within the city of Youngstown.

Land use is very important for the redevelopment of a shrinking city, but it is not the only component of the Youngstown 2010 plan. The plan also calls for diversifying the economy, which used to be almost entirely based on manufacturing. Tax incentive programs have helped attract and preserve investment throughout the city. In the years since the plan was proposed, many major new investments have been made in Youngstown, with numerous successful new businesses being built from the Youngstown Business Incubator.

From technology to manufacturing, Youngstown is showing signs of a rebound. Turning Technologies, a homegrown tech company that makes audience response systems, continues to expand rapidly in its offices next to the Youngstown Business Incubator. In 2007, it was named America’s fastest growing private technology company by Inc. Magazine. Even the steel industry is rebounding in the Mahoning Valley. Vallourec Star, an international steel company based in France, invested over $1 billion in Youngstown where it has built a state-of-the-art steel pipe mill.

Even while Youngstown’s population continues to shrink, its investments are growing. Downtown has been transformed from a ghost town to a vibrant location for restaurants, bars, and other businesses. Students at Youngstown State University can now walk downtown and see a show at the Rust Belt Theater Company, hang out with friends at thehttp://www.lemongrovecafe.com/http://www.lemongrovecafe.com/, and enjoy a beer from the Rust Belt Brewing Company at any of the new bars downtown. The interest in downtown has even led to the conversion of office space into apartments. For the first time in years, downtown is feeling like a true neighborhood.

Youngstown still has a lot of work to do in order to truly recover from its economic downturn, but the Youngstown 2010 plan has helped the city take some major steps toward recovery. Despite its problems, the future is looking bright for this small rust belt city. In 2009, Entrepreneur Magazine ranked Youngstown as one of the 10 best cities in which to start a business, and in 2012 Forbes Magazine ranked Youngstown one of the 10 best cities to raise a family in. Most recently, during his State of the Union Address, President Obama mentioned Youngstown’s potential future as the epicenter of the coming 3D-printing revolution. With news like that, maybe it’s about time for Bruce Springsteen to write a new song about Youngstown.

***

Ethan Lawson is a CEOs for Cities Summer Success Fellow. Ethan is a senior at Baldwin Wallace University, majoring in political science and history with a minor in urban studies.  He has also spent time studying at the University of Cape Town in Cape Town, South Africa, while also volunteering for the SHAWCO program, which provides education for low-income children in the greater Cape Town area.  He plans on pursuing a graduate degree in Urban & Regional Planning after graduating in 2014.

Youngstown: A Shrinking City with Big Ideas

0
0


Photo from Model D Media

“Here in Youngstown. Here in Youngstown. My sweet Jenny I’m sinking down. Here darlin’ in Youngstown.” Bruce Springsteen’s folk ballad Youngstown describes the rise and fall of the rust belt city that sits on the Mahoning River, from the discovery of iron ore in the early 19th century to the decline of the steel industry in the 1970s. Typical of his heartland rock style, Springsteen laments about fall of the working class and the destruction of the American dream.

Springsteen’s tale is one that Youngstowners are all-too familiar with. Since the decline of the steel industry, the city’s population dropped from 140,000 in 1970 to a meager 65,000 in 2012. As a result of the sudden economic downturn, crime and poverty rose dramatically. During this period of severe decline, Youngstown gained some unflattering nicknames, like “Murdertown, USA” and “the armpit of Ohio.” In many ways, it appeared that The Boss may have been right: the city was “sinking down.”

But despite its deteriorating reputation, Youngstown has refused to give up. The rapidly shrinking population forced the Youngstown municipal government to innovate. Such severe problems require unique solutions; in 2005, the city partnered with Youngstown State University to create its “Youngstown 2010” plan, which called for a safer, cleaner, and smaller Youngstown. The main component of Youngstown 2010 is simple: downsizing the city’s infrastructure to match its declining population. Youngstown has decided to fully embrace the model of the shrinking city, and so far, the results have been positive.

Dilapidated houses are being torn down left and right to make room for green space and urban gardens, as abandoned buildings promote more crime. Youngstown has accepted that its population will continue to shrink, and the Youngstown 2010 plan is setting out to fight the negative symptoms that are associated with this dramatic population drop. The plan offers a clear and comprehensive vision of the future land-use within the city of Youngstown.

Land use is very important for the redevelopment of a shrinking city, but it is not the only component of the Youngstown 2010 plan. The plan also calls for diversifying the economy, which used to be almost entirely based on manufacturing. Tax incentive programs have helped attract and preserve investment throughout the city. In the years since the plan was proposed, many major new investments have been made in Youngstown, with numerous successful new businesses being built from the Youngstown Business Incubator.

From technology to manufacturing, Youngstown is showing signs of a rebound. Turning Technologies, a homegrown tech company that makes audience response systems, continues to expand rapidly in its offices next to the Youngstown Business Incubator. In 2007, it was named America’s fastest growing private technology company by Inc. Magazine. Even the steel industry is rebounding in the Mahoning Valley. Vallourec Star, an international steel company based in France, invested over $1 billion in Youngstown where it has built a state-of-the-art steel pipe mill.

Even while Youngstown’s population continues to shrink, its investments are growing. Downtown has been transformed from a ghost town to a vibrant location for restaurants, bars, and other businesses. Students at Youngstown State University can now walk downtown and see a show at the Rust Belt Theater Company, hang out with friends at the Lemon Grove Cafe, and enjoy a beer from the Rust Belt Brewing Company at any of the new bars downtown. The interest in downtown has even led to the conversion of office space into apartments. For the first time in years, downtown is feeling like a true neighborhood.

Youngstown still has a lot of work to do in order to truly recover from its economic downturn, but the Youngstown 2010 plan has helped the city take some major steps toward recovery. Despite its problems, the future is looking bright for this small rust belt city. In 2009, Entrepreneur Magazine ranked Youngstown as one of the 10 best cities in which to start a business, and in 2012 Forbes Magazine ranked Youngstown one of the 10 best cities to raise a family in. Most recently, during his State of the Union Address, President Obama mentioned Youngstown’s potential future as the epicenter of the coming 3D-printing revolution. With news like that, maybe it’s about time for Bruce Springsteen to write a new song about Youngstown.

***

Ethan Lawson is a CEOs for Cities Summer Success Fellow. Ethan is a senior at Baldwin Wallace University, majoring in political science and history with a minor in urban studies.  He has also spent time studying at the University of Cape Town in Cape Town, South Africa, while also volunteering for the SHAWCO program, which provides education for low-income children in the greater Cape Town area.  He plans on pursuing a graduate degree in Urban & Regional Planning after graduating in 2014.

Terroir and the Distinct City

0
0


Photo from flickr user Steven Depolo

Craft beer has recently boomed in popularity across the United States with unique ingredients taking main stage. Often a brewery utilizes local ingredients and easily recognizable regional favorites for flavoring. Terroir, a term generally reserved for wines and cheese in the past, refers to the idea of tasting the flavors of a locality, and is becoming a main focus in the craft brewery world.

But what is the ‘taste of place’?  What about a specific beer sets it apart from other craft breweries? Many of the descriptions of beer are reminiscent of perfume, with elements such as smoke, imported chocolate, roasted coffee, flaked oats, and fresh raspberries.  Clichés of the brewery locale often also play into the ingredients used. Exotic elements from oysters to Rocky Mountain oysters -- as well as tamer ingredients such as bananas, sorghum, and millet -- are just a few examples of the array of ingredients used in the beers popularized by craft breweries. Cave aging in oak barrels or slowly fermented in painstaking steps distinguish craft beer from its mass-produced alternatives; the emphasis on process and uniqueness of ingredients prepares the taster for a truly local experience. To explore a city’s beer scene, just as you may explore the food scene, provides insight into what makes any city a distinct city.

In a recently released list of top cities to visit for beer-lovers, Grand Rapids was listed third, highlighting the nationally recognized Founder’s Brewing Company.  Founder’s produces year round staples like their Dirty Bastard and seasonal specialty favorites like their Breakfast Stout and their Curmudgeon Old Ale, which are sure to please the weariest traveler. Beer lovers can tour the brewery, enjoy samples, and relax in the taproom with some delicious specialty dishes paired with the brew house’s signature beers.

Grand Rapids is at the forefront of cities whose craft brew niche is growing in popularity among visitors and locals alike. Spend some time drinking like a local and visit us for our national conference in Grand Rapids September 29 – October 1 and check out some other local favorite breweries while you are there: Schmohz Brewing Co., Grand Rapids Brewing Co.,and Brewery Vivant .

***

Valerie Lightner is a CEOs for Cities Summer Success Fellow. Valerie is a Junior at Kenyon College in central Ohio, majoring in Anthropology with a minor in History and a concentration in Women’s and Gender Studies. She was raised on the east side of Cleveland and is, of course, very passionate about her Cleveland teams. She also loves blues music, animals, and city exploration adventures. This upcoming school year she is excited to embark on her first international adventure, studying abroad in Denmark and England. Valerie hopes to continue her work in non-profits after graduation, potentially moving in the direction of social activism in urban centers.

Anchoring Success in the Urban Core

0
0


Photo from flickr user JohnE777

The way that a city is made has drastically changed in recent decades.  The post-World War II narrative of rapid suburbanization on the rural frontier fueled by amplified housing demand and a subsequent mass exodus of city cores is all too familiar.  With the exodus of people came the disappearance of job-providing institutions, such as corporate headquarters and manufacturing firms.  As the story goes, long periods of inactivity and disinvestment in city cores led to the demise of the traditional American downtown, once a hub for economic activity.

An Alternate Ending: Anchor Institutions

A 2010 report from CEOs for Cities provides an alternate ending to this narrative: city leaders and developers have started to pay greater attention to the types of institutions that wield significant influence as employers, purchasers of goods and services, and sources of creativity and innovation.  These influential “anchor institutions,” a label developed in 2002 by Harvard Professor Michael Porter, have the power to transform a region.

Anchor institutions differ from traditional institutions because they are essentially “anchored,” they never move and are highly motivated to invest in place.  They include some of the fastest growing organizations with major real estate holdings concentrated in the urban core: colleges and universities, hospitals, art centers, public utilities, and even professional sports franchises.  With the decline in investments from government and businesses alike, anchor institutions have become desirable sources for leadership and development in city cores.  The following examples have built vibrant neighborhoods around these valuable anchors.

Syracuse, New York
Under the leadership of Chancellor Nancy Cantor, Syracuse University has undertaken two mega-projects that are reshaping the city: the Near West Side Initiative and the Connective Corridor.  University engagement is central to these efforts, and urban landscaping, outdoor, art, bike paths, and free shuttle bus service have helped to reshape these neighborhoods and rejuvenate the city.

Newark, New Jersey
The New Jersey Performing Arts Center, which opened in 1997, was a successful attempt to help revitalize the city with a showcase facility that would be “in Newark and of Newark;” its employees, contractors, visitors, and programming would reflect the city’s diversity.  The New Jersey Performing Arts Center is the sixth largest performing arts center in the country and has transformed the city into a cultural, artistic, and educational center.   

Grand Rapids, Michigan
The Medical Mile is located near the Grand River, in the Hillside District of Downtown Grand Rapids.  With the establishment in 1996 of the Van Andel Institute for biomedical research, Grand Rapids’ Medical Mile was born.  The “mile” has rapidly expanded to nearly five times its original size, helping to give life to a robust life sciences industry in Grand Rapids.

These “anchor institutions” have spawned educational  facilities, as well as museums, restaurants, hotels and shopping centers. This map details the high volume of institutions within and around the Medical Mile.  Some recent additions include Grand Valley State University’s Cook-DeVos Center for Health Sciences, Michigan State University College of Human Medicine, Grand Rapids Community College Calkins Science Center, and Spectrum Health System.

Not only has Downtown Grand Rapids become a hub for biomedical research, but the Medical Mile has transformed the region into a destination with a dynamic and integrated network of human capital.  CEOs for Cities’ 2013 National Meeting, The Art of the Collaborative City will be held right in the heart of this flourishing downtown area fueled by the Medical Mile.

Check out our exciting events and speakers, including a panel discussion of Grand Rapids’ Medical Mile. Register here to join us September 29-October 1.

***

Jenna Chilingerian is a CEOs for Cities Summer Success Fellow. Jenna is a Fresno, California native and recent graduate of the University of California, Los Angeles.  Jenna received her Bachelor of Arts in Political Science with a minor in Civic Engagement, and earned both College Honors and Summa Cum Laude Latin Honors.  She recently moved to Cleveland, Ohio to complete a summer City Success Fellowship with CEOs for Cities.

Cisco’s Smart+Connected Communities: Preparing for an Urbanized World

0
0


Photo from The International Society for Presence Research

Corporations are finding themselves in an increasingly globalized and urbanized world. As the world's population continues to migrate to urban centers, these corporations realize they have to adjust to meet this shift. Cisco created its “Smart+Connected Communities” initiative to address the challenges associated with the global urban shift. These challenges include overcrowding, pollution, budget and resource constraints, inadequate infrastructures, and the need for continuing growth.

Anil Menon became the president of Cisco's Smart+Connected Communities (S+CC) in March 2009. Since then, he has consistently worked to bring together people, services, community assets, and information using intelligent networking capabilities. By bringing community leaders together, it is easier to address the challenges and create a more sustainable environment. Anil leads a cross-Cisco team focused on services-led solutions in safety and security, energy, real estate, and transportation.

Cisco’s S+CC initiative focuses heavily on using technology to revitalize cities, develop smart cities, and deliver next-generation services. New tools have the potential to help city governments address the long list of challenges that they are facing. Anil Menon and Cisco believe that technology can be extremely effective in bringing positive change to city government both internationally and domestically. There are powerful new connectivity technologies and software that better support co-production, collaborative consumption, and participation in municipal governments. As the world continues to urbanize, the need for smart technologies in city governments is rising. In this regard, Cisco’s investments are proving to pay off.

S+CC has collaborated with numerous cities and regions to use technology to help solve challenges in urban areas. In 2010, Cisco and the City of Holyoke (MA) partnered up to create an Internet-based, connected community model to help revitalize the local economy. In 2009, Cisco partnered with the City of San Francisco to promote similar initiatives, with a particular focus on the environment. On Earth Day 2009, Cisco and the City of San Francisco launched the Urban EcoMap, representing a first step toward the vision of a sustainable San Francisco.

In addition to these examples, Cisco has worked with many other cities across the country and the world to bring advanced collaborative technologies to city governments. For the first time in history, the majority of the world’s population lives in cities, and this trend shows no sign of reversing. The people at Cisco realize that cities are the primary location for the main challenges of the 21st Century. But they also realize that many of these challenges can be addressed through new technologies that will help city governments collaborate with their citizens and create a sustainable model for growth. To invest in cities is to invest in the future.

S+CC President Anil Menon will be a featured speaker at CEOs for Cities’ 2013 Fall National Meeting in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Register now to join the conversation about The Art of the Collaborative City.

***

Ethan Lawson is a CEOs for Cities Summer Success Fellow. Ethan is a senior at Baldwin Wallace University, majoring in political science and history with a minor in urban studies.  He has also spent time studying at the University of Cape Town in Cape Town, South Africa, while also volunteering for the SHAWCO program, which provides education for low-income children in the greater Cape Town area.  He plans on pursuing a graduate degree in Urban & Regional Planning after graduating in 2014.

The Transformation of Space into Place

0
0


Photo from The Atlantic Cities

The transformation of spaces into creative and vibrant places is a current trend in the 21st century. The Internet is full of success stories detailing how cities, in their quest to find distinctiveness, have rediscovered assets of built and physical environments. With these strong and conscious efforts, significant improvements to the livability of whole communities follow. Common to these success stories is placemaking.

In the process of making place it becomes increasingly important to understand how people fit into civic design. And to understand how, it is important to realize the tendency for a built environment to turn its back on people. In order to transform space into place, the connection between people and their built environments must be re-established.

Making Places worth Caring About

In his 2004 TED talk “The ghastly tragedy of the suburbs,” James Howard Kunstler hints at the making of place as creating a sense of place, as having the ability to create meaningful places. These are places of both quality and character. From his narrative, it is clear that buildings play a large role in the making of place as space is most definitively defined by built structures and environments.

A major component of Kunstler’s talk is the relationship between the public realm and a citizen’s ability to perform civic duties. According to Kunstler, this ability derives from a body of culture- a culture of good civic design. Good civic design requires extensive skills and methods; unfortunately, skillful civic design was disregarded following World War II, resulting in a “catastrophe of human environments.” 

As a nation we gradually lost the ability to define place and space after World War II. If we don’t know where we come from or what type of people we are, it is difficult to navigate our future. To be in a “hopeful present,” we need to regain the ability to define place and space. This is a difficult task, however. Thousands of places in the U.S. are places not worth caring about. Kunstler proposes creating permeable spaces in built environments- destination spots full of shops, bars, and bistros- where things constantly move in and out of the space, creating a vibrant place worth investing in and visiting.

Re-Opening Our Eyes     

In This Land: Visual Pollution (2007), President of Scenic America Kevin Fry narrates a NYT slide show on the miserable suburban landscape found in so much of America. Amidst pictures of dejected spaces, Fry describes America as a “nation going insane” with no sense of who we are or where we are from. Our built environments have been built as places for cars. We live between isolated, concrete environments that are only accessible by car.

With this isolation, serendipity and connection to place is lost. Your chance of interaction with people is diminished, and your connection to these built environments is mostly situational and involuntary. Why care about a place if you don’t feel connected to it?  Fry suggests, by re-opening our eyes and seeing the need for increased interaction not only between people and buildings, but also between people and people, we can generate a reversal of these built environments.

Creating Destinations and Experience Centers

Cleveland, Ohio

East Fourth Street in Cleveland, Ohio is a vibrant pedestrian-only street located moments away from Downtown Cleveland’s historic theater district and the Gateway Sports Complex, home to the Indians and Cavaliers. The street is lined with eateries, entertainment venues, and retail and housing complexes. As recently as 2000, this street was solely known for seedy behavior and criminal activity. Collaboration between the government, businesses, and developers paired with the vision of attracting and retaining young professionals to Downtown Cleveland turned East Fourth into one of the most vibrant urban environments in the city.

Los Angeles, California

The Grove sits adjacent to the original Farmer’s Market, a historic landmark established in 1934 on the corner of Fairfax and 3rd. Primarily an outdoor marketplace with retail and entertainment venues, The Grove was designed to emulate historic districts in Los Angeles with plazas and courtyards. A streetcar takes visitors from the historic Farmer’s Market through the heart of The Grove. Since its opening in 2002, The Grove has become a prime destination spot for tourists and Los Angeles natives alike.

Chicago, Illinois

In Millennium Park sits a 66 feet long and 33 feet high bean-like structure formally called Cloud Gate, and unofficially referred to as “The Bean.”  The Bean is comprised of stainless steel plates, creating a vast mirrored surface. This giant structure reflects the city skyline, allowing visitors to photograph themselves with the Chicago skyline behind them.

These three spaces provide examples of permeable spaces. By reversing the built environment from a space built for cars to a space built for people, these spaces became interactive places worth caring about. All three examples are propelled by interaction between people and buildings, and between people and people. Connection is thereby re-established and choice is reintroduced into civic design.

Meet Me in St. Louis…In 2015

St. Louis is one city to keep your eye on in the next few years with its CityArchRiver 2015 plan to reconnect the iconic Gateway Arch to Downtown St. Louis- a disconnection that is nearly fifty years old. The construction of Interstate 70 closely followed the completion of the Gateway Arch in 1964. While the intention of the highway was to facilitate greater movement into the region’s center, the highway was responsible for disrupting the city’s street grid and consequently isolated the national monument. As this project takes off, cities across the country will be looking to St. Louis as an example of how to approach reducing the impact of interstates in urban areas.

A major component of CityArchRiver 2015 is to build a “Park Over the Highway,” which will connect the downtown area with the Gateway Arch and the Mississippi River waterfront. Visitors will be able to walk from the Old Courthouse parallel to the Gateway Arch, directly to the Arch grounds, and to the riverfront on one continuous greenway. As a result of additional park acreage, there will be ample space for events, museums, bicycle paths, playgrounds, performance and entertainment venues, and a reinvigorated riverfront.

St. Louis is not only attempting to reconnect the Gateway Arch to downtown, but also attempting to reverse the built environment from one suited for cars to one suited for people. And with this reversal, space and place will be re-defined because connection and interaction between people and the built environment will be re-established. The Arch will once again become something to celebrate, something worth caring about, and at the same time St. Louis will find rediscover its distinctiveness.

See the proposed transformation with the CityArchRiver 2015 Slider Gallery

***

Jenna Chilingerian is a CEOs for Cities Summer Success Fellow. Jenna is a Fresno, California native and recent graduate of the University of California, Los Angeles.  Jenna received her Bachelor of Arts in Political Science with a minor in Civic Engagement, and earned both College Honors and Summa Cum Laude Latin Honors.  She recently moved to Cleveland, Ohio to complete a summer City Success Fellowship with CEOs for Cities.

Engagement Through Arts

0
0

Ideas, connections and innovation are the ultimate resources in today’s world. Figuring out how we can facilitate these very things to bolster the cultural and creative capital of a city is critical. At our upcoming National Meeting in Grand Rapids, we will hear firsthand examples of creative solutions that utilize art and artists to engage citizens in creative dialogue:Jim Walker will discuss how Big Car utilizes socially engaged art in Indianapolis, Phil Cooleywill discuss the 30,000 square-foot warehouse, Ponyride, in Detroit’s Corktown neighborhood, and Kemi Ilesanmi will share how The Laundromat Project offers arts-education in underserved communities.Read more about these fascinating organizations.

Who:Big Car

What: Big Car is a grassroots nonprofit arts organization with a collective of artists, writers, musicians, and active citizens who work together on projects and programs in the Indianapolis community. . . . Their mission is to “bring art to people and people to art” by facilitating artistic ideas, and simultaneously increasing livability and creativity in communities. . . .

How: Through cultural organization and engagement-based arts programming, including performances, games, exhibitions, and events, Big Car brings together people of all backgrounds in local Indiana communities to inspire creativity and activate public spaces. . . . Big Car collaborates with local residents and stakeholders by forming partnerships in order to build social capital and encourage civically engaged communities. . . .

Why you should know about Big Car:Big Car utilizes “social practice art,” or socially engaged art. . . . Social practice art is unique; individuals that may not necessarily define themselves as artists become directly involved in the process of art, building connections and empathy among participants. . . . The organization focuses on people and process rather than products. . . . Their events begin with identifying particular issues and concerns; artists then connect with participants by brainstorming creative approaches and solutions to address the issues and concerns. . . . Their projects engage whole communities in planning and creating community-building projects, bridging the gap between art institutions and residents. They opened the Service Center, a “grassroots hub for art, culture, education, and health,” in the Lafayette Square neighborhood in 2011. . . . Local arts and community groups use the space for performances and activities. . . .


Who: Ponyride

What:Ponyride is a multiple-use space in a 30,000 square-foot warehouse in the Corktown neighborhood of Detroit. . . . This space houses around 40 small companies and community projects and serves as a study to see the potential positive impact the foreclosure crisis can have. . . .

How:Ponyride provides cheap space, $0.10-$0.20 per square-foot, for “socially-conscious” artists and entrepreneurs to work and share knowledge, resources and networks. . . . This space remains cheap because of the consistent flow of community support and resources. . . . Tenants have the opportunity and resources to produce, create, and educate community members in creative and innovative ways.

Why you should know about Ponyride:Artists and entrepreneurs that find home in Ponyride serve members of Detroit communities through various activities and workshops. . . . Living in a collaborative space allows for shared resources and knowledge, which helps to build a creative community in spite of Detroit’s struggles. . . . The opportunities Ponyride’s tenants offer are referred to as “education;” Community members can partake in weekly activities including figure drawing, dance workshops, sewing tutorials, yoga, and even a class to learn about the process of cultivating coffee. . . .


Who: The Laundromat Project

What:The Laundromat Project is a community-based, non-profit arts organization in New York City that offers arts-education in underserved communities that would otherwise not have the opportunity due to income, age, or background. . . .

How: The organization is committed to remedying social inequities, raising the quality of life, and fostering vibrant communities and vibrant economies through art and creativity. . . . To do so, the organization brings art workshops and program to the local Laundromat, where the community members already are. . . .

Why you should know about the Laundromat Project: The communities that the Laundromat Project focuses on are communities that do not have access to art and cultural facilities, so the organization’s workshops and programs focus on increasing the accessibility of art and culture for everyone. . . . The Laundromat Project also offers professional development opportunities for artists within these communities, encouraging artists to develop public art in their neighborhoods. . . . One of the Laundromat Project’s public art programs is Works in Progress (WiP),   which brings free, hands-on workshops and programs to local Laundromats and community spaces during summers. . . . In the long-run, the Laundromat Project envisions owning and operating an art center attached to a Laundromat with space for artists to create and foster collaborative public art practices for whole communities. . . .

***

Jenna Chilingerian is a CEOs for Cities Summer Success Fellow. Jenna is a Fresno, California native and recent graduate of the University of California, Los Angeles.  Jenna received her Bachelor of Arts in Political Science with a minor in Civic Engagement, and earned both College Honors and Summa Cum Laude Latin Honors.  She recently moved to Cleveland, Ohio to complete a summer City Success Fellowship with CEOs for Cities.

Community Spirit Matters

0
0

Community spirit matters. It brings us together to accomplish big goals and overcome serious challenges. What is amazing is that community spirit is often grounded in the smallest actions. Actions like talking with neighbors, eating with family and friends, exchanging favors, and other random acts of kindness. These acts create the social connections necessary to solving big problems and maintaining a healthy democracy. 

The National Conference on Citizenship (NCoC) is an organization dedicated to growing America’s community spirit. For 69 years, NCoC’s Annual Conference has been a must attend event for community builders searching for new ways to engage their neighbors and create positive change. Given the current social and political polarization, the need for this Conference couldn’t be greater.

Leaders from the nonprofit, private, open data, and technology sectors will converge at the Conference to share best practices and uncover innovate civic engagement strategies. There will be high-quality Learning Summits, panels, and networking receptions – all chances to bolster our own community spirit and take on the issues facing our field.

We hope to see you on Sept. 19-20 at the 2013 National Conference on Citizenship.

"Friends and Family" Discount: NCoC has discounted registration for members and subscribers of CEOs for Cities on August 22 - 23. Click here to register today for only $99.

Making Historic Preservation Economically Viable: Heritage Tourism

0
0


Photo from Historic Fresno

Historic Preservation + Tourism = ?

On the most basic level, historic preservation is a way to embrace the unique development of a community and serves as a vital educational tool for future generations.  Historic preservation is also an important tool for economic development and the revitalization of distressed communities and has become a major resource for the U.S. travel and tourism industries. 

The U.S. travel and tourism industries are crucial to the nation’s economic vitality.  In 2010, travel and tourism directly contributed $759 billion to the U.S. economy, employed over 7.4 million workers, created a payroll income of $188 billion, and brought in $118 billion in tax revenues for federal, state, and local governments.  In general, travel and tourism spur economic growth and vitality, and historic preservation helps facilitate foot traffic and fosters city distinctiveness.    

Together, the historic preservation movement and travel and tourism industries have the potential to improve the quality of life of a community and build civic pride. Preservation of historic structures, traditions, customs and stories of the past attracts visitors and tourists willing to spend money and time in distinct communities, and the result is heritage tourism. 

Answer: Heritage Tourism

According to the National Trust for Historic Preservation, heritage tourism involves travel to experience places, artifacts, and activities that authentically represent the stories and people of the past.  Heritage tourists have the opportunity to explore the cultural values, architecture, and history of ethnic groups.  These tourists take part in cultural activities such as traditional dances, art-making, and ethnic cooking. 

The heritage tourism movement has picked up momentum since the late 1990s because of its measured economic and experiential impact: studies have consistently shown that heritage travelers stay longer and spend more money.  Between 1996 and 2002, heritage travel increased by 13 percent compared to U.S. travel overall (5.6 percent).  A 1997 Travel Industry Association of America study showed that heritage tourists had higher educational attainment, were more affluent, spent more money per trip, and stayed longer than other tourists. 

A heritage tourism platform can be an attractive economic revitalization strategy, providing a larger source of sustained revenue for a community, creating new businesses, increasing tax revenues, and fostering job growth.  Heritage tourism has the potential to make historic preservation economically viable by using historic structures and landscapes to attract visitors and improve the quality of life for residents simultaneously. Historic preservation enhances heritage tourism, and helps to further generate communities’ unique character and civic pride.  

Where to go from here?

Many communities and states have increasingly embraced historic preservation as a policy tool for economic development, seeing the great potential for attracting visitors and tourists.  On the national level, there are many tools and resources available for localities to partake in preservation projects that will ultimately attract more tourists.  States have begun to form cultural commissions that designate cultural landmarks and regional heritage areas, opening up an opportunity for collaborative efforts on the regional level to protect landscape, preserve historic structures, and stimulate regional economic development. 

On the local level, you can support local communities through participating in “buy local” campaigns, spending an afternoon on Main Street, or even choosing to advocate to save historic structures important to your community’s identity. 

Share your story on the Cultural Heritage Tourism website dedicated to providing resources for historic preservation practitioners.  Interested in embarking on your own heritage tour? The National Trust for Historic Preservation provides an interactive site where you can find historic places, heritage tours, and historic hotels of America.

***

Jenna Chilingerian is a CEOs for Cities Summer Success Fellow. Jenna is a Fresno, California native and recent graduate of the University of California, Los Angeles.  Jenna received her Bachelor of Arts in Political Science with a minor in Civic Engagement, and earned both College Honors and Summa Cum Laude Latin Honors.  She recently moved to Cleveland, Ohio to complete a summer City Success Fellowship with CEOs for Cities.

The Transformation of Space into Place

0
0


Photo from The Atlantic Cities

The transformation of spaces into creative and vibrant places is a current trend in the 21st century. The Internet is full of success stories detailing how cities, in their quest to find distinctiveness, have rediscovered assets of built and physical environments. With these strong and conscious efforts, significant improvements to the livability of whole communities follow. Common to these success stories is placemaking.

In the process of making place it becomes increasingly important to understand how people fit into civic design. And to understand how, it is important to realize the tendency for a built environment to turn its back on people. In order to transform space into place, the connection between people and their built environments must be re-established.

Making Places worth Caring About

In his 2004 TED talk “The ghastly tragedy of the suburbs,” James Howard Kunstler hints at the making of place as creating a sense of place, as having the ability to create meaningful places. These are places of both quality and character. From his narrative, it is clear that buildings play a large role in the making of place as space is most definitively defined by built structures and environments.

A major component of Kunstler’s talk is the relationship between the public realm and a citizen’s ability to perform civic duties. According to Kunstler, this ability derives from a body of culture- a culture of good civic design. Good civic design requires extensive skills and methods; unfortunately, skillful civic design was disregarded following World War II, resulting in a “catastrophe of human environments.” 

As a nation we gradually lost the ability to define place and space after World War II. If we don’t know where we come from or what type of people we are, it is difficult to navigate our future. To be in a “hopeful present,” we need to regain the ability to define place and space. This is a difficult task, however. Thousands of places in the U.S. are places not worth caring about. Kunstler proposes creating permeable spaces in built environments- destination spots full of shops, bars, and bistros- where things constantly move in and out of the space, creating a vibrant place worth investing in and visiting.

Re-Opening Our Eyes     

In This Land: Visual Pollution (2007), President of Scenic America Kevin Fry narrates a NYT slide show on the miserable suburban landscape found in so much of America. Amidst pictures of dejected spaces, Fry describes America as a “nation going insane” with no sense of who we are or where we are from. Our built environments have been built as places for cars. We live between isolated, concrete environments that are only accessible by car.

With this isolation, serendipity and connection to place is lost. Your chance of interaction with people is diminished, and your connection to these built environments is mostly situational and involuntary. Why care about a place if you don’t feel connected to it?  Fry suggests, by re-opening our eyes and seeing the need for increased interaction not only between people and buildings, but also between people and people, we can generate a reversal of these built environments.

Creating Destinations and Experience Centers

Cleveland, Ohio

East Fourth Street in Cleveland, Ohio is a vibrant pedestrian-only street located moments away from Downtown Cleveland’s historic theater district and the Gateway Sports Complex, home to the Indians and Cavaliers. The street is lined with eateries, entertainment venues, and retail and housing complexes. As recently as 2000, this street was solely known for seedy behavior and criminal activity. Collaboration between the government, businesses, and developers paired with the vision of attracting and retaining young professionals to Downtown Cleveland turned East Fourth into one of the most vibrant urban environments in the city.

Los Angeles, California

The Grove sits adjacent to the original Farmer’s Market, a historic landmark established in 1934 on the corner of Fairfax and 3rd. Primarily an outdoor marketplace with retail and entertainment venues, The Grove was designed to emulate historic districts in Los Angeles with plazas and courtyards. A streetcar takes visitors from the historic Farmer’s Market through the heart of The Grove. Since its opening in 2002, The Grove has become a prime destination spot for tourists and Los Angeles natives alike.

Chicago, Illinois

In Millennium Park sits a 66 feet long and 33 feet high bean-like structure formally called Cloud Gate, and unofficially referred to as “The Bean.”  The Bean is comprised of stainless steel plates, creating a vast mirrored surface. This giant structure reflects the city skyline, allowing visitors to photograph themselves with the Chicago skyline behind them.

These three spaces provide examples of permeable spaces. By reversing the built environment from a space built for cars to a space built for people, these spaces became interactive places worth caring about. All three examples are propelled by interaction between people and buildings, and between people and people. Connection is thereby re-established and choice is reintroduced into civic design.

Meet Me in St. Louis…In 2015

St. Louis is one city to keep your eye on in the next few years with its CityArchRiver 2015 plan to reconnect the iconic Gateway Arch to Downtown St. Louis- a disconnection that is nearly fifty years old. The construction of Interstate 70 closely followed the completion of the Gateway Arch in 1964. While the intention of the highway was to facilitate greater movement into the region’s center, the highway was responsible for disrupting the city’s street grid and consequently isolated the national monument. As this project takes off, cities across the country will be looking to St. Louis as an example of how to approach reducing the impact of interstates in urban areas.

A major component of CityArchRiver 2015 is to build a “Park Over the Highway,” which will connect the downtown area with the Gateway Arch and the Mississippi River waterfront. Visitors will be able to walk from the Old Courthouse parallel to the Gateway Arch, directly to the Arch grounds, and to the riverfront on one continuous greenway. As a result of additional park acreage, there will be ample space for events, museums, bicycle paths, playgrounds, performance and entertainment venues, and a reinvigorated riverfront.

St. Louis is not only attempting to reconnect the Gateway Arch to downtown, but also attempting to reverse the built environment from one suited for cars to one suited for people. And with this reversal, space and place will be re-defined because connection and interaction between people and the built environment will be re-established. The Arch will once again become something to celebrate, something worth caring about, and at the same time St. Louis will find rediscover its distinctiveness.

See the proposed transformation with the CityArchRiver 2015 Slider Gallery

***

Jenna Chilingerian is a CEOs for Cities Summer Success Fellow. Jenna is a Fresno, California native and recent graduate of the University of California, Los Angeles.  Jenna received her Bachelor of Arts in Political Science with a minor in Civic Engagement, and earned both College Honors and Summa Cum Laude Latin Honors.  She recently moved to Cleveland, Ohio to complete a summer City Success Fellowship with CEOs for Cities.

Meeting Interview: Jay Byers - CEO, Greater Des Moines Partnership

0
0

At our National Meeting next month, Jay Byers - CEO for the Greater Des Moines Partnership - will participate in the City Success Stories Lightening Round. He will share how the Partnership serves more than 4,700 businesses and 20 Affiliate Chambers of Commerce in Central Iowa. He recently took some time to answer a few questions that will help us get to know him before next month's meeting.

Tell us a little bit about your work.

The Greater Des Moines Partnership is the economic and community development organization serving Central Iowa.  Together with 20 Affiliate Chambers of Commerce and 4,700 business members which employ a workforce of more than 150,000,the Partnership works to grow opportunity, create jobs, and promote the best place to build a business, a career and a future.

How has intentional collaboration with cross-sector leaders aided your work?

Capital Crossroads, our current ongoing regional vision plan, has engaged a diverse group of 50 individuals from across Central Iowa to serve on the Steering Committee.  The Committee invited public input on ways to improve the Central Iowa region, covering a 50-mile radius from the State Capitol.  More than 5,000 local voices contributed to the process via one-on-one interviews, focus groups and online surveys.  Research was conducted to assess the area’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and challenges. The Steering Committee then evaluated and prioritized ideas and developed eleven areas of focus.  Eleven capital plans were developed to elevate our region. Each of the eleven plans impacts growth in its area of focus and on an integrated basis.  To date, more than 400 citizens are serving in various capacities to move the plan forward.

What projects are you currently working on that are aimed at improving cities?

Our Capital Crossroads regional vision plan is Central Iowa’s roadmap to the future.  It is broad and ambitious, and includes focus on our region’s sustainability, talent, and leveraging opportunity.  We are into year two of a five-year implementation.  Capital Crossroads’ aggressive implementation strategy has already made a significant regional impact on multiple fronts.  The American Chamber of Commerce Executives selected the Greater Des Moines Partnership for the 2013 Alliance for Regional Stewardship Regional Champion Award for our work on Capital Crossroads.

What urban innovations have you seen or worked on in the last year that you think are game changers?

Technology is changing the game and making so many things more accessible. For us, themes of walkability, access to healthy (and local) foods, increasing educational attainment, and the like, are key.

About Jay Byers

Jay Byers is Chief Executive Officer for the Greater Des Moines Partnership.  The Partnership is the regional economic and community development organization serving more than 4700 businesses and 20 Affiliate Chambers of Commerce in Central Iowa.

Byers currently serves on the American Chamber of Commerce Executives (ACCE) Board of Directors, Iowa Chamber Alliance Executive Committee, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Committee of 100.  He also is active with the Professional Developers of Iowa and Iowa Association of Business and Industry.  He recently received the Certified Chamber Executive certification and is a graduate of ACCE’s Ford Foundation Regionalism and Sustainable Development Fellowship.  Byers was named to the ACCE 2009 “40 Under 40 Rising Stars of the Chamber World,” to the Des Moines Business Record’s “Forty Under 40” Class of 2006, and the Business Record’s “Forty Under 40” Alum of the Year in 2012.    Byers serves on the boards of ChildServe, Greater Des Moines Committee, Greater Des Moines Convention and Visitors Bureau, Simpson College Board of Trustees, VSA Iowa, The Homestead, the Alpha Tau Omega National Fraternity, and Drake University’s International Advisory Council.

Prior to his current role, Byers served as the Partnership’s Senior Vice President, Government Relations and Public Policy.  Before joining the Partnership, he worked as District Director for Iowa Congressman Leonard Boswell and as a corporate attorney at the Ice Miller Law Firm in Indianapolis, Indiana.  He is a graduate of Simpson College and the University of Iowa, College of Law.  Byers resides in Des Moines, Iowa with his wife Katie, and two daughters, Sophie and Charlotte.

Engagement Through Arts

0
0

Ideas, connections and innovation are the ultimate resources in today’s world. Figuring out how we can facilitate these very things to bolster the cultural and creative capital of a city is critical. At our upcoming National Meeting in Grand Rapids, we will hear firsthand examples of creative solutions that utilize art and artists to engage citizens in creative dialogue:Jim Walker will discuss how Big Car utilizes socially engaged art in Indianapolis, Phil Cooleywill discuss the 30,000 square-foot warehouse, Ponyride, in Detroit’s Corktown neighborhood, and Kemi Ilesanmi will share how The Laundromat Project offers arts-education in underserved communities.Read more about these fascinating organizations.

Who:Big Car

What: Big Car is a grassroots nonprofit arts organization with a collective of artists, writers, musicians, and active citizens who work together on projects and programs in the Indianapolis community. . . . Their mission is to “bring art to people and people to art” by facilitating artistic ideas, and simultaneously increasing livability and creativity in communities. . . .

How: Through cultural organization and engagement-based arts programming, including performances, games, exhibitions, and events, Big Car brings together people of all backgrounds in local Indiana communities to inspire creativity and activate public spaces. . . . Big Car collaborates with local residents and stakeholders by forming partnerships in order to build social capital and encourage civically engaged communities. . . .

Why you should know about Big Car:Big Car utilizes “social practice art,” or socially engaged art. . . . Social practice art is unique; individuals that may not necessarily define themselves as artists become directly involved in the process of art, building connections and empathy among participants. . . . The organization focuses on people and process rather than products. . . . Their events begin with identifying particular issues and concerns; artists then connect with participants by brainstorming creative approaches and solutions to address the issues and concerns. . . . Their projects engage whole communities in planning and creating community-building projects, bridging the gap between art institutions and residents. They opened the Service Center, a “grassroots hub for art, culture, education, and health,” in the Lafayette Square neighborhood in 2011. . . . Local arts and community groups use the space for performances and activities. . . .


Who: Ponyride

What:Ponyride is a multiple-use space in a 30,000 square-foot warehouse in the Corktown neighborhood of Detroit. . . . This space houses around 40 small companies and community projects and serves as a study to see the potential positive impact the foreclosure crisis can have. . . .

How:Ponyride provides cheap space, $0.10-$0.20 per square-foot, for “socially-conscious” artists and entrepreneurs to work and share knowledge, resources and networks. . . . This space remains cheap because of the consistent flow of community support and resources. . . . Tenants have the opportunity and resources to produce, create, and educate community members in creative and innovative ways.

Why you should know about Ponyride:Artists and entrepreneurs that find home in Ponyride serve members of Detroit communities through various activities and workshops. . . . Living in a collaborative space allows for shared resources and knowledge, which helps to build a creative community in spite of Detroit’s struggles. . . . The opportunities Ponyride’s tenants offer are referred to as “education;” Community members can partake in weekly activities including figure drawing, dance workshops, sewing tutorials, yoga, and even a class to learn about the process of cultivating coffee. . . .


Who: The Laundromat Project

What:The Laundromat Project is a community-based, non-profit arts organization in New York City that offers arts-education in underserved communities that would otherwise not have the opportunity due to income, age, or background. . . .

How: The organization is committed to remedying social inequities, raising the quality of life, and fostering vibrant communities and vibrant economies through art and creativity. . . . To do so, the organization brings art workshops and program to the local Laundromat, where the community members already are. . . .

Why you should know about the Laundromat Project: The communities that the Laundromat Project focuses on are communities that do not have access to art and cultural facilities, so the organization’s workshops and programs focus on increasing the accessibility of art and culture for everyone. . . . The Laundromat Project also offers professional development opportunities for artists within these communities, encouraging artists to develop public art in their neighborhoods. . . . One of the Laundromat Project’s public art programs is Works in Progress (WiP),   which brings free, hands-on workshops and programs to local Laundromats and community spaces during summers. . . . In the long-run, the Laundromat Project envisions owning and operating an art center attached to a Laundromat with space for artists to create and foster collaborative public art practices for whole communities. . . .

***

Jenna Chilingerian is a CEOs for Cities Summer Success Fellow. Jenna is a Fresno, California native and recent graduate of the University of California, Los Angeles.  Jenna received her Bachelor of Arts in Political Science with a minor in Civic Engagement, and earned both College Honors and Summa Cum Laude Latin Honors.  She recently moved to Cleveland, Ohio to complete a summer City Success Fellowship with CEOs for Cities.