Top Main Image: The Newton in Phoenix (Changing Hands Bookstore, First Draft Book Bar, Southern Rail, Southwest Gardener),
Developed by Venue Projects. Image courtesy of The Newton
by Kimber Lanning, Executive Director, Local First Arizona //
Vacant Spaces to Happening Places | The Case for Preservation and Reuse In the current race to create high quality jobs, retain local talent and attract great companies, several American cities are looking closely at the kinds of places educated workers want to live. Rather than solely focusing on tax incentives or other strategies to entice the desired companies, they are instead focusing on building great places where those companies want to be. According to the American Institute for Economic Research (AIER), an increasing number of workers have been choosing their city before their job and now more than ever, companies are reluctant to relocate to cities that have a dry, homogenized or suburban feel to them, no matter how large the financial incentives are. The workers, and Millennials in particular, are actually driving location by voicing loudly the kinds of places they’d want to consider home. In a recent study, AIER cited 70 percent of young college graduates decide where to relocate based on quality-of-life factors such as robust restaurant scene and good mass transit, rather than economic conditions.
Researchers at the Reinvestment Fund in Philadelphia report that 48 percent of central city residents in the United States live in “middle neighborhoods.” These neighborhoods are generally affordable and attractive and they offer a reasonable quality of life, but many are in danger of decline.
A shrinking middle class, the suburbanization of jobs, obsolete housing styles, and shrinking homeownership rates clouds the future of these middle neighborhoods that serve as the lynchpin of success for most American city regions. Yet these areas—that provide a substantial portion of local property-tax revenue–are relatively ignored by policymakers who have focused on the problems of concentrated poverty, gentrification, and the need for downtown revitalization.
I recently edited a book of case studies and essays by leading policymakers, community development professionals, and scholars that aims to stimulate a national dialogue about middle neighborhoods. Published by The American Assembly at Columbia University, On the Edge: America’s Middle Neighborhoods explores the complex web of communities transitioning—for better or worse—across America.
Authors reviewed research, discussed the challenges faced by middle neighborhoods, and provided a number of examples of strong programs and effective organizations working to make a difference in these on-the-edge communities. A key take-away of the essays is there is not a one-size-fits-all approach for supporting middle neighborhoods. Something that works in one area of a city may not work in another due to a host of factors such as the average age of homeowners, the quality of housing stock, and other existing neighborhood assets.
Targeted improvement strategies, like Philadelphia’s Rebuilding Together, are working to build both homeowner and neighborhood value through low-cost, high-impact home improvement projects. In Baltimore, Healthy Neighborhoods pools capital for mortgage and rehab loans in strong but undervalued neighborhoods to build home value. These demonstration programs are operated by nonprofit organizations, with cooperation from city or county governments.
Modest public and philanthropic investments in a middle neighborhoods strategy—supporting research, demonstration projects, and/or resident engagement initiatives —will make a big impact to millions of people living in and around our country’s major cities. Policymakers and city-builders should recognize the critical importance of middle neighborhoods and invest in them–as we already do in our very distressed neighborhoods and our downtowns.
Sign up to join the conversation and stay informed on the latest on middle neighborhoods.
About the Author
Paul C. Brophy is a principal with Brophy & Reilly LLC, a consulting firm specializing in economic development, and neighborhood improvement; the management of complex urban redevelopment projects; and the development of mixed-income housing communities. Brophy has been a Senior Advisor to the Center for Community Progress, a Senior Scholar at the George Warren Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis; a Senior Advisor to Enterprise Community Partners. He is currently an adjunct professor at School of Urban and Regional Planning, Georgetown University and a member of the Reinvestment Fund’s Policy Advisory Board.
In 1992, he chaired the so-called Brophy Commission for Mayor Ed Rendell that recommended broad changes to the city’s housing and community development programs and organizational structure.
Mr. Brophy holds degrees from LaSalle University and the University of Pennsylvania. He is co-author or editor of four books: On the Edge: America’s Middle Neighborhoods (2016); Neighborhood Revitalization: Theory and Practice (1975); Housing and Local Government (1982), and A Guide to Careers in Community Development (2001).
And, he was born and raised in Philadelphia in Hunting Park.
Your city has started making progress to become smarter, but now what? Making the strides to move your city forward is already a large task but once that is done, the next challenge begins — finding ways to engage businesses and your citizens.
Gamification is a relatively new term. Per the always trusted Merriam-Webster dictionary, gamification is “the process of adding games or gamelike elements to something (as a task) so as to encourage participation.”
Now, everyone from companies running trade-shows to large cities are looking towards gamification to present information in a new way.
Incorporating gamification in your city may seem to be a daunting task, but it can be an easy addition for you and can have benefits for your city’s businesses and citizens as well.
Smart city is the new buzzword when it comes to urban development. Cities around the world are looking at ways to transform into the next technologically advanced city.
As was discussed in a previous blog, more people are moving into cities again and those people want information. And who can blame them? Our society now can share information rapidly. Information that was once limited to only small group of people now can be seen by thousands, all within a matter of seconds.
Of course, with every positive of the smart city and massive sharing of information there are the negatives. With the ever-growing big brother concerns that the world is turning into a 1984 society, people want to know that their safety is not of a concern.
So how can you take steps to make your city smarter all while keeping the best interests of your residents?
On April 4th the Healthiest Cities & Counties Challenge was officially launched!
The Healthiest Cities & Counties Challenge (the Challenge) is a collaboration between the Aetna Foundation, the American Public Health Association (APHA), and the National Association of Counties (NACo) to encourage small to midsize U.S. cities, counties and federally recognized tribes to create a positive health impact. CEOs for Cities serves as the managing partner to administer the Challenge’s activities.
The Challenge will identify the best practices for achieving community and individual health, wellness and health equity. Additionally, the Challenge promotes collaboration and community-wide involvement and will identify nationally replicable models of health.
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.
We asked Erin Flynn, Associate Vice President for Strategic Partnerships at Portland State University to speak with us about what Portland is doing to become more economically inclusive. //
Historically, Portland has been a predominantly white city with limited racial and ethnic diversity. But the city’s demographics are changing dramatically and business and civic leaders are grappling with the challenges and opportunities presented by growing diversity. While 80 percent of the population between the ages of 50 and 64 are white only 56% of the population between the ages of 5 and 19 are white. The majority of the non-white, youth population is Latino. While Portland has been a magnet for young, educated millenials, it faces a considerable challenge to educate and skill up its own minority, youth population. Forty-two percent of PSU’s freshman class this year is minority and/or first generation students.
Metro cities are the drivers of our nation’s economy and will contain 80% of the population by 2020. They are complex geographic, social, political and economic regions. With a multitude of local governments, issues such as infrastructure, healthcare and economic development frequently bog down in political standoffs.
In The CEO As Urban Statesman, Sam Williams uses case studies including participant interviews and research from five cities to argue that business leaders can and should contribute to their communities by using their business skills to help solve public-policy problems. Leading cross-sector coalitions, focusing on tipping point critical issues, each city has tapped the leadership of business to compliment, not replace, the role of government. Backed by professional staff or consultants these coalitions operated in public meetings recruiting leaders from different viewpoints around the table and determining the facts in a case study method. They then debated a short list of alternatives and focused on most likely solutions driving for consensus and eventual action. It works and Williams tells how with personal interviews and insight.