Smart Cities & People

The Smart Cities concept is great for joining up systems.  The companies that promote the Smart Cities concept are also selling their technology.  Nothing wrong with that but important to keep in mind.  Efficiency matters.  Cities need to save money and find better ways to serve their citizens.  But as I watched the troubles in Baltimore recently I felt a distinct disconnect between Smart Cities and the reality of cities struggling with underemployment, poverty, and the enlarging chasm between haves and have nots.  Not only US cities but clearly cities internationally are trying to cope.  The overwhelming challenge of migrants seeking a better life all over the world is immediately – not at some point in the distant future – knocking city leaders sideways.  So we have on one side all kinds of conferences on Smart Cities, promising great things for the future seemingly washed clean of the messiness going on in the streets, and on the other, the grim reality of life as it is now.

Preserving Beirut: Ruin & Revival

In a fascinating article, David Lepaska vividly describes the current state of ruin and revival in Beirut.  The impulse to save the remaining 20 percent of historically valuable buildings has come from the people who live there and with support from private money and local government cooperation.  This is a must read piece.

Los Angeles: local v national governing

Janice Hahn, D-Rep from the Los Angeles area, has decided not to run again for her Congressional seat next year reports the LA Times.  She’s been in office since 2011.  She says that with the current non-legislating that goes on in Washington she can better represent her district from a seat in the powerful Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors. where she would be one of only five members.  She has lineage there.  Her father served for four decades and as a junior member of the party out of power in Congress she certainly doesn’t have much to do.  In the conversation about the importance of cities plus the effectiveness of city versus national government not only to govern locally (and in the case of the US, at all) you have to wonder if more national reps might consider a similar move.  There are still perks for the taking in Washington even for those “out of power.”  But for those still interested in governing and improving the lot of citizens, Janice Hahn could be a trendsetter.

Freret Corridor, New Orleans

Freret-Dat-DogNow that we are on the last legs of Carnaval 2015 the New York Times naturally has focused attention on New Orleans.  In the column Surfacing, Jordan Michael Smith points particularly to a renewed neighborhood once known only as Freret Street it has now become in city planning parlance a cultural corridor. Freret Street meet Freret Corridor.  Four years ago when we published the Vitality Index™ (VI), we ranked New Orleans tenth out of 35 cities, an amazing achievement for a city still in desperate shape from Hurricane Katrina (2005).  Despite its profound problems, New Orleans’ neighborhoods, street culture, and sense of place put it high on the list, right after Los Angeles.

The Freret Corridor is a great example of the vibrant aspects of city life that struggled to survive after Katrina and today look like a creative city in microcosm.   If we look at Freret Corridor through the lens of the VI it’s easy to see why.  Smith notes “What makes it particularly valuable is the variety of the new spots, more than 20 of them, including a comedy club, a cocktail bar, a pet grooming shop, a boxing gym, and a garden center,” and all in an eight block area that is “easily walkable from end to end,” according to The New Freret website.

When we look at cities we research quantitative and qualitative aspects of city life and weigh both sides of that equation equally.  What is of particular interest to us on the qual side are people-oriented projects and initiatives (bottom-up), public access, opportunities for people to get together and rub shoulders, and enthusiasm for their city.    These create the energy, the vibrancy of a place you want to be.  The Freret Corridor has all of these.  From comics shops to real estate agents, donuts to optical wear.  It feels like a place you want to check out.   Fortunately, as great cities do, they’ve invited us in on this grand experiment.  As their website says, “We’ve come together on Freret Street and we’d love you to join us.”  Okay!

What’s it like to be in Alabama right now?

My family is from Alabama, a county so rural and off everybody’s map that it defines “nowhere.” I wasn’t born in Choctaw County but I’ve spent lots of time there.  So the series of positive headlines about gay marriage stun me.  I’m encouraged and actually proud.  And while the sorry state of things in Ukraine, Iraq, Syria and other hot spots around the globe has held our attention for so long, back home in possibly the least expected place – at least to me – there is some wonderful news.  I don’t know what it’s like to be gay in Alabama but I hope that what has happened in the last couple of weeks continues to complete fulfillment of their rights regarding marriage and protection under the law.

Bob Simon and David Carr

To lose the great Bob Simon in a stupid car crash on the West Side Highway was shocking.  To read the news of David Carr’s death yesterday seemed unreal.  Fifteen years apart in age but connected in their commitment to great stories, their honesty, their insight, and their superb writing.  They both set the bar for their profession and also for any profession.  They tried to be truth-tellers and succeeded.  Profound loss doesn’t even begin to describe it.

Social Inequality PDF here

My article on social inequality and the myth of innovation districts is available here as a pdf: ?HowSocialInequality?and online here:?


Social Inequality and the Innovation Myth

Part one of my article, “How Social Inequality And Other Inconvenient Truths Could Upset the Innovation Apple Cart” is now up on the inpolis blog which is the brainchild of Ares Kalandides. ?Please have a read: ?


Fred Schwartz and Sir Peter Hall

Fred Schwartz, architect, and Peter Hall, urbanist, have been friends and advisors to CCI from the beginning. ?Fred died in April at the age of 63 and Peter died in July at the age of 82. ?Both were men of enormous achievement and humanity. ?Their bios will remain on our advisory board for some time. ?Their loss has been tremendous and to me personally profound.

Partnership with PROINTEC

CCI is happy to announce its partnership with PROINTEC, an engineering and architecture firm based in Madrid. ?From their website: ?”Founded in 1970,?PROINTEC?is a multinational company reference in the fields of engineering and architecture that also provides consulting services in the areas of infrastructure development, urban planning and environmental review. PROINTEC is the parent company of a major corporate group with worldwide presence” ?CCI and PROINTEC will pursue projects especially focusing on use the Vitality Index?.