Last month the nonprofit group America Achieves released a report titled Geek Cities: How Smarter Use of Data and Evidence Can Improve Lives through their Results for America initiative with support from Bloomberg Philanthropies. The report dissects how leaders in six major cities throughout the United States (and one initiative in London) are using data and technology to improve the lives of their residents. Rapidly improving technology and the digitalization of information has made mass data collection easier than ever, and cities are using this data to find effective programs and measures to combat social, economic, and physical challenges that many face today.
As climate change remains contentious topic in American politics on the federal level, more and more cities are taking it upon themselves to find solutions that will address this growing problem. Key West, Florida, is a popular tourist destination and also one of the most vulnerable places in the United States to rising sea levels. Like many places in South Florida, Key West is very flat, with many neighborhoods, including the downtown hub of tourist activity, reaching no higher than 3 ft. above sea level.
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.
Partners’Board member Geoff Anderson, President of Smart Growth America, was recently named one of the “most influential leaders” in sustainable community planning and development, by Partnership for Sustainable Communities. Alongside Partners’ recent Bridge Builders Award recipient Christopher Leinberger, Geoff Anderson was acknowledged for his dedication and achievements instrumental in growing the Smart Growth field. With a 13 year tenure at the EPA, Anderson was central to creation of the agency’s Smart Growth program, and cofounded the Smart Growth network, the New Partners for Smart Growth Conference, and popular website smartgrowth.org.
Smart Growth America continues to function as one of the nation’s premiere clearing houses reporting on and devising the latest methods for smart growth development. SGA is, “ the only national organization dedicated to researching, advocating for and leading coalitions to bring smart growth practices to more communities nationwide.” Through coalition building, policy development, and research, SGA explores cross-sector efforts dedicated, in the simplest form, to enhance livability for all.
"Governor Glendening and Partners for Livable Communities understand the relationship between livable, walkable places and economic prosperity. Smart growth results in places and regions with more housing and transportation choices, better access to shops and schools and a healthy environment. These are the neighborhoods—whether urban, rural or suburban—where people and businesses want to be. They attract new jobs and hold on to them over time as well as maintaining a higher level of housing and property values (Governor Parris N. Glendening).”
Real Estate may save us after all, say strategists Christopher Leinberger and Patrick Doherty, but only if it responds to a growing demand for walkable, dynamic neighborhoods. Real estate represents 35% of our economy’s asset base, so its recovery is essential to the country’s “economic renaissance.” However, write Leinberger and Doherty in a recent article, changing housing preferences driven by Millennials and aging baby boomers will make that recovery look quite different than previous decades:
In the fight for livability, sometimes advocates can forget about those who are happily living in environments that others would deem “unlivable”: sprawling, car-dependent suburbs. If it’s all about making our lives more livable, “shouldn’t we be able to choose the sprawling suburbs if we want to?” asked a participant at the Partners’ “Building Livable Communities” Forum in September 2010. Well, yes, replied the panelists, but it’s not that easy. “Choosing” sprawl is not always the free choice that many believe it to be.