The Blog

Rebirth of a City Through the Millennial Perspective

Rebirth of a City Through the Millennial Perspective

by Daniel Regan, Vice President, Kanbar Properties //

A little over a decade ago, Tulsa experienced something of a renaissance. I had just moved back to my hometown after living in Costa Rica for a year, and it was clear that the community’s focus had shifted. More exciting was the fact that this change was being led by an energetic group of young leaders who recognized that WE have the ability to shape our lovely metropolitan riverfront community into whatever it is we want. A novel idea began to take hold – “placemaking” (even if we didn’t know what it was at the time) was a participatory activity.

Like Snow in Summer

Like many of our peer cities throughout the South and Midwest in the early 2000’s, Tulsa was in the midst of a true “brain drain” dilemma: skilled, educated talent was moving away at a rapid pace. Despite recent volatility within our historically strong energy industry that sent thousands of jobs out of state, other strong sectors like healthcare, aerospace and manufacturing still offered promising career tracks and good pay to those willing to call our region home. And yet, regardless of record enrollment at many of our community’s local universities, employers found themselves constantly struggling to find the skilled talent they needed. Even then, the problem was obvious to me – our city had the sticking power of snow in summer.

To be candid, most people my age couldn’t wait to catch the next flight out and start their careers somewhere…well, more interesting. While I’m sure general teenage angst contributed to some of that sentiment, I can still clearly remember my friends at the time lamenting Tulsa’s boredom factor. Outside of some beautiful art deco architecture throughout our downtown area, an intriguing history, and a handful of other cultural standouts like Cain’s Ballroom and the Brady Theater; Tulsa circa 2002 didn’t really have much sex appeal.

Tulsa Roughnecks Fans
Tulsa Roughnecks Fans

But then, this beautiful thing began to take shape! Instead of just giving up and moving on, like many of our friends had undoubtedly already done, we decided to step up and be the change we so desperately desired. Grassroots organizations like Tulsa’s Young Professionals began to take hold, ones in which like-minded individuals who were motivated to take action began to impact our city’s collective future. Seemingly simultaneously, civic leaders and our business community began to take bold steps to maintain Tulsa’s competitiveness – investing hundreds of millions of dollars into quality of life improvements.


What’s Happened Since

Guthrie Museum
The Woody Guthrie Museum

The tide has begun to turn. The buzz is becoming deafening. Our downtown is now on the cusp of a transformative development boom. Our new BOK Center consistently ranks among the top 20 U.S. arenas for concert ticket sales. We have a world-class riverfront park under development, the largest privately funded public space of its kind in the country. The Woody Guthrie Center built a grand new facility in the city’s burgeoning urban arts district, and we even have a new pop culture museum going up there soon too.

Most impressive though is the fact that young people in my community today have the best chance of any recent generation to start a successful new business, take that next step in their career, get discovered on a national level or impact local government and policy-making. With the support of past and present leadership, Tulsa is now harnessing its next generation of innovators and doers, of planners and politicians; it’s quickly becoming a hotbed for leaders.

Over the coming months, I’ll share our decade-strong process at Tulsa’s Young Professionals, and enlighten you on our organization’s trial-by-fire best practices of how to create the community young people desire through connections and engagement with the next generation.

Daniel ReganDaniel Regan is Vice President of Kanbar Properties, a commercial real estate developer in downtown Tulsa, OK; co-owner of Garden Deva Sculpture Company; and the 2016 Chairman for Tulsa’s Young Professionals.


Economic Opportunities through Education (EcO)

Economic Opportunities through Education (EcO)

Creating a Collaborative Regional System of Lifelong Learning by Aligning Educational & Training Offerings with Economic Opportunity

by Stephanie Weber, Marketing & Outreach Director, Ec015

Southeast Indiana Regional Demographics

  • Ten counties
  • Mainly rural
  • 300,000 population
  • Population growth rate is relatively flat and will be in the future
  • Nearly one in three people work in advanced manufacturing. Manufacturing is the top employment sector in seven of the ten counties
  • Average wages for advanced manufacturing jobs in Southeast Indiana is $44,000, which is 25% higher than the next largest employment sector
  • Healthcare represents 10% of the workforce

For this very rural region in Southeast Indiana, focusing on talent and educational initiatives has proven to be the most effective way of insuring that a higher percentage of our population will be successful in achieving postsecondary attainment and increases the base of highly skilled workers Southeast Indiana has to offer to employers.

Dream It. Do It. Southeast Indiana
Dream It. Do It. Champions and Student Ambassadors


It is becoming more and more necessary for students to achieve some level of post-secondary education – skills certification, Associate Degree, or Bachelor’s degree – in order to have hope of economic well-being.

Sixty-six percent of all STEM jobs (and growing) in Southeast Indiana require at least a certification and/or an Associate Degree. Yet only 27.9% of adults in Southeast Indiana (24 years & older) have a certification, 2 year, or 4 year degree.

According to the Department of Workforce Development, Southeast Indiana needs to fill 500-800 advanced manufacturing & STEM jobs every year through 2018 and this trend remains steady through 2020.

Ec015 Overview Infographic


To address these two inter-related challenges, the EcO15 regional stakeholder network of school districts, secondary school career centers, local colleges and universities, employers, economic development, Chambers, community foundations, and workforce development organizations are pursuing strategies to develop future employees in technical careers by eliminating the divide between high school and college. The network is recruiting students at the high school level and guiding them “seamlessly” into postsecondary education, leading to certificates, associates degrees, and baccalaureate degrees in technical fields through Seamless Educational and Career Pathways. Sample projects underway:

  • Bartholomew County Works: A United Way pilot program that supports people in poverty through a process of becoming self-sufficient. Bartholomew County Works is halfway through a three-year pilot. Seventy percent of the members in the program have been employed for at least six months.
  • iGRAD: School-to-career program focused on keeping 8th-12th grade students in school through graduation and provide work-based learning experiences that will lead to career advancement opportunities, and or enrollment in a postsecondary institution leading to a rewarding career. Graduation rates are at 95% during iGrad’s first three years.
  • Dream It. Do It. (DIDI) Southeast Indiana Campaign: Focused on increasing awareness of Advanced Manufacturing/STEM related careers opportunities in Southeast Indiana. To achieve this goal, EcO15 and 29 DIDI Champions (high school educators/counselors) recruit 56 Student Ambassadors annually, assisting in expansion of the initiative and helping with marketing. Local DIDI Student Ambassadors help recruit middle school students into the high school Pre-Engineering and Career & Technical Education programs. Enrollments, awareness, and work-based learning have increased every year since 2007 when this campaign was launched.
  • Development of a network of sixty-seven advanced manufacturing integrated technology labs and associated programs located throughout the ten county region. The integrated technology labs & programs provide students with the opportunity to pursue education built around a curriculum of manufacturing/STEM.
  • Networks of Excellence in Healthcare: A regional network of stationary and mobile clinical simulation labs has been developed to ensure accreditation and advanced degree certifications for the regional health care industry. The ultimate goal of the group is to address regional shortages of nursing faculty, registered nurses, and other healthcare occupations. The network also focuses on improving patient care in the region.
  • Maverick Challenge: Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce, Regional manufacturers, EcO15 County Coordinators, and DIDI Champions have partnered in the Maverick Challenge, a high school business planning challenge for students in Southern Indiana. This Challenge is a great opportunity to help students learn about viable career opportunities through entrepreneurship, and to network with and be mentored by community leaders.
  • Institute for Coalition Building: The Institute for Coalition Building’s stakeholder engagement model, developed by the Community Education Coalition, has been the used for continuous improvement of the networks, partnerships and projects. This process model has been used as a project management tool, bringing stakeholders together to resolve a specific project-based question. And the model has been used on broad community coalition building initiatives to define and work on a common agenda in the region, Indiana, and across the country.

Stephanie Weber 

As the Communications Director for a ten-county regional economic development initiative known as Economic Opportunities through Education (EcO15), Weber works with area EcO15 County Coordinators, Dream It. Do It. High School Champions and student ambassadors, industry leaders, and educational institutions (both secondary and post secondary) in the ten-county region that makes up Indiana Region 9: Bartholomew, Dearborn, Decatur, Franklin, Jackson, Jefferson, Jennings, Ohio, Ripley, and Switzerland Counties. The overarching goal of the initiative is to help each person move up at least one level or more in their education, training, or job placement within the region’s strongest economic clusters.

MOVE: Putting America’s Infrastructure Back in the Lead

MOVE: Putting America’s Infrastructure Back in the Lead

by Micah Mitchell Hines, City Fellow, CEOs for Cities //

Move by Rosabeth Moss Kanter Who say’s infrastructure isn’t sexy? In Move, best-selling author Rosabeth Moss Kanter* contends that transportation and infrastructure are some of the most critical issues facing Americans. Our infrastructure is shabby and deteriorating. Frankly, it’s an embarrassment.

The average American family spends up to 20% of their income on transportation – and they’re not getting anywhere. Americans spend about a week (38 hours) per year stuck in traffic. But they don’t have to be.
Kanter provides an in-depth analysis of the nation’s transportation systems and infrastructure. She examines the history of transportation, discusses international models and shares examples of innovative work that is taking place in cities across U.S.

Through data and analysis, Kanter makes a compelling argument that mobility is essential to economic development, opportunities and quality of life. She challenges cross-sector leaders to innovate, engage in discussion and take action to develop solutions to antiquated systems.

After seeing her interview with The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart, we at CEOs for Cities were anxious to pick up Kanter’s latest work. We weren’t disappointed. It is a compelling read, and a critical tool for leaders who want to make meaningful change in the area of transportation.

*Rosabeth Moss Kanter also holds the Ernest L. Arbuckle Professorship at Harvard Business School and is chair and director of the Harvard University Advanced Leadership Institute.

An All Star Summer in Cincinnati

An All Star Summer in Cincinnati

by David N. Ginsburg, President + CEO, Downtown Cincinnati Inc. //

Summer is a wonderful season for re-reading old books and taking long, contemplative walks with my dogs and a good cigar. This past weekend I (re)discovered Comeback Cities by Paul Grogan and Tony Proscio. This seminal book was written in 2000 when we were only first beginning to see the revival, repopulation, reinvestment and renaissance in American Cities. After years of decline and disinvestment, the book struck me as somewhere between visionary and wishful thinking at the time.

How many American cities were working well in 2000?  Maybe a handful. New York City was beginning to clean up its act under Mayor Rudolf Giuliani and the growing impact of Business Improvement Districts (BIDS). Portland, OR was seeing center city revival led by a growing light rail system and Denver was experiencing substantial residential growth in LoDo around the new Coors Field. Finding a successful American City to benchmark was a challenge in 2000 but no more.

As Mayor John Cranley of Cincinnati likes to say, downtown Cincinnati is “on fire!” We recently had a chance to showcase our center city by hosting the 2015 Major League Baseball All Star Game. People from more than 200 countries (and the vast television audience) got to see our spectacular riverfront/Smale Riverfront Park, the vitality of the central business district featuring distinctive architecture old and new, and once downtrodden, now hip Over-the-Rhine.  All of these areas are bustling with a diverse array of residents and businesses helping to reinforce a walkable urban environment and a growing tax base.

We are very grateful to Major League Baseball and the owner of the

Downtown Ambassador helps All Star fan find her way. Photo courtesy of Downtown Cincinnati Inc.

Cincinnati Reds, Bob Castellini (and his team) for selecting Cincinnati for the All Star Game. There are so many wonderful, vital cities from which to choose. Last year it was Minneapolis and next year San Diego. Organizations like CEO’s for Cities have played a vital role in identifying and sharing best practices such as place-based economic development, mixed-use development, attention to diversity, multi-modal transportation, breakthrough research, and securing the environment through “safe/clean” programs and the innovative use of public/private partnerships.

Today, the resurgence of American cities is the norm. It is amazing, as we rediscover Comeback Cities, that is has only been 15 or 20 years since we first recognized this trend. I am confident this success will become a “flywheel” propelling us to even greater, more innovative and inclusive things to come.

Banner photo courtesy of James Patterson


Growth & Opportunity (Emphasis on the Ampersand)

Growth & Opportunity (Emphasis on the Ampersand)

by Jeff Linton, Senior Vice President, Corporate Communications and Community Relations, Forest City Enterprises, a member of the Fund for Our Economic Future //


A Growth & Opportunity Approach to Economic Development

At the Fund for Our Economic Future, you hear a lot about Growth & Opportunity as a driving strategy and a key to strengthening Northeast Ohio’s economy. Sounds like a good thing, right? Who doesn’t like growth? Who wouldn’t want there to be more opportunity?

Now reread that first sentence and put the emphasis on the “&.” That’s the special part—and the most challenging. The problem is that just focusing on creating jobs is not enough, and can actually hurt a region. It may seem incongruous, but research shows that metros that experience big increases in job growth often also see increases in poverty, income disparity and even crime.

Strengthening and sustaining the Northeast Ohio economy requires a coordinated effort to 1) create more good-paying jobs with advancement potential, 2) better prepare residents for those jobs, and 3) improve access to those jobs. In other words, we must not only create jobs, we must consider, too, the job’s wage, who it goes to and where it is located. That’s Growth & Opportunity.

What does it look like in practice?

The Fund set out to answer that question in this recently released video (produced by Airhead Media of Cleveland). It illustrates what we know from research: Too many of our citizens have been left out of the region’s recovery. One in 20 Northeast Ohioans lives in an area of economic distress, where less than 65 percent of the working-age population is employed or looking for work, and where median household income is in the bottom quartile. These areas tend to be job-creation “deserts,” with residents isolated by limited access to reliable transportation and held back by lack of needed skills for the jobs that are available.

A key part of the Fund’s work centers on establishing a baseline understanding of how economic growth and opportunity are linked and why both are integral to supporting and strengthening the region’s recovery. Meaningful progress on Growth & Opportunity requires working collaboratively and across boundaries—organizational, geographic and political. It requires that public, private and civic leaders recognize the importance of Growth & Opportunity to economic vitality, and embrace the role they can play by building the principles of Growth & Opportunity into their own organizations’ goals and strategies.

For Forest City, Growth & Opportunity is about creating that much sought-after “rising tide” that truly lifts all boats. It’s about helping to foster an even stronger community that we continue to call home. Our involvement in the Fund is an extension of the tradition established by our founders of giving back, and a function of our belief that we in Northeast Ohio can accomplish so much more working together than we can separately.

The WorkAdvance pilot (in partnership with Towards Employment) highlighted in the video is just one example of the many efforts happening around the region to advance Growth & Opportunity. We certainly hope this will help encourage more.

Contact the Fund if you’d like to know more or get involved in Growth & Opportunity efforts happening in your community.


Jeff Linton 

Jeff Linton is senior vice president, Corporate Communications and Community Relations, for Forest City Enterprises Inc. In his role, Linton has responsibility for communications planning and strategy, corporate identity and branding, issues management, investor relations, media relations, and internal communication. In addition, he is responsible for community relations, corporate philanthropy and the administration of FOCUS PAC, the company’s political action committee.Before joining Forest City in 2007, Linton was a managing director of Dix & Eaton, a nationally known public relations and investor relations consultancy, where he led the firm’s transaction communications practice.

Photo courtesy Airhead Media

Using Bikes to Bridge Gaps Between Communities and Cultures

Using Bikes to Bridge Gaps Between Communities and Cultures

by Doug Carpenter, Enthusiast, Explore Bike Share //

Memphis is a truly unique place. The city has come into itself with the currents of the Mississippi River, washing up a spirit that birthed the home of Blues, Soul and Rock n Roll, combined with a rich cultural history that proved what can happen when citizens are truly connected to one another.

The challenges that Memphis faces are not unlike those in other cities, but the DNA of our city distinctly shapes the way we address them. We’ve brought forth some of the most innovative solutions to common problems. Memphis has a way to look at things from a perspective that is all our own. The modern grocery store, the family travel hotel, and accessible overnight shipping are all byproducts of Memphis’ creative thinking.

These things did not happen overnight, and they didn’t happen by accident. They happened because companies and people with means, courage, and commitment were joined by the vision and enthusiasm of those who wanted something better.

As Memphis continues to evolve, our latest Renaissance has brought us full circle. As a prime example, look to the Memphis Grizzlies, who were met with skepticism as they struggled through their first 23-59 season in the aging Pyramid arena. The now perpetually playoff-bound Grizzlies bring people together across every strata of the city with the common idea that “we believe.” The Pyramid itself, moth-balled for a decade, has turned into the country’s most dynamic retail operation in Bass Pro Shop. We are getting increasingly skilled at seeing our strengths and standing together to lift ourselves up, rather than being resigned to past disappointments. From this culture comes another interesting opportunity: bike share.

Explore Bike Share

One could simply introduce bike share as a modern amenity and risk reinforcing the idea that “bike share is for the young professional” or “bike share is for the tourist,” which translates to “bike share is for someone other than me.” But the reality of Memphis is that everyone is a spokesperson. Cultivating and crafting a system does not only mean adding a cultural asset, but shaping a whole new transportation solution. To this end, we have created Explore Bike Share, a replicable community-based effort to investigate how bike share can best serve the distinct needs of Memphis.

Community Engagement Session
Memphis residents discuss biking

We know that bike share is a way to bridge physical gaps between different communities and cultures. It is away to tie the citizens of Memphis to each other once again. But if we don’t listen to citizens from all over Memphis, we have little hope of creating a successful system. We have set up community input sessions throughout the city, are activating a street team to raise awareness, and are actively seeking feedback in-person and online. The solution we find may be unique to Memphis, but the way we find it can be recreated in any metropolitan area.

One of things Memphis has never shied away from is the attention it gets from the rest of the country, as we boldly accept who we are and move toward a vision of who we want to be. We welcome that critical eye as we explore bike share in a collaborative way that will yield a more productive, useful and equitable result. This is a city that has always faced challenges head-on, and we look forward to facing this exciting new opportunity with the openness and creativity that defines Memphis.



As founder and principal of doug carpenter & associates and a dedicated Memphian, Doug is active in many civic endeavors. He is a former chairman of the Board of Trustees for Downtown Memphis Ministries, Inc., a former member of the University of Memphis Tigers Athletic Advisory Board of Directors, was founding Chairman of the Board for Crosstown Arts Organizations, and is a member of Soulsville Foundation Advocates International. He was part of the investment and creative team behind Tennessee Brewery: Untapped, an innovative 6-week previtalization event highlighting unexplored opportunities for historic properties.

Increasing Economic Equality One City at a Time: Greensboro’s Story

Increasing Economic Equality One City at a Time: Greensboro’s Story

We asked Mayor Nancy Vaughan of Greensboro, NC to speak with us about what Greensboro is doing to become more economically inclusive.


“ Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.” – John F. Kennedy

Leaders in Greensboro, North Carolina take the sentiment in this quote from John F. Kennedy to heart.

The community is increasingly diverse. With representatives from 98 countries, speaking 24 languages, Greensboro’s schools are more diverse than comparable urban areas in North Carolina.

Community demographics are changing in other ways as well. The city has a growing older population but workforce replacement by millennials is lagging.

Though unemployment is down and development activity and home values are increasing, the number of households in Greensboro at or below the poverty level has almost doubled since 2000.

How is Greensboro adjusting to these changes in order to have a bright future?

There are five major initiatives underway in Greensboro to address inclusive economic growth:

  1. Small Business Loans: The CDFI (Greensboro Community Development Fund) formerly known as the Greensboro Venture Capital Fund has been created to stimulate the creation of jobs and economic activity in the Greensboro area. By providing debt financing (including subordinate debt) to minority- or female-owned businesses, the fund assists those businesses in obtaining conventional commercial loans, allowing new and expanding businesses to grow and prosper.
  2. Minority and Women Business Enterprises (M/WBE): The goal of the M/WBE Program is to promote equal opportunity, grow capacity and foster sustainable business development for M/WBE firms in Greensboro and the surrounding market.
  3. Greensboro-Randolph Mega Site: The Greensboro-Randolph Mega Site is planned as the home for a major employer that would provide new manufacturing and supporting jobs, benefitting the Greensboro Triad region. The City of Greensboro is working in coordination with Randolph County and State Officials on design work to develop plans to extend water and sewer services to the 1,800 acres of undeveloped land south of Guilford County in the town of Liberty, NC. Once completed, the Mega Site will be uniquely positioned to serve as a home site for an automobile manufacturer and or any kind of advanced manufacturing facility.
  4. Collective Community Workforce Initiatives: As a city, Greensboro is ripe with workforce and entrepreneurial development support. The Guilford County Workforce Development Board serves as a liaison between the business community and the workforce. The board is charged with connecting companies to employee training and workforce development, as well as to multiple entrepreneurial and start-up programs. Opportunities abound for business and residents to grow into their next career.
  5. Incubators: The Nussbaum Center for Entrepreneurship, Inc. (NCFE), is a private non-profit corporation founded in 1987 to enhance start up business development in Greensboro and the surrounding area. To accomplish this, the NCFE operates a business incubator located in the heart of Greensboro. The incubator is designed to support non-retail, new or emerging businesses. The Center provides modestly priced office and light manufacturing space along with shared support services such as business counseling, a receptionist, mailboxes, and data entry.
  6. Steven Tanger Center for the Performing Arts: The Tanger Center will be a state-of-the-art facility with approximately 3,000 seats to serve multiple functions, ranging from Broadway shows to the Bryan Series to symphony performances to comedians, pop and jazz concerts and family entertainment

A closer look at the Steven Tanger Center for the Performing Arts

The Steven Tanger Center for the Performing Arts is a $65 million project that recently broke ground. It will anchor a multi-cultural district, connecting the library, parks and other downtown institutions. The Center will also serve as a catalyst for new downtown development. In an effort to promote business diversity, all construction partners for the Center agreed to use at least 20% MWBE businesses.

According to the AMS Planning and Research Corporation report, the Tanger Center will bring $7.3-10.1 million annually to the local economy. It is projected to bring 268 jobs once the venue is operational.

Lessons Learned

In 2000, Greensboro lost advanced manufacturing jobs related to the aerospace industry as part of the downward shift in the economy. When the jobs left, it was believed that, due to the cyclical nature of the economy, unemployment levels would bounce back without government intervention. Mayor Vaughan recognizes that unemployment issues need to be addressed deliberately in order for economic recovery to occur. She and leadership in Greensboro are working to ensure economic prosperity for all residents.


My First Week in Cleveland: Adapting to City Living and “Adulthood”

My First Week in Cleveland: Adapting to City Living and “Adulthood”

by Madison VanScoder, City Fellow, CEOs for Cities //

No, I am not a Cleveland fan JUST because of Lebron James…

At the end of junior year, many students do not know what they want to do with the rest of their life, or even what they want to do next month. This was me (and it still is me in some ways.) However, unlike most, I knew where I wanted to spend my summer, and generally how I wanted to spend it. Cleveland is a city very dear to me. My father and his entire family grew up in Cleveland, and since I attend Denison University, I visit quite often.

When I think of Cleveland, it brings nothing but good memories with my family to mind, such as visiting the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, having a lovely dinner at Blue Point Grille, and taking walks by the lake. I have known since freshman year of college that I wanted to live and work in Cleveland someday. This is why I was ecstatic to find a perfect internship at CEOs for Cities through the Summer on the Cuyahoga (SOTC) summer internship program. Since my acceptance in April, I had been awaiting this summer of new experiences and adventures. Now, here it is!

The Real Deal

Before coming to Cleveland, I was anxious, nervous, and a bit panicked. Along with starting a new (and first) internship, meeting my new roommate, meeting my co-workers, and leaving my family, I also had to learn how to live in the city. Completely overwhelmed, I did not think I was going to be able to do any of these things or enjoy them.

However, I was completely wrong. In the first few hours in Cleveland, I realized what Summer on the Cuyahoga, or SOTC, really was, instead of just reading about it on the website and hearing about it from others who had been in the program. SOTC recruits students from eight elite colleges: Case Western, Colgate, Cornell, Denison, Ohio Wesleyan, Smith, University of Chicago, and Yale.

During my first day, I was able to meet at least one person from each of these schools, which made me realize how unique this opportunity is. SOTC partners with for-profit and non-profit organizations in the Cleveland area, providing summer internships for students from the colleges I mentioned. This is how I became interested in CEOs for Cities. SOTC not only allows students to explore professional options in the Cleveland area, but also a variety of social activities that are central to Cleveland. SOTC provides the opportunity for students to sign up for as many events as they want, which I really appreciate about the program. SOTC understands that we have other priorities with our internships, but still gives the option to attend what we wish.

Madison VanScoder
Second day of work!

After getting acclimated and settled into my new living space on Saturday and Sunday, it was time for my first day of work on Monday. I was so nervous that I could barely speak when I walked into the office that morning. Instantly, I was warmly welcomed by CEOs for Cities’ staff and my nerves were calmed after just five minutes of speaking with my new co-workers and boss. I immediately fell in love with the organization. After learning more about CEOs for Cities, I found that much of their work is exactly what I am studying at Denison University – social justice, environmental planning, civic involvement, and innovative energy, are a few of the areas in which CEOs for Cities is involved.

Welcome to Cleveland… Now, on to Pittsburgh!

My second day at CEOs for Cities was not your typical second day of work. It consisted of driving to Pittsburgh and setting up for the organization’s 2015 City Cluster Workshop. The main topic of the workshop was inclusive economic growth, which I define as improving wealth and opportunity by engaging the community, maintaining equity, building connections, and promoting talent and innovative thinking.

What I thought was going to be one of the hardest three days ever, actually turned out to be one of the most exciting and fun experiences that I could have ever imagined. It was my first time visiting Pittsburgh and I was very impressed with the warm and welcoming environment, as well as the progress that the city has with-gone.

In addition to exploring a new city, I was able to meet various speakers, mayors from many different cities, experts and CEOs from several corporations. It was such an empowering and inspirational moment when I realized I was surrounded by some of the most prominent and influential leaders in the country. It is a feeling that I will never forget. One of these influential leaders is Mayor Bill Peduto, who gave an insightful and captivating speech on the “old” and “new” Pittsburgh. His speech, along with a video of the “old” Pittsburgh, demonstrated the immense change that city leaders and community members can make. Other main takeaways from the speeches and discussions that resonated most are:

  1. Intentionally inclusive vs. unintentionally exclusive, meaning that is crucial for leaders to fully engage everyone in a community rather than giving opportunities to some more than others. Inclusion must be incorporated into daily life; don’t just create a silo for engagement.
  2. Small Bets, or measurable progress in incremental steps helps show meaningful successes in a community. As Peter Sims said, “The best way to predict the future is to invent it. It all starts with a little bet.”
  3. The “Just” City, which is a value-based approach for planning and development created by Toni Griffin. According to Griffin, a just city must include equity, connectivity, access, inclusion, choice, diversity, participation, creative innovation, beauty and ownership. “When equity isn’t enough, design of the just city”. –Toni L. Griffin.
  4. John Wilburn’s three approaches to shaping the future that sets the stage for a talented community. The first step is “Burr under the Saddle: early childhood education matters. Next is “Catch and Release”, which is identifying the issue and creating a solution. The last step is “We can do It!” that includes building a coalition of talented leaders who help increase degree attainment and focusing on access and persistence.
Uptown Neighborhood
Exploring the Uptown Neighborhood.

The Cluster Workshop not only featured presentations and discussions led by keynote speakers and expert resources, but also provided the attendees with tours of different parts of Pittsburgh. I went on the Uptown Eco Innovation trip, which was a field trip of the various innovations in the Uptown neighborhood of Pittsburgh. The project focus areas include environmental benchmarking, transportation improvements, and community involvement.

The 2015 Pittsburgh Cluster Workshop also gave me the wonderful opportunity to bond with my co-workers… to the point that I felt empty without them when I returned to my apartment on the final day. What resonated most with me during the three days was that the most important factor of success is working together. Each staff member was assigned certain responsibilities, such as reporting on speeches, working at the registration and literature table, and preparing microphones for attendees with questions.

Although we each had different tasks, we all worked together as a team to accomplish them. CEOs for Cities is an ideal example of an organization that values each staff member’s unique qualities and abilities in a respectful and enjoyable environment, while efficiently accomplishing what needs to be done. I noticed that each person’s ideas and opinions are appreciated and each person is treated equally. Everyone helps one another, regardless the help that may be needed. I am sure that without these core values and attributes of this organization, the workshop would not have been the success that it was.

I wish I could discuss every single aspect of CEOs for Cities’ 2015 Cluster Workshop, however, there is too much for just one blog post! Check out more insight and information on the speakers, expert resources, discussions, and anything else from the 2015 Cluster Workshop in Pittsburgh.

ABOUT MADISON VANSCODER Madison is a City Fellow with CEOs for Cities. She is an environmental studies major at Denison University, and has studied piano since she was five. She plans to move to Cleveland after graduation.


Harnessing Downtown Development to Strengthen Nearby Neighborhoods

Harnessing Downtown Development to Strengthen Nearby Neighborhoods

A Connected City Lesson from Knoxville

By Jay Walljasper //

Knoxville is in an enviable position as the home of the University of Tennessee, the Tennessee Valley Authority, and the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Scripps Networks Interactive (which runs many cable channels) – all of which attract well-educated people and drive the local economy. Knoxville is a green haven, featuring many parks and greenways as well as a 1,000-acre Urban Wilderness with 40 miles of hiking and biking trails inside the city limits. The Great Smoky Mountains National Parks is only 30 miles away. Downtown is thriving, with nearly every historical building redeveloped and block after block of ground-level retail shops animating the city center.

Yet no place is perfect, concedes Laurens Tullock, president of The Cornerstone Foundation of Knoxville. He believes the biggest challenge for the community is “aligning all of our resources to reach our full potential when there is no sense of crisis.”

The local CEOs for Cities City Cluster aids that cause, says Tammy White, president of Leadership Knoxville. The group meets socially once a month to exchange thoughts across the many fields represented at the table, and came together for a debrief after the 2014 Cleveland Connected City Workshop. “We loved hearing what was happening in other places.”

Tullock notes the downtown’s revival is now spreading out to adjacent inner ring districts, with a $160 million mixed-use project on the site of the old Baptist Hospital across the river to the south, and $1 billion in capital improvements to the University of Tennessee campus to the west. There are also discussing of a major new theater center.

Public, private, and community attention is also being directed at Downtown North, a neighborhood commercial corridor that extends from Downtown beyond the I-40 freeway that was once associated with dive bars and abandoned buildings. The city built bike lanes and implemented a road diet (an innovation where wide roads are narrowed to create more public space and a welcoming street environment). The city arranged tax-increment financing, facade improvement grants and the incentives for developers who began to buy and redevelop blighted properties. The long-established Time Warp Tea Room (a music club and vintage motorcycle gallery) soon saw new neighbors, igniting a sense that things were changing. The Three Rivers Market food co-op and the beloved Magpies Bakery relocated to the area, joined by Holly’s Corner restaurant and other local shops and music venues. The area’s rich tradition as an entertainment district, known as Happy Holler, is now celebrated by the annual Hollerpalooza music festival.

“It takes both public and private dollars to turn around an area,” explains Mayor Madeline Rogero. “Everywhere I go, people are asking for more and better. They are excited about the private and public investments in a revitalized downtown and the rebuilding of the urban commercial corridors. They flock downtown and new local shops are being opened in the urban core. The city’s Cumberland Ave Project is a perfect example of where our $17 million in planned public improvements has already generated over $200 million in private investment, and where – as a result of an extensive public process – merchants, property owners, neighbors, the University, and two major hospitals are aligned in their vision for the future of this area.”

Excerpt from Stories and Lessons from The Connected City: CEOs for Cities Spring 2014 City Cluster Workshop.


Universal Design: Why Public Spaces Must be Accessible for All

Universal Design: Why Public Spaces Must be Accessible for All

By Steve Wright, Communications Manager, PlusUrbia //

Universal Design: “The design of products and environments to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design.
— Ronald L. Mace, the Center for Universal Design at North Carolina State University.

Universal Design – What It’s Not

Universal design means many things to many people. But anyone who has used a wheelchair for mobility can tell you what it is NOT:

  • An outdoor lift as the only means of wheelchair access. Keys required to operate the lifts get lost, parts rust in the elements and the enclosures around the lifts become filled with garbage and worse.
  • A park designed only with non-disabled visitors in mind, with winding staircases, inaccessible water features and restrooms with barriers. Disabled visitors are served only by ugly retrofits that segregate them from the main pedestrian routes and experiences.

So what is Universal Design?

It’s an essential element of modern placemaking. And why do we need it? Because more than 50 million people in America have some level of disability that impacts their daily routine. It’s about serving America’s largest minority group.

Brooklyn Bridge Park, New York

A growing number of architects, landscape architects, engineers, town planners and designers are creating warm, welcoming public spaces while embracing Universal Design as an essential element from Day One.
Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates placed so much emphasis on Universal Design in its creation of Brooklyn Bridge Park that the park’s website has a prominent link which details all of the accessible features, including on its piers. The park’s barrier-free greenway stretches for more than a mile along the East River waterfront.

Squibb Bridge
Squibb Bridge at Brooklyn Bridge Park uses Universal Design to create outstanding access and million dollar views.
© Julienne Schaer

The most dramatic piece of Universal Design is the 396-foot-long Squibb Bridge, a pedestrian bridge connecting Squibb Park at the north end of the historic Brooklyn Heights Promenade with Brooklyn Bridge Park.

The eight-foot-wide bridge has gentle slopes, handrails and dramatic vistas of the Manhattan skyline, Statue of Liberty and Brooklyn Bridge. It zigzags through tall oaks, between buildings and over a street, descending 30 feet in elevation from its start to endpoint.

Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, designer of the acclaimed Brooklyn Bridge Park, prefers landscape-based solutions to accessibility, with gentle slopes versus lifts or elevators.

While some prominent master planners have balked at Universal Design and fought to build brand new facilities with grand staircases as the principal entry, with accessible routes hidden off to the side, the Van Valkenburgh firm embraces creative approaches to designing for all.

Liquid Planning, Detroit

Detroit's Eastern Market to the Dequindre Cu
MAde Studio’s Universal Design connects Detroit’s Eastern Market to the Dequindre Cut via a series of generous ramps and landings. Credit Image –MAde Studio

In Detroit, MAde Studio has made Universal Design central to its transformation of a long-abandoned railway cut into a greenway. The proposed project provides barrier-free access to historic neighborhoods, some largely vacant and in need of great civic space to spark rebirth.

Architects Jen Maigret and Maria Arquero have designed an urban greenway out of Dequindre Cut, a railway created in the 1920s to move freight to industrial hubs in the growing city. Near the Detroit River, the cut is at grade, but as it moves north, it is more than 25 feet below grade.

Turning a former railway into greenway and building frequent, accessible connections to the city fabric was a challenge for MAde’s Liquid Planning Detroit. A grade change of 12 feet at historic Eastern Market is addressed with a series of generous ramps and landings that integrate spaces for sitting, eating and mingling.

Independence National History Park, Philadelphia + Bryant Park, New York

The Olin Studio in Philadelphia has redesigned a number of landmark public spaces to increase Universal Design elements. Firm founder Laurie Olin’s redesign of the Independence National Historic Park at Independence Hall features walkways so gently sloped there is no need for ramps.

Many architects and planners have claimed that historic properties in urban locations are impossible to retrofit with Universal Design. The innovative team at Olin disagrees.

The ramps the firm designed for Bryant Park in New York, connect the upper dining terrace to the mid-level walkways under the trees and at the lowest level lawn area. The ramps were blended into the original ornamental stonework with granite balustrades copied from those elsewhere in the park, but modified for the sloping ground plane of the ramps.

Millennium Park, Chicago

Crown Fountain
Crown Fountain in Chicago’s Millennium Park was recognized by the Paralyzed Veterans of America for its Universal Design. Photo Courtesy of PVA.

Chicago’s 25-acre Millennium Park earned a Barrier-Free America Award from the Paralyzed Veterans of America. The park’s original grandiose design featured lots of grand staircases and other elements that were not conducive to Universal Design, and thus inaccessible to wheelchair users.

The Crown Fountain, designed by Catalan artist Jaume Plensa and executed by Krueck and Sexton Architects of Chicago, is composed of a black granite reflecting pool placed between a pair of 50-foot glass brick towers that display digital videos on their inward faces. The fountain’s reflecting pool has no more than a quarter inch lip at any place, making it a completely accessible mini water park.

Always a Dream Play Park, Fremont, CA

Berkeley-based MIG was founded in 1982 to focus on planning, designing and sustaining environments that support human development, so it is natural that inclusivity is ingrained in the firm’s DNA.

One of its more recent projects was the one-acre Always a Dream Play Park in Fremont, California, funded by Kristi Yamaguchi’s Always Dream Foundation. The park has rubber mounds that a wheelchair user can navigate, as well as a small hill that can be traversed via gentle slopes.


PlusUrbia LogoWright is Communications Manager for PlusUrbia, an urban and architectural design firm in Miami. A public affairs journalist and marketer of town planning, he has published more than 1,000 articles about Universal Design and the built environment. A caregiver to an ADA professional who uses a wheelchair, he was the Senior Urban Policy Advisor for the Chairman of the Miami City Commission.

Yes No