Innovation News February 2013

MERGING MUNICIPALITIES
The Institute on Municipal Finance and Government (IMFG) at the University of Toronto, has released a paper titled, "Merging Municipalities: Is Bigger Better?" that reviews different approaches through which the governance of metropolitan regions may be structured. The paper includes case studies and is part of a series which includes projects on a range of large city issues.

THE DEMISE OF SHOPPING MALLS  
A recent Financial Times article predicts that 14 per cent of U.S. malls will fail in the next five years, despite local subsidies. Urban professionals are now beginning to consider what comes next after the malls have gone.

A PLAN TO SHRINK DETROIT
In January, City of Detroit leaders introduced their Strategic Framework Plan, “Future Detroit City,” that proposes a right-sizing approach to address a future for the city that depends less on economic growth and more on high quality places for residents.

AMERICA’S ECONOMIC REVIVAL
A new report by the Manhattan Institute contends that four “growth corridors” in the U.S. including the Great Plains, the Intermountain West, the Gulf Coast (Texas to Florida) and the Southeastern industrial belt will be key to economic revival. These regions share characteristics such as lower housing costs, better business climates and population growth, which drive resurgence.

WASHINGTON, DC SEEKS GREENEST CITY STATUS
In early February, Washington, DC Mayor Vincent Gray announced a sustainability vision, “Sustainable DC,” a 20 year program that will increase neighbourhood green living benefits, increase the city’s natural areas, cut energy use and carbon emissions and create jobs.

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS   EXPERT PANEL REPORT ON WATER AND AGRICULTURE IN CANADA 
An expert panel convened by the Council of Canadian Academies has released a report calling for forward-thinking land and water management strategies and policies, more effective governance mechanisms/sustainable practices and greater application of technology, to assist the agricultural sector to manage risks.

TOP URBAN PLANNING SUCCESSES
Learn more about twenty leading examples of urban planning innovations that demonstrate lasting success.

LOS ANGELES ZONING PROMOTES HEALTH
Both the County and the City of Los Angeles are revising zoning by-laws to promote better health. The County’s Healthy Design Ordinance, adopted in early February, contains new provisions to encourage walking, cycling and better access to healthy foods.

ICMA PARTNERS WITH AFI ON LOCAL GOVERNMENT PRACTICES
The International City/County Management Association (ICMA) Center for Management Strategies has entered a partnership with the Alliance for Innovation (AFI) to develop and communicate leading local government practices. The partnership initiative will expand research to identify a broad range of emerging approaches in local government operation.

CITY DESIGN IDEAS
A recent BBC news article  which asks a group of experts: “What if you could design a city from scratch?” yields some interesting results.

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS WATERLOO IMMIGRATION PARTNERSHIP 
The new Region of Waterloo Immigration Partnership reflects a community-wide commitment to support and integrate immigrants in the Region.  The initiative is based on the belief that successful settlement leads to communities where immigrants and refugees can settle, work and belong.  
  
DEFINING AND BENCHMARKING SMART CITIES  
Smart cities provide real time data and information exchange to optimize resource management, enable the use of analytics to determine performance and increase a city’s competitive advantage.  Learn more  about how resources and technology can be linked to provide integrated service delivery to end users.

IS ZONING STILL AN APPROPRIATE TERM?
While land use regulation is required to guide community development, traditional zoning provisions have failed to relate to the reality of changing demographics and social preferences that currently drive new development and redevelopment projects.  It may well be time to talk less about zoning restrictions and more about design goals and more flexible development principles.    
 
MAYOR BLOOMBERG CITIES CHALLENGE FINALISTS
The Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Mayors’ Challenge was designed to inspire U.S. mayors to generate innovative ideas to improve urban life.  Twenty finalist cities out of some 305 cities that applied, are now competing for the grand prize of $5 million.

QUANTIFYING DETROIT’S COMEBACK
A recently released report on the transformation of Downtown Detroit  documents the regeneration of the city’s 7.2 square mile urban core. The assessment is based on new data from local surveys, as well as national census data and other national data sources.
      
OTHER DEVELOPMENTS COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT IN URBAN DESIGN
While nearly all public projects require some form of public engagement, a growing number of community leaders are searching for new approaches that not only involve the public but engage them in ways that maintain interest in project outcomes. Learn more about some related innovations in the design and construction of urban projects.

MUNICIPAL MAINTENANCE AND INFRASTRUCTURE ASSET MANAGEMENT
The Water Finance Research Foundation has conducted an industry-wide comparative analysis of core maintenance management and infrastructure asset management systems for 14 leading software systems, used by municipalities in Canada and the U.S.

URBAN FLOODING IN CANADA
The Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction (ICLR) has released a study on urban flooding in Canada that assesses the costs of flood damages, related building and plumbing code provisions and retrofit programs. 

A GOOD EXAMPLE OF URBAN FARMING 
Access to local food and food security are emerging community issues, as evidenced by new urban farming policies and small scale urban garden initiatives in a range of municipalities. A recent Atlantic Cities article outlines an example of sustainable agriculture, a 60 acre “urban-serving farm”  located ten miles northwest of downtown Boise, Idaho.

NYC TECHNOLOGY SECTOR INITIATIVE
New York City has recently launched, “We Are Made in NY,” a multi-platform initiative that promotes the city’s technology and digital sector. The economic development initiative features better access to resources and programs through a new website to help tech companies grow, an interactive digital map showing tech company locations and hiring plans and a high profile advertising campaign.

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS VISUALIZING CRIME
In December of last year, the City of Philadelphia published a major municipal dataset on all crimes in the city dating from January, 2006. Each crime incident is tagged to a specific location in the city, so that the dataset has presented opportunities for local developers to produce new information and enforcement tools.    

THE ROLE OF CHIEF INNOVATION OFFICERS
Since 2008, a range of U.S. municipalities and states have created new Chief Innovation Officer positions. While the specifications of these positions vary widely, the focus has been on dealing with budget reductions, economic development and job creation and targeting better ways to use technology. Learn more about the goals and experiences of some U.S. communities. 

USEFUL PLANNING APPS
The American Planning Association (APA) recently featured a webcast entitled, “Mobile Planning: There’s An App for That,” to share information on new mobile apps that support planning professionals.

CITIES AND SUBURBS - “THE GREAT RESET”  
Many economists contend that we are living through a significant economic upheaval, marked by the decline of a manufacturing economy and the emergence of a postindustrial, creative economy. Richard Florida refers to this fundamental change as “the Great Reset,” comparable to the industrialization of cities in the 1870s and the Great Depression of the 1930s. In a recent Urban Land Institute (ULI) article, Florida outlines what he sees as related trends in the core areas and suburbs of metropolitan areas.    

REDEVELOPING CENTRAL LONDON
After many years of disuse, the NINE ELMS, a 195 hectare riverbank site in central London will be transformed into an area of tall apartment blocks and a cluster of office towers, at a density three times that of London as a whole. The project is being made possible by foreign financing, changes to local government financing rules and a major extension of the subway system.   

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS NEW MIT CENTRE ON URBANISM RESEARCH
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) School of Architecture and Planning is  launching a major new research centre, The Centre for Advanced Urbanism, that will focus on the planning, design. construction and retrofitting of urban environments.  Initially, new research will deal with infrastructure challenges.

IMPROVING HIGH DENSITY CITIES  
Very high densities that are typical of major urban areas, are associated with increased traffic and congestion, pollution and other problems. To begin to manage these impacts , the Urban Land Institute (ULI) has released a  report, “10 Principles for Livable High Density Cities.” 

THE GEOMETRY OF TRANSIT FRIENDLY NEIGHBOURHOODS
A recent Atlantic Cities article tackles the issue of prioritizing transit investment using  “typology radar graphs” reflecting the transit orientation of a neighbourhood, an approach developed by the U.S. Centre for Transit Development.  

THE CITIZENVILLE CHALLENGE
California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and Code for America recently launched the Citizenville Challenge, a call for local government leaders to apply technology to transform the way that government and its citizens interact.   

ANALYTICS FOR LOCAL GOVERNMENT
A new startup, Revelstone, has developed web-based analytics software, called  Compass, that enables local governments to track and measure their operating performance and benchmark against other municipalities.  

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS JAPAN’S FUTURE CITIES INITIATIVE
In mid-February, the Japanese Government will host the 2nd International Forum on the FutureCity Initiative to showcase leading practices of 11 Japanese municipalities that promote discussion of their wider use and implementation.  Learn more about these FutureCity projects.   

URBAN CULTURAL PRACTICES
The European “A Soul for Europe” project  is working with interested cities and regions to determine how practical initiatives can stimulate cultural development. The project will lead to a European-wide platform for representatives from cultural and economic sectors, focused on common cultural  strategies.    

COMMUNITY BENEFITS AGREEMENTS
To overcome community opposition which can substantially delay projects,  some developers are turning to Community Benefits Agreements (CBAs). These CBAs are contracts that are signed by community groups and developers, requiring the developer to provide specific amenities or improvements to the local neighbourhood, as a basis for community support for a project.

HOW CITIES SUPPORT AFTER SCHOOL YOUTH INITIATIVES 
There is a growing recognition that keeping young people on track and engaged is a key factor to urban success, reflected in safe communities, economic growth and quality of life.  Learn more  about municipal support for after school efforts and approaches and  partnerships that lead to their success.    

PERSPECTIVES ON TRANSIT PLANNING     
A recent article in Spacing Atlantic reflects the views of City of Calgary transit planners on transit plans/visions, decision-making related  to transit service levels and route planning.  
        
OTHER DEVELOPMENTS REGION OF WATERLOO OPEN DATA PORTAL
The Region of Waterloo Open Data site enables public access to Regional data to encourage community innovation.  The portal can be used for problem solving, creation of new apps and facilitating community collaboration and engagement.  

PROMOTING PUBLIC TRANSIT
Diana Lind of the Next City, has developed a short video  that promotes communities that have a reduced reliance on automobile use. The messages in the video are balanced and are not “anti-car.” 

NEW URBAN IDEAS
The first round of judging for ideas  submitted by cities to the Citymart urban ideas competition  will take in February.  Some 22 cites from around the world have put out calls for solutions to solve specific urban challenges.  The objective is to share these solutions broadly in a range of areas including economic development, energy, health and culture.     

MEASURING URBAN INNOVATION
The City of Boston’s “Innovation District http://www.innovationdistrict.org/” located close to the city’s financial district,  and within sight of Logan International Airport,  is emerging as a location of choice for established businesses and start-ups that house a new generation of knowledge workers.    The 1,000 acre district is a key component of the city’s economic development strategy.   Learn more about the Boston and comparable initiatives in Barcelona, San Diego and Detroit.  

RIGHTSIZING STREETS TO CREATE PUBLIC SPACE
The Rightsizing Streets Guide  created by the Project for Public Spaces promotes street design improvements to increase safety and accessibility for walkers, biker and drivers.  The guide contains case studies that demonstrate healthier and more economically viable communities.
 
GLASGOW WINS UK FUTURE CITIES COMPETITION
The City of Glasgow has been chosen out of a group of 25 other UK cities through the Technology Strategy Board’s Future Cities competition, as a test case for using technology to address health, energy, transportation, public safety and other challenges.  The city has been awarded £24m to accelerate initiatives which will build on its recognized strengths as a technology centre.
 
VANCOUVER MAYORS WANT NEW FEES TO FUND TRANSIT
Metro Vancouver Mayors have developed a list of five new funding options to help pay for transit expansion. Their recommendations including a regional carbon tax, regional sales tax and area specific land value capture, have been submitted to the B.C Transportation Minister. 

URBAN DENSITY VERSUS LIVABILITY
A new report  from the Urban Land Institute and the Centre for Livable Cities assesses the world’s largest cities on the basis of their livability and density.  The report places cities in one of four quadrants within density and livability axes and makes recommendations on specific planning and investment approaches on combining high density and high livability.    

TEN BEST U.S. CITIES FOR URBAN FORESTS
The conservation organization, American Forests, has named the ten best U.S. cities for their commitments to caring for urban green spaces.  The organization conducted a comprehensive survey and assessed independent data to identify leading approaches to sustain the health of urban forests to enable energy cost reductions and improved human health.    

BUILDINGS AND CITIES IN 2050 
A new report, “It’s Alive!”  by Arup’s (independent firm of planners, designers, engineers and consultants) Foresight an Innovation Team, predicts that structures will be fully integrated into the fabric of future cities and will reflect design changes that respond  both to their environments and the needs of users.   

CITIES AND GENERATION Y  
The lifestyles and values of Gen Y or “Millennials,” are significantly different from earlier generations.  Key differences include less focus on cars, houses and suburban living.  Research has shown that Millennials are more attracted to affordable housing, which is connected jobs and transportation and walkable communities.     

EMERGING UK LOCAL AUTONOMY     
The first wave of new “city deals” in England involving the country’ largest eight cities after London, has granted local authorities greater control over borrowing and spending.  While individual city deals vary in scope, some broader trends include local governance reform and new approaches to financing infrastructure.

CONGESTION PRICING
The U.S. Capital Region Transportation Planning Board has released a report on public support for congestion strategies.  While there is consensus on the major traffic problems, there is far less agreement on solutions.  Learn more about some optional congestion strategies.  

REINVENTING PARKING 
Santa Monica, California has been working on some adjustments to its parking policy requirements to render them less determinant of peoples’ travel preferences/options. The new focus is on efficient pricing of on-street parking .
   
OTHER DEVELOPMENTS U.S. METRO INVENTION AND ECONOMIC PERFORMANCE
A recent Brookings Institution report, “Patenting Prosperity:   Invention and Economic Performance in the United States and its Metropolitan Areas,” analyzes patenting trends at the regional level between 1980 and 2012 in some 360 metropolitan areas.  The report analyzes the relationship between patenting and the productivity levels in each region. 

SMART GROWTH IN RURAL COMMUNITIES
A report, “Putting Smart Growth to Work in Rural Communities,” by the International City/County Management Association, outlines smart growth strategies that assist in guiding growth in rural areas while protecting natural and working farmland and maintaining the character of rural communities.
  
“flowing city”
Visit the flowing city website for creative graphic representations of a wide range of urban data, captured under many themes from some interesting data sources.  

IMPROVING CITIZEN ENGAGEMENT     
A recent article prepared by a member of a community planning commission offers valuable insights on engaging citizens in the local planning process through websites and other electronic channels. Learn more about webpage design for planning and relevant Facebook features.  
   
NEW BOOK ON THE IMPORTANCE OF SUSTAINABILITY 
A new book, “Hard Constants:  Sustainability and the American City” (Tony Favro), takes a sober look at the future of sustainability.  The book examines the forces that affect daily behavior and how these factors are institutionalized.  These cultural values or “hard constants” provide an important context for future sustainability initiatives.   

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS   NEW BRUNSWICK MUNICIPALITIES LEAD IN PROCUREMENT
New Brunswick municipalities are taking a step forward with the use of qualification-based selection (QBS)  for the procurement and asset management of municipal infrastructure. The QBS approach results from a collaboration between the Association of Consulting Engineering Companies in New Brunswick (ACEC-NB) and the Union of Municipalities of New Brunswick (UMNB).   

URBAN STORMWATER RUNOFF
Stormwater runoff in urban areas can result in sewage treatment plant overloading and polluted waterways.  To prevent these occurrences, many communities are creating greener infrastructure  to restore natural processes to collect and clean water.

NEW CITY 2.0 WEBSITE LAUNCHED 
In late January the newly redesigned TheCity2.org website was launched.  The website is citizen-powered and showcases stories, videos and ideas related to urban transformation.   

GREENING U.S. CITIES
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), together with the Departments of Transportation and Housing and Urban Development established the Green America’s Capitals Program  in 2010, designed to bring green infrastructure and green building practices to the country’s state capitals.  The program objective is to have state capitals model green practices that can be applied to other cities.   

GOVERNMENT TECHNOLOGY FORECAST FOR 2013 
The U.S. National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO) and the Public Technology Institute have issued their assessment of the top priorities for state and local governments and some technology application predictions for 2013.

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Bruce McLeod
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