On Thursday, the National League of Cities released The 10 Critical Imperatives Facing Cities in 2014, its annual report highlighting ten of the most pressing issues facing cities across the United States. Partners board member and incoming NLC President, Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker explained during the report's unveiling, "This is not a wish list just of cities. This is a wish list of the people who live in America. That’s 80 percent of the population of America that’s being represented through us."
The ten items on the list were:
Fragile Fiscal Health
Deteriorating Transportation Infrastructure
The Shrinking Middle Class
Inadequate Access to Higher Education
The Need for Affordable Housing
A Less-Than-Welcoming Return for Veterans
A Broken Immigration System
Climate Change and Extreme Weather
Lack of Public Trust
Click here to read the full report from NLC, which includes an overview of initiatives being taken by cities in their own efforts to tackle these ten challenges and create more livable communities for their residents.
Cincinnati Magazine published an article on October 30th outlining the recent history of Wilmington, Ohio. Wilmington, like so many small towns across the country, suffered immensely during the recession. In 2008 the town’s largest employer, DHL Shipping, announced that it planned to end its partnership with Airborne Express, who operated the Wilmington Air Park, and find another U.S. partner. The loss of nearly 10,000 jobs meant the city’s unemployment rate skyrocketed from 3 percent in 2007 to 19 percent by 2010. Wilmington quickly became the face of the recession, and large scale impact the economic downturn had received media attention from many major news outlets, including the New York Times and 60 minutes.
In 1923, when the Lafayette Building was constructed in downtown Detroit, the city was one of the cultural centers of the United States and home to an exploding automotive industry. Famous American architect C. Howard Crane designed the cutting edge, Italian Renaissance-style building in a unique ‘V’ shape to maximize the amount of natural light allowed in. Today, however, Detroit has fallen on harder economic times, and the once striking skyscraper at 144 West Lafayette was torn down in 2010 after being vacant for more than a decade.
The Arlington Energy Masters program is a joint venture between three Washington, DC area nonprofit groups - Arlingtonians for a Clean Environment (ACE), Arlington Thrive, and the Virginia Cooperative Extension (VCE) – which aims to increase energy efficiency in Arlington’s low-income residences. Volunteers from the DC suburb are put through a 20 hour training course on what impacts a home’s water and energy usage and strategies to make homes more efficient. Once the training is completed, volunteers spend at least 60 hours in the community applying their knowledge to help lower energy and water usage in low-income apartments from throughout the county.
ArtSpace is a national organization, headquartered in Minneapolis, which works to transform communities through the arts. The organization runs 33 affordable, artist-housing facilities throughout the country, in both urban and rural areas, that help improve the livability of their neighborhoods by repurposing old or abandoned buildings to attract artists to live and work in the community.
There is a buzzword circulating in the DC arts scene that I had not heard about until I returned to the city two months ago. While the concept of using the arts to spur economic and community development is not new, DC is getting attention for the success of its “Arts and Culture Temporiums” since the first one launched along the H Street NE corridor in 2010. Temporiums fall under the larger category of the Temporary Urbanism Initiative, a project undertaken by the DC Office of Planning. The goal behind the initiative, and more specifically, temporiums, is to activate vacant or underutilized spaces by using them to showcase the talent of local artists and other creative entrepreneurs, along with the retail potential that lies within emerging neighborhoods. Think of them as “Pop Ups” that stay around a little longer and have greater potential benefits for the communities where they take place. Jessica Scheuerman, of Partners for Livable Communities, explains that temporiums allow people to “take risks, explore partnerships, and to commit to something” without the burden of a long-term commitment. Temporiums connect creative people seeking affordable space in their neighborhoods with landlords who have the available space that they haven’t been able to lease. It is a smart and increasingly popular concept that lays the groundwork for longer-term collaboration between property owners and neighborhood entrepreneurs.
Building on the success of earlier temporiums, the Office of Planning is targeting four emerging creative neighborhoods to benefit from a $250,000 grant to the city from ArtPlace, an unprecedented new private-public organization. ArtPlace is part of a national “creative place-making” movement that aims to drive revitalization across the country with arts at the center of economic development. The launch of DeanwoodxDesign marks the next step in the OP/ArtPlace grant initiative.
The D.C. Office of Planning (OP) has awarded a $75,000 “ArtPlace Arts and Culture Temporium” grant to Partners for Livable Communities (Partners) to develop and manage temporiums in underutilized spaces in the Deanwood neighborhood, one of the District’s earliest African American communities.
Under this grant, Partners will develop and manage DeanwoodxDesign, a project that showcases the rich arts, cultural, historical, and green space assets of Deanwood and Ward 7 through a community-wide, intergenerational, and collaborative effort. This project engages artists and a diverse network of Deanwood institutions and stakeholders to cultivate community pride, showcase and create great art, and invigorate the creative economy.
Tersh Boasberg is honored for his revolutionary advocacy of historic preservation, land use, and environmental law, and as founder of Preservation Action, a national grassroots lobby. His active leadership in Washington, D.C. zoning battles has provided regional growth through the protection of historical beauty for our future.
There is a new buzz word in the battle against urban decline and vacant retail space—“pop-ups.” Simply put, a pop-up is a short term use of a retail space. Sometimes they come in the form of holiday stores, which close down after the season, while Target and other large retailers use them to promote specific products or lines. Urban development initiatives, however, have begun to use pop-ups as a tool to reinvigorate declining shopping districts and main streets by changing perceptions of the neighborhoods they open in and demonstrating to potential investors and entrepreneurs the value of investing in these communities.
Undoubtedly the turn of the 21st century has been a crossroads for communities across America. Planners are becoming more uncertain of which road to take to towards livability, the latest and most thought out models of revitalization being thrown into disarray by constant redevelopments in technology and the unforseeable factors that mediate the outcome. But as the unfolding of the digital age propels us into the unknown, there is one thing that is certain—education is a key to building a more vibrant and sustainable community.
"So, what is the point of public art? ” This question, posted online by Voice of San Diego's Kelly Bennett, came in response to the city of San Diego’s recent pull from public art funding; after its release on Twitter the post quickly turned viral. Responses to the post ranged from views of public art as superfluous and its place in the public sphere as luxury, to public art as necessary for community well-being, safety, and cohesiveness.
Many of us believe in the arts as integral to the livable community— but when measuring out our federal dollars, the arts are usually the first to go. But what if we could prove that in addition to instilling neighborhood pride and value in our public space, public art could actually serve as a deterrent for crime and violence?
Fourteen organizations and partnerships in the Wichita Region were each awarded a "JumpStart the Conversation" grant in August 2009. The winning projects exemplify the use of innovative ideas focused on creating livable communities for all ages and the theme of "Revitalizing Communities for All Generations."
As part of the Aging in Place Initiative, the Wichita Region was selected by MetLife Foundation, Partners for Livable Communities and the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging to host one of a series of dynamic national workshops highlighting the opportunity to improve livability for persons of all ages. The workshop, titled Revitalizing Communities for All Generations: Visioning a Livable Wichita Region, was held on June 23, 2009.
Revitalizing Communities for All Generations gathered key innovators and representatives from across the region to discuss a topic of great importance to Wichita. Workshop speakers and panelists focused their discussion on key areas for Community Housing, Intergenerational Opportunities, and Neighborhood Planning. In particular, participants considered elements that contribute to the Wichita Visioneering process.
Wichita Jumpstart Grants
Visioneering Older Adult Alliance and the Central Plains Area Agency on Aging To develop and implement a south central Kansas media initiative which will include: an informational sheet on important statistics related to older adults and livable communities that can be used to educate, a half-hour infomercial on livable communities that can be shown on area government channels and production of timely articles on livable communities that can be inserted into newsletters, regional newsletters or posted on partner websites.
Via Christi Senior Services in partnership with Visioneering Older Adult Alliance and the Central Plains Area Agency on Aging To formulate an innovative series of four, focused informational programs designed to raise awareness and start discussions that will help all “age in place” in Wichita.
Senior Services, Inc. and the Central Plains Area Agency on Aging To produce a research paper of best practices for intergenerational programming at senior centers. The paper will include working models and evidence based programs from across the country on how to facilitate community collaboration, promote an appreciation for heritage, traditions and history, apply the strength of one generation to meet the needs of another, and increase community awareness about issues that affect both populations. The findings of the paper will be presented at a statewide senior center conference.
Visioneering Older Adult Alliance and the Central Plains Area Agency on Aging To recruit and train people 55 years and better in advocacy skills. Trained advocates will be able to more effectively communicate to elected officials, planners and board members about issues that are important to livable communities and aging in place.
Paratransit Council, Inc. in partnership with 17 other members To establish a program that will expand awareness of transportation resources and promote the use of those resources in the tri-county areas of Harvey, Butler, and Sedgwick, Kansas. An informational pamphlet will be produced as part of this outreach campaign.
Visioneering Older Adult Alliance and the Central Plains Area Agency on Aging To continue the conversation about Aging in Place and Livable Communities by highlighting current efforts that are meeting with success in cities in the metropolitan statistical area. A half day, best practices symposium will feature presenters with innovative housing options, successful walkability efforts, award winning intergenerational programs and issues related to community development, i.e. downtown revitalization, parks, recreation and open spaces.
Historic Midtown Citizen’s Association (HMCA), USD 259 and the Central Plains Area Agency on Aging To introduce seniors to volunteer opportunities at area schools and the school children to the rich opportunities that knowing older adults can provide.
Wichita Independent Neighborhoods, Inc. in partnership with Visioneering Older Adult Alliance and the Central Plains Area Agency on Aging To develop a transportation plan for seniors that would utilize existing transportation providers, provide activity calendars, and develop a membership program to bring the program to completion.
Senior Services, Inc. in partnership with the Wichita City Council and Active Aging Publishing, Inc. To provide education and forums for seniors to gain valuable knowledge and dialogue about what their needs are for a livable community. Through a series of forums and community planning sessions, seniors will be given the opportunity to express their needs for transportation in the community. As a follow-up to the meetings, a simple transportation brochure will be distributed to organizations that provide services to seniors written in English, Spanish, and possibly Vietnamese.
Visioneering Older Adult Alliance and the Central Plains Area Agency on Aging To plan, plant and harvest a new community garden at the Southeast Senior Center near the Planeview Area – a low-income neighborhood in the City of Wichita. Funding will be used to develop a tool kit to get the garden started, purchase planting materials and supplies, soil tests, garden tools and to educate the community on the benefits of gardening.
Wichita Homebound Outreach (WHO) in partnership with Visioneering Older Adult Alliance and the Central Plains Area Agency on Aging To recruit additional volunteers and create an intergenerational component for a local outreach organization that creates building relationships and socialization activities between neighbors in low-income congregate housing facilities. Educational materials would be created to distribute to churches and organizations in order to recruit volunteers.
Park City Pride Committee, Inc. To design and distribute a community survey to help establish criteria on future community oriented goals and public buildings.
Asbury Park, Inc. To conduct focus groups with individuals aged 55-70 on what type of housing they want through the next years of their lives and educate them on universal design concepts.
Visioneering Older Adult Alliance and the Central Plains Area Agency on Aging To conceive and produce a 30 minute DVD to inform viewers of the concepts of Livable Communities for All Ages and Universal Design that can be aired on city television stations and utilized by citizen groups, and staff members in trainings, presentations and discussions.
How does a city aspire to be livable when the outside public seemingly brands it as ‘dying?’ How does the city grow when it is told that is 'shrinking’? With eyes that are turning away from the core industrial cities and onto the technological hubs of the twenty-first century: can the city sustain itself?
For Mayor Jay Williams of Youngstown, OH, hearing his city being labeled by Forbes Magazine as one of Americas 10 Fastest-Dying Cities, inspired him to take the city in a new direction; one that leveraged successful development upon its own definition.
At the “Building Livable Communities” forum held at Washington, DC's Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden on September 22, 2010, Mayor Williams held a detailed discussion on how civic institutions in Youngstown redefined their role to promote dynamic change as amenity rich centers.
President of Partners for Livable Communities, Robert McNulty, was quoted in The Wall Street Journal article “Artists vs. Blight ,” discussing artist occupations of blighted homes and neighborhoods in transitioning communities such as Cleveland and Detroit.
Mixed-Use downtown developments outperform “big box” developments in tax revenue-per-acre, reports Mary Newsom for Citiwire.net. Newsom explains the results of a recent study in Sarasota County Florida, and what it means for the way we grow our communities. Click here for the full story.
For many community leaders, neighborhood development can feel like a high-stakes guessing game. A new tool from Chicago’s RW Ventures firm could help end this frustration, by providing a way to strategically analyze urban neighborhoods.
The tool is part of RW Ventures’ 20 year “dynamic neighborhood” study, and will allow development leaders to tap into neighborhood assets, understand their pattern of development, and strategically identify “key interventions to drive change.” The analysis draws on statistical evidence of successful neighborhoods in order to predict which strategies work best for different types of neighborhoods. Armed with this concrete knowledge, neighborhood development can be less like a shot in the dark, and more like a well-timed business decision.