Smart Cities and National Innovation Policy: The #WHFrontiers Conference and the Future or Urban Innovation

by Jennifer Clark

Debra Lam speaking at the Local Frontiers Track, courtesy Next Pittsburgh

On October 13, 2016, President Obama hosted the White House Frontiers Conference in Pittsburgh, PA.  The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) hosted the event with Carnegie Mellon University, the University of Pittsburgh, and the City of Pittsburgh.  The event convened tracks focused on innovations across five domains defined by scale: the personal, the local, the national, the global, and the interplanetary.

For an economic geographer, this was a rare opportunity to observe a national government think strategically across scales and consider how innovation policy simultaneously operates within and across those geographic scales.  The challenge of how to analyze and understand the processes of innovation — including technology diffusion — across scales is central to the work of economic geography.  

There is also the additional challenge of coordinating policy — the role of the state — in facilitating the diffusion of scientific and technological innovation across scales.  This is a key concern of communities of scholars such as those associated with the Regional Studies Association, which focuses on the local, regional, national, supra-national regional, and global processes of policy design and diffusion. CUI’s Director, Jennifer Clark, has written extensively about the coordination of national and local and regional innovation policies.

The emphasis of the “local” track of the White House Frontiers Conference was the evolving opportunities that technologies provide for cities in terms of health, transportation, public safety, and civic engagement — all pillars of “smart cities.”

A key focus was on data and the need not only to generate more data but to better understand existing data and to gather, manage, curate, and provide access to data across domains and across platforms for communities and other stakeholders. This is, in part, a consequence of OSTP’s recent efforts to stimulate research networks and research questions geared toward an emergent US smart cities strategy through two key activities:  

  1. First, OSTP launched the MetroLab Network of 20+ city-university partnerships in September 2015 (of which Atlanta and Georgia Tech are founding members).  The MetroLab Network was modeled after the city-university partnership formed by Carnegie Mellon University and Pittsburgh — Metro21 — focused particularly on partnering on the design, development, and deployment of transportation projects.
  2. Second, OSTP published the Technology and the Future of Cities Report in February of 2016.  At the Center for Urban Innovation, we have engaged the recommendations of the PCAST report both from an academic perspective and as fellow applied researchers active in the field.

The Frontiers Conference was in many ways an effort to highlight how investment and attention to science and technology policy has stimulated innovation over the past eight years and underscore that these investments are key to the sustained economic resilience of the national as well as urban and local economies.  Further, the Frontiers Conference highlighted the validity of an approach in which private, public, and academic researchers partner and collaborate on shared initiatives and clear goals.  

The Advanced Manufacturing Partnerships (AMP 1.0 and AMP 2.0) effort serves as an example of how private, public, and university partners can design policy interventions and then partner to implement them.  This “triple helix” approach to the national-scale design of policy and the regional-scale implementation of programs parallels the point made on this blog last week, asking if Is it Time for a North American Week of Cities and Regions to facilitate this work.

The series of PCAST reports on the role of technology in the economy and the meaning of technology for the country — particularly the breadth and coverage of these reports — is significant too.  The idea that technological change can drive not just the research agenda or an agency like the National Science Foundation but also influence the research and implementation priorities of agencies like the Departments of Transportation, Energy, and Commerce — in a broad and coordinated way — changes the landscape of federal research spending on technology design and diffusion.

The Frontiers Conference showcased the economic and societal value of advances in science and technology and distributed innovation.  In other words, one key success factor is facilitating the distribution of innovations across the economy rather than siloed in the research and development labs of large companies and government facilities.  Those places make essential contributions as well, but the broad-based opportunities provided by new technology are distributed — both the data that fuels the applications and the technology and shapes the software and the engineering that optimizes the hardware.  Whether it is for health, public safety, transportation, economic development, or quality of life, technology diffusion crosses scales and domains.  The Frontiers Conference underscored the value of embracing a role for government that facilitates an interdisciplinary approach to innovation.

President Obama hosted the day-long Frontiers Conference in Pittsburgh, at Carnegie Mellon University, bringing together researchers, business leaders, technologists, philanthropists, local innovators, and students to discuss building U.S. capacity in science and technology. Among the attendees at the invitation-only White House Frontiers Conference were IPaT Executive Director Beth Mynatt and Georgia Tech Center for Urban Innovation Director Jennifer Clark.  Click here for a live stream of the event, here for an IPaT article about the Frontiers Conference, or check out the Twitter hashtag,  #WHFrontiers.


Is it Time for a North America Week of Cities and Regions? Capturing the Potential of Urban Innovation Through Distributed Networks

by Jennifer Clark


Since 2003, the European Union’s Committee of the Regions has convened local, regional, national, European, and global decision-makers and experts in Brussels each October for the European Week of Cities and Regions — more than 100 workshops, debates, exhibitions, and networking opportunities. Working with organizing partners like the European Commission’s DG for Regional Policy and the Regional Studies Association, the European Week of Cities and Regions attracts over 6000 participants.

The goal of these annual meetings is to share innovative policies and projects across the cities and regions of EU member states through direct exchange rather than the top-down replication of the models that filter up from cities and regions to national and EU experts and only then diffuse back down to cities and regions.  Instead, the Week of Cities and Regions allows local policy experts to share success stories, challenges, and models directly with each other while simultaneously learning from national and international experts.  In other words, the European Week of Cities and Regions has, more than a decade after its first iteration, become a predictable and regular opportunity for policy researchers and designers, as well as those tasked with policy implementation, to check in and check out what works, what doesn’t, and focus on tailoring broad national and regional goals for local implementation.

In 2015, the Center for Urban Innovation’s Director, Jennifer Clark, was invited to talk in Brussels at that year’s European Week of Regions and Cities. Dr. Clark spoke on ‘Working Regions’: Rethinking Regional Manufacturing Policy, during a panel themed around “Rethinking regional-level industrial policies for the ‘new manufacturing.'” The talk highlighted analysis and policies discussed in her 2013 book, Working Regions: Reconnecting Innovation and Production in the Knowledge Economy. Working Regions focuses on policy aimed at building sustainable and resilient regional economies in the wake of the global recession. Using examples of four ‘working regions’ — regions where research and design functions and manufacturing still coexist in the same cities — the book argues for a new approach to regional economic development. It does this by highlighting policies that foster innovation and manufacturing in small firms, focus research centers on pushing innovation down the supply chain, and support dynamic, design-driven firm networks.

For the 2016 European Week of Cities and Regions, Dr. Clark was also invited to speak on the a panel themed: Is EU manufacturing ready for Industry 4.0? on October 13th at the European Commission. The panel is organized by Professor Lisa DePropis from the Birmingham Business School at the University of Birmingham and includes Professors Patrizio Bianchi and Steffen Kinkel as well as Dr. Clark. The entire schedule for the European Week of Cities and Regions is available here.

The panel will focus on emerging themes and regional policy issues around manufacturing and Industry 4.0. In 2015, the European Commission (DG for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs) and the European Parliament started to raise awareness that a new manufacturing model was emerging: this is referred to as Industry 4.0, or smart manufacturing. Technological change, digitalization, and a new demand are driving a ‘production organisation revolution’ that is redefining the nature of the manufacturing sector and its contribution to the wider economy.

Industry 4.0 is argued to mean more servitized — that is, with increased value due to an added service component — and customized manufacturing goods, as well as the pervasive exploitation of key enabling technologies across all sectors. Industry 4.0 is believed to offer a unique opportunity to upgrade EU industrial capability, to reshore competencies and functions, and to repopulate advanced industry systems across regions to secure jobs and prosperity. Despite the hype on Industry 4.0, it is still unclear what the triggers and drivers are in the EU context, and also what its constraints and headwinds might be. Speakers will discuss what it means and what it will take to align EU regions and EU manufacturing sectors to Industry 4.0.

Now, it is true that the EU, as an organization, has been exceedingly active in urban and regional policy design and implementation. For example, the EU’s Cohesion Policies have long sought to promote sustainable growth across EU regions and mitigate inequalities.  Recent regional policies include the Smart Specialisation (SP3) and Industry 4.0/smart manufacturing.  The US has often left urban and regional policy innovation to the state and local level. What these panels about these particular topics illustrate are the ways in which national policy priorities are necessarily connected to local and regional implementation.  And what’s more, they show how that implementation can be more effective when coordinated at the policy design phase, not simply assessed after deployment.

The benefits to the US of engaging in a similar approach — exchanging innovative policy models for urban and regional growth and development — is worth considering, as is its potential advantages for its neighbors, Canada and Mexico. The benefits of that knowledge exchange are well understood in the broader policy community. We at the Center for Urban Innovation have observed and documented the proliferation of ad hoc policy diffusion networks over the past half-decade across the US (and internationally). Examples include the Bloomberg Foundation’s Innovation Delivery Teams, WeWorkCities, the Rockefeller Foundation’s 100 Resilient Cities, the City Energy Project, and many more.

This ad hoc approach tends to privilege certain places and certain policy priorities.  In other words, the participants and the policies promoted are selective rather than representative. Perhaps it is time to create a formal, predictable structure for this exchange of project models and innovative approaches to urban and regional governance.  The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy has moved in this direction with its support of smart cities initiatives, through the launch of city-university partnerships organized through the MetroLab Network.  This week, the White House also announced the Local Frontiers track at the White House Frontiers Conference, in which we will participate. This track is another example of a step in the direction paved by the Week of Cities and Regions. Such efforts signal an awareness and recognition of the value of convenings similar to those seen in the EU.  The model already exists for a Week of Cities and Regions, and it is a model with a decade long track record of successful knowledge exchange. Is it time for a North America Week of Cities and Regions? It seems we have reached the moment for capturing the promise and potential of urban innovation by acknowledging, valuing, and enabling the work of urban and regional policy professionals across the US by creating our own annual convening of the people who design and conduct policy in our cities and regions.

Introducing PARSE: Participatory Approaches to Researching Sensing Environments

by Carl DiSalvo

From MIT’s Internet of Things Course Announcement

The Smart City has been an idea in circulation for well over a decade. Now, due to a confluence of factors, certain aspects of the Smart City are quickly manifesting from plan to reality. Distributed sensor networks are being deployed in testbeds within selected cities across the nation to monitor a range of environmental conditions, including in Atlanta. Through social media, average citizens are providing a torrent of data about where they are, what they are doing, and how they are feeling. Video cameras are ubiquitous. What’s more, all of this data is increasingly being networked together, bundled into so-called dashboards.  The idea behind these dashboards, testbeds, and in many cases the data collection efforts themselves is that everyday people, as well as government service providers, will be able to use data this to inform themselves, to make better-decisions, to enhance their (and their clients’) lives, and to improve civic conditions. But how can such goals be accomplished?

The prevailing interest, for both researchers and residents, is to work towards articulating a diverse and equitable vision for the Smart City. There have been, and continue to be, plenty of sharp critiques of the idea of smart cities and its implementation. While not being naive, however, many dedicated researchers still believe that participatory research and co-design can contribute to equitable local instantiations of the Smart City by collectively discovering, documenting, and sharing issues and potentials with the technologies being developed and implemented in the pursuit of “smartness.”

In this spirit is a new project known as PARSE (Participatory Approaches to Researching Sensing Environments), which combines design and social science methods to investigate the technologies and services of Smart Cities and more generally what is known as “Civic IoT”—the use of Internet of Things technologies for public life. The project draws upon practices of participatory design to gather together community, municipal government, and industry stakeholders to collaboratively explore the issues and possibilities of distributed sensing in urban settings.

PARSE is comprised of a series of workshops, beginning in October of 2016 and running well into 2017. The workshops will move between locations in order to draw in a more diverse set of stakeholders, with each workshop focusing on a different location and community in Atlanta. The workshops will run approximately two hours each, during which participants will learn about the sensors being deployed in Atlanta as part of the MAPPD project, and then engage in hands-on design activities to create scenarios, use-cases, and service prototypes for the data expected to be generated from these new sensors. Along the way, participants are expected to surface and discuss concerns, ranging from those of privacy to equity and beyond.

The PARSE project exemplifies a kind of community-based design research. It is intended to provide applied, actionable outcomes to inform the subsequent roll-out of Atlanta as a fully-fledged Smart City. The project also contributes to important research questions about the public element of the Smart City ideal. Much of the research into Smart Cities, especially in fields such as human-computer interaction and communication studies, has looked to specific devices and systems. PARSE, by contrast, is oriented towards issues of engagement, and the ways in which design might contribute to forms of material participation in the context of Smart Cities. In particular, researchers are interested in identifying and analyzing alternative modes of civics engagement in the context of neoliberal and technocentric governments, and in theorizing new understandings of data that take into account both community data economies and the affective aspects of data collection and representation.

Of course, PARSE will not be the first project to do this kind work, and its design research draws from experts in the social sciences undertaking similar projects. For instance, the Citizen Sense project demonstrates how a hybrid design and social science approach to environmental monitoring can illuminate a range of possibilities, from more diverse sensor platforms to a more nuanced understanding of the interplay of human and nonhuman agencies in sensing.  Similarly, the Public Laboratory for Open Technology and Science (PLOTS) demonstrates a socially engaged approach to environmental monitoring and the possibilities of a civic science — a participatory approach to data collection for the purposes of influencing governmental decision-making.

By combining expertise in design and public policy, PARSE provides a unique contribution to the study of Smart Cities. In addition to comparative case studies and frameworks for analysis and assessment, PARSE aims to contribute design guidelines and use cases to inform both engineering and policy. Organizations such as the Helsinki Design Lab and Public Policy Lab have demonstrated the value of design and policy labs in generating strategies for cities. The PARSE team believes similar efforts are needed with regards to the issues and potentials of Smart Cities. Moreover, these efforts must be open and provide opportunities for meaningful, substantive engagement from diverse stakeholders in shaping what the Smart City is, or will be, if the Smart City is to be equitable, just, and sustainable. PARSE is intended as a step in that important direction.

100 Resilient Cities Initiative In Atlanta

by Emma French And Supraja Sudharsan

Setting Atlanta’s Resiliency Agenda

Last week the City of Atlanta launched its 100 Resilient Cities program (100RC) with a day-long agenda-setting workshop — the first step of an engagement process to develop a robust resilience strategy for the City. Atlanta was selected to be part of the Rockefeller Foundation’s 100RC program in May 2016 along with thirty-six other cities from around the world, together forming the one-hundred-cities’ cohort of 100RC. The selected cities, which span 6 continents and over 50 countries, receive financing to hire a Chief Resilience Officer (CRO), as well as additional logistical and networking support.

Atlanta’s agenda-setting workshop, co-hosted by the Rockefeller Foundation, featured a forty-five minute presentation by 100RC President, Michael Berkowitz, a keynote address from Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, and four facilitated small group activities designed to gauge the participants’ understanding of resiliency and perceptions about Atlanta’s biggest long-term stresses and acute shocks. In addition to these activities, participants were asked to take a pre- and post-workshop online survey on changes in attitude. Students, faculty, and staff from Georgia Tech, including several researchers from CUI, attended the workshop, as both attendees and table facilitators.

What Makes a City Resilient?

Resilience may be defined in several ways depending on the system being studied and the actors involved, including ecological, organizational, or supply-chain system resilience, or resilience of a particular community or individual. In general, resilience refers to adaptation and/or recovery following a disruption to normal operations of a system (Bhamra, Ran et al.). In a forthcoming book chapter, CUI Director Jennifer Clark draws connections between urban resilience and innovation. In it, she writes “resilience speaks to the viability of complex systems to withstand and adapt to change.” For a city that encompasses complex economic, environmental, and social systems, a change or disruption could be in the form of acute shocks, such as flash floods, massive infrastructure failures, heat waves, and blizzards, or from expressions of long-term stresses, such as chronic water shortages, poverty, inequality, pollution, and unemployment.

With more than 50% of the world’s population living in urban areas and climate change acting as a multiplier of many of the above-enumerated shocks and stresses, the role of city government and other stakeholders in weathering these changes and building systems that can withstand and overcome adverse impacts of urbanization and climate change, and the associated social and economic challenges becomes paramount. The IPCC estimates funding requirements for climate-related adaptation efforts in developing countries to be in the order of seventy to one hundred billion dollars a year by 2050 (albeit with low confidence). A UNEP report, however, estimates this gap to be higher by 4-5 times by 2050. Therefore, support from public, private, and non-governmental organizations is crucial for building local capacity for resilience. Several programs such as the U.S. Climate Resilience Toolkit, as well as transnational networks such as 100RC, ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability, the United Nations Human Settlement Program, and others provide support in the form of financing, information-sharing, and networking opportunities for cities. However, depending on their definition of “resilience” and their inclusion or exclusion of adaptation-related issues, the nature and type of support varies among the above organizations.

100RC defines resilience as the ability of a city to maintain essential functions and to evolve and emerge stronger in the face of acute shocks and chronic stresses. A resilient city, according to the Rockefeller Foundation, is one that is reflective of past experiences, resourceful, exhibits inclusiveness in decision-making, integrates different systems and institutions, is robust, redundant to accommodate disruption to services, and flexible to changing circumstances. Utilizing a City Resilience Framework (CRF, developed by Arup and the Rockefeller Foundation, See Fig. 1 below), the CRO plans interventions to address identified shocks and stresses that span some or all of the dimensions of the CRF. In Medellin, Colombia, for instance, tramlines added to supplement its gondola-based transit system improves the city’s resilience indicators across all of the four dimensions by providing redundancy, contributing to reduction in homicide rates, reducing transit time ,and enhancing social inclusion and integrating regions along the path of transit.

Fig 1: City Resilience Framework.The four primary dimensions are represented in gray and the drivers of these dimensions represented in yellow. These dimensions (drivers) are Health & Wellbeing (Meets Basic Needs, Supports Livelihoods & Employment, Ensures Public Health Services) , Economy & Society (Fosters Economic Prosperity, Ensures Social Stability, Security & Justice, Promotes Cohesive & Engaged Communities), Infrastructure & Environment(Provides Reliable Communications & Mobility, Ensures Continuity of Critical Services, Provides & Enhances Natural & Manmade Assets), and Leadership & Strategy (Promotes Leadership & Effective Management, Empowers a Broad Range of Stakeholders, Fosters Long-term & Integrated Planning).

The workshop emphasized several steps as vital to the 100RC initiative. These include the tracking and measurement of metrics in the implementation of the resiliency framework, networking with other member cities from across the world, and learning from their experiences. The implementation of the initiative itself is tied around engaging diverse stakeholders from the city and bringing together different perspectives on what resilience means. Planning and implementation of resilience initiatives is heavily dependent upon the ability of the CRO to work across government silos, bring together diverse stakeholders, and create a concrete plan for increasing the City’s resiliency based on pragmatic, local understanding of prevalent shocks and stresses. In light of the importance of this stakeholder engagement process, it is therefore imperative to evaluate the process of the first agenda-setting workshop that was organized by the 100RC initiative for the City of Atlanta last week, and assess its strengths and weaknesses for consideration towards future stakeholder- engagement processes. This is carried out below.  

Building Resiliency Through Public Engagement

Public engagement and participation are necessary for building the institutional capacity of cities (Healy 1997). Atlanta’s workshop last week was the first step in engaging the public in the process of creating a resiliency plan for the City. Feedback from participants and facilitators will be used to prioritize what shocks and stressors the CRO focuses on. During one of the activities, participants worked together to place a number of shocks and stresses on a four part grid to indicate the frequency/likelihood on the horizontal access increasing to the right, and impact on the vertical access increasing upward (see below). At the end of the activity each table shared their top three stresses and shocks with the whole group. Poverty/inequality, lack of social cohesion, lack of affordable housing, and lack of transit options were identified as a top chronic stressors by almost every group, while flooding, extreme temperatures, and infrastructure failures dominated the top acute shock lists.

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For one of the activities, participants worked together to place a number of shocks and stresses on a four-part grid to indicate the frequency/likelihood and the severity of impact of each challenge.

In the next activity each participant was given 12 stickers, which they placed on the City Resilience Framework diagram (see Figure 1 above) without discussing their choices with others–green stickers next to things the city is doing well, yellow stickers for things the city could do better, and red stickers next to things the city urgently needs to improve. At the table featured below, the green stickers were concentrated around ‘Fosters Economic Prosperity’ and ‘Ensures Public Health Services.’ There was a mix a yellow and red stickers under ‘Meets Basic Needs,’ and red clumps next to ‘Transportation’ and ‘Empowers a Broad Range of Stakeholders.’

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Participants placed stickers onto the City Resilience diagram to indicate things the city is doing well, things it could do better, and things it urgently needs to improve. (Left to right: Timothy Block, Enterprise Community Partners; Reese McCranie, Director of Communications at Hartsfield Jackson International Airport; Marshall Shepherd, Director of UGA’s Program for Atmospheric Sciences; Emma Tinsley, Fellow at the Atlanta Neighborhood Development Partnership, Inc.; and Maria Azuri, Director of Programs of Immigrant Affairs, City of Atlanta).

Underscoring many of the discussions at the workshop was the recognition that the stresses and shocks facing Atlanta are subjective, varying significantly depending on where in the city you live or work, as well as the social and financial capital to which an individual or neighborhood has access. When planning the workshop, the City intentionally invited a mix of people from the private businesses, government offices, nonprofits, community organizations and academic institutions (see Fig. 2 below for the breakdown of registered guests by sector). Of the 160 people who were registered to attend, 44 were from government (28%), 42 from nonprofits (26%), 22 from academia (14%), 19 from business (12%), 16 were elected official (10%), 16 were community members (10%), and 1 person was from a faith-based organization (less than 1%). It should be noted that the authors do not know how many from each group actually attended.

Fig. 2: Breakdown of the participants who’d registered for the Atlanta Resilience Agenda-Setting Workshop.


During the last activity, participants identified stakeholders who were not in the room who they believe should be included in this planning process, such as students, members of the LGBTQ community, private sector representatives, and community members. One participant pointed out that the timing and location of the workshop (it was held at the Carter Center in Northeast Atlanta) may have prevented community members from attending if, for instance, they could not take work off on a Monday.

Global Knowledge Sharing and Local Empowerment

The 100RC initiative provides both opportunities and challenges for the City of Atlanta. Opportunities include the ability to allocate dedicated resources to identifying, tracking, and collaborating with diverse stakeholders to address the City’s vulnerability to shocks and stresses, and learning from, and sharing resources and knowledge with other cities around the world. The major challenges include enabling broad engagement in the political process by taking into account unequal access to resources, and empowering citizens to initiate collaborative problem-solving to address the issues they themselves have identified. Public participation is no longer just about hosting a public meeting to discuss already decided upon alternatives. It is about providing the public with data and resources to come up with their own solutions using their collective creativity and localized understanding of the problems.

In sum, each city has a very localized set of stresses and shocks, and the 100RC Network facilitates cities seeing how others are moving through this process of setting priorities. It enables the city to carve out a dedicated resource and hire a Chief Resilience Officer, and design and implement a resiliency plan. As it proceeds, there is a need to ensure that the subsequent data gathering, the indicators utilized for data gathering, and the resulting decision-making processes are representative and integrate the capacities and constraints of all relevant stakeholders in order to maximize the impact of planned interventions and to build inclusive and robust systems for a truly resilient Atlanta.  

Scaling The Smart City: Design, Deployment, and the MAPPD Project

By Jennifer Clark and Thomas Lodato

How do we build the Smart City?

This question is the central research focus of the MAPPD project (“mapped”), or the Multi-Array Phased Participatory Deployment. Both a practical and strategic endeavor, MAPPD is an ongoing research project and a city-university collaboration of the Georgia Institute of Technology and the City of Atlanta. Georgia Tech’s Center for Urban Innovation (CUI) and the Georgia Tech Research Institute are the university leads for the project with the support of the Georgia Tech’s Institute for People and Technology (IPaT) and the Public Design Workshop.  The City of Atlanta’s SMARTATL team has taken the implementation lead for the City.

The project focuses on understanding the various layers of enabling Atlanta’s Smart City design, from technology development to public policy and administrative practices to community and stakeholder engagement. Beyond charting and understanding how Smart City efforts progress, MAPPD is also an intervention itself, following and contributing to an extended case study of Smart City development.

Lessons from (and for) the Emerging Smart City Landscape

Globally, no shortage of projects and programs exist under the Smart City label, now numbering well into the hundreds. These efforts are geographically diverse, diverging “in some meaningful ways from the dominant imaginary that ‘smartness’ only resides in cities like New York and San Francisco.” As such, these efforts provide many lessons related to planning, development, and implementation that account for productive differences in the social, political, and cultural spheres where the efforts reside. From these projects, we have charted important trends and gaps that motivated the foundations of the MAPPD project. These foundations are:

  1. A phased technical deployment in order to increase opportunities for in-action learning, community engagement and responsiveness, and integration of ongoing technical improvements, while simultaneously reducing the implementation burden on participating organizations.
  2. A comprehensive administrative and technical strategy focused on interoperability that accounts for the necessary current and eventual need for systems to communicate in order to foster sustainable growth and resilient expansion over time.
  3. A fundamental commitment to engaging the community at large, and to integrating concerns originating in everything from planning to technical specifications in meaningful ways.
  4. A program that established policy around open data and open innovation in order to ensure both continued access and local and regional economic development.

Beyond these pillars, the goal of the MAPPD project is to document and analyze this approach to in order to develop a replicable programmatic approach to Smart Cities design and deployment.

Conceptual and Operational Foundations of MAPPD

In a comprehensive literature review of Smart City definitions, Albino, Berardi and Dangelico identify four shared themes that cut across definitions of a Smart City. The themes: 1) smart cities pair functional efficiency with “social and cultural development”; 2) smart cities foster new forms of economic development; 3) smart cities magnify human capital; and 4) smart cities are sustainable. As much as these authors identify a normative definition of a Smart City, they also illustrate the sprawling demands placed on Smart City projects and programs. Spanning domains from technical infrastructure to urban and regional economic development, projects often struggle to accommodate diverse agendas under a single umbrella. One strategy to attend to the vast interest in Smart Cities is to embark on projects that allow for progressive accumulation of technologies, engagements, and policies overtime rather than all at once.

An example of this approach is SmartSantander. The core feature of SmartSantander is the establishment of a city-wide testbed that allows multiple parties to develop applications, efforts, and projects within a single platform and program. The project began with a clear strategic framework that was accompanied by a technical architecture for development. In combination, the framework and architecture provide a platform for testing, validation, and prototyping. Notably, SmartSantander set out to include the community at large as well as firms, yet offered no formalized policies related to open data and innovation. Additionally, SmartSantander had no specific accommodations for how systems would interoperate, instead relying on developers to handle this on an ad-hoc basis.

As just one example, SmartSantander is illustrative of a pattern in Smart City projects. The pattern is to develop a Smart City on a project-by-project basis. In producing isolated projects, Smart City efforts passively argue that the city is a collection of discrete and distinct systems that assemble into a mega-system, leaving integration to happen in use or after-the-fact. In MAPPD, we are explicit about integration, and this begins by being intentional about how any individual project develops with what is a programmatic approach to Smart Cities design, development, and deployment.

The four key elements of MAPPD are:

1) Phased Deployment
north-ave-sensor-boxAn central technical component of MAPPD is the development of a sensor array called the Campus Array Node (CAN) system, an environmental and mobility-sensing platform under development across Georgia Tech. Rather than develop the system in full, release it, and integrate later, CAN has been released in phases to test early versions of the hardware, software, data infrastructure, and use and access policies. These early versions of CAN are more minimal systems, housing the most straight-forward sensors to mount and calibrate. Based on findings from the early deployments, subsequent modules will grow in complexity as well as technical sophistication. This increases opportunities for in-action learning, community engagement and responsiveness, and integration of ongoing technical improvements, while simultaneously reducing the implementation burden on participating organizations.

The initial MAPPD deployment targets the intersections along the North Avenue Smart Corridor. The first CAN node was installed in July 2016, and is being used to develop an application programming interface (API) to access the real-time data. The next four nodes are targeted for installation by the end of October 2016.

2) Open Data/Open Innovation
In MAPPD, we are explicit about policies and practices related to open data and open innovation. Georgia Tech’s Center for Urban Innovation (CUI) is currently engaged in analyzing best practices of open data and open innovation in order to inform local policy and practice in these areas. A clear benefit of Smart City design and planning is the ability to leverage the distributed capacity of citizens and organizations by building platforms that accommodate changing needs of urban residents now and in the future. To date, open data, open innovation, and community involvement have been desired outcomes of many projects, but are often integrated ad hoc or as afterthoughts. Building these areas into MAPPD ensure that the technical deployment is necessarily coupled with appropriate public policy.

In one notable example from 2012 in New Orleans, Code For America fellows created BlightStatus, an application that “makes it easy for anyone to look up any address in New Orleans and see a simple, clear history of the property, including reports of blight, inspections, hearings, and scheduled demolitions.” Given the continuing impact of Hurricane Katrina on the city, BlightStatus addressed a prominent concern of residents: the ongoing social, environmental, and economic impacts of blighted property on the recovery and growth of the city. By showing the current progress of a case, the application increased transparency and accountability by revealing the inner-workings of bureaucracy. BlightStatus’ development reveals the ways Smart Cities can be developed through partnerships that extend the traditional geographical polity of a city as well as illustrates the key role of nonprofits and private companies in shaping cities through investment, services, support, and software, a point made by CUI Director Jennifer Clark in her recent work. This point in particular is further supported by the evolution of BlightStatus beyond its original design. The project started as an application for code enforcement in New Orleans but was later spun out into more comprehensive software called CivicInsight, offering a framework to track municipal processes from building permits in Palo Alto to economic development activities in Dallas.

The evolution of BlightStatus/CivicInsight illustrate that Smart City projects are deeply connected to an extended “fast policy” network of practices characterized by the adoption of technologies, the standardization of administrative practices, and the sharing of central concerns. The trajectory of BlightStatus/CivicInsight highlights the need to ensure that data is made open and available (as New Orleans did) both in the present and long-term to support the functioning of iterative applications. Even more, the software’s development shows that the value of allowing firms to leverage open data beyond the immediate need of a city as it holds the potential benefits for other cities with similar (or similar enough) issues. As an exemplar, BlightStatus/CivicInsight provides an example the necessity of open data and open innovation.

3) Interoperability First
As noted above, Atlanta’s North Avenue corridor is a designated testbed for multiple IoT (Internet of Things) systems, according to SMARTATL’s strategic plan. One central research question is how might these systems work together rather than work in parallel? 

Consequently, MAPPD is structured around the principle of “interoperability first,” meaning that the project is structured to consider requirements beyond any individual hardware or software, project or testbed. MAPPD instead focuses on the integration of multiple heterogeneous systems. In so doing, MAPPD mitigates proprietary lock-in. Thus, interoperability is not just a technical term that refers to the ways systems communicate and coordinate within MAPPD. Instead, interoperability includes the ways many different types of systems work together to make the Smart City functions and creates opportunities for economic development.

4) Public & Participatory
MAPPD holds a deep commitment to making the city work for its residents. As a part of that commitment, a deployment approach has been designed to integrate community engagement workshops to refine hardware/software, align the deployment team with as many stakeholders as possible, and better understand the needs, concerns, hopes, goals, and ideas offered by the community.

The first workshop is planned for October 2016 and will gather the community and stakeholders around the second sensor node planned for concurrent deployment. The workshop will ask how smart cities sensors might be meaningful to the specific needs of the community through facilitated activities, all of which will be hosted at the Atlanta City Studio. Subsequent workshops are planned for the following months, and focus on the next phases of MAPPD. As a whole, the workshops provide a means to give voice to the community, identify shared needs, and find new avenues for what a Smart City could mean at the neighborhood-, community-, and city-scale.

Smart Cities Rely on Open Innovation

In a recent article in Nature, Martin Curley, the Chair of the European Union’s Open Innovation Strategy and Policy Group outlined twelve principles guiding “Open Innovation 2.0.” Curley’s concept goes beyond Chesbrough’s original definition of open innovation by pushing the boundaries of the underlying concept further from the discrete act of invention to dynamic and programmatic acts of innovation.

The expansion of “openness” as it relates to innovation to include community separate and apart from government parallels the patterns seen in “civic IoT” (internet of things) practice. Similar to the crowdsourcing and hack-a-thon processes mentioned above to understand public sector applications of new inventions, Open Innovation 2.0 looks to includes communities of users in the entire innovation process. In other words, communities are part of determining what is developed, not just whether to buy a product once it is commercialized.  

Recognizing that many organizations still pursue innovation through linear contracts and bilateral relationships, Curley argues for an ecosystem approach in “Open Innovation 2.0.” And here the language of innovation returns to the same framework on which much of the resilience discourse is based: a language that favors natural systems and adaption.  The proximity between the two concepts  — innovation and resilience — seems to shrink in an Open Innovation 2.0 model.

Purely technical solutions to urban challenges rarely measure up to the promises of their advocates. The diffusion of urban innovations — in policy and planning — requires adaption to local contexts and communities.  Each city has its own unique administrative and managerial quirks and its own embedded norms and values — its own peculiar way of “getting things done.” Truly Smart cities require diverse stakeholders within and across cities collaborating on innovative solutions to a wide array of interdisciplinary challenges. 

The starting point for that collaboration is increasingly seen as the creation of networks aimed at building dialogue, fostering relationships, and sharing knowledge about what works and equally what does not. The broader question is how cities as places and as institutions manage their own resilience in the face of a dynamic environment where the technical terrain is uncertain and the policy outcomes largely unknown. Perhaps conceptualizing both urban governance and regional economies as open innovation systems is a step toward both economic and institutional resilience.


Smart Cities Research Neighborhood At CUI

smart-city-iconThis week marked the official rollout of the Smart Cities research neighborhood here at the Center for Urban Innovation.

In addition to providing a more central home for a number of existing Smart City-related projects such as the Center’s partnership with the MetroLab Network, ongoing research on the rise of coworking and the makers movement, and exploration of evolving urban innovation networks, the research neighborhood’s opening brings with it three newly-announced projects.

These projects are MAPPD, Open Data & Open Innovation Policy, and Civic IoT.

MAPPD: Multi-Array Phased Participatory Deployment

north-ave-sensor-boxMAPPD is a technical and strategic Smart Cities project developing a repeatable approach to scaling up a Smart City sensor network. MAPPD is a city-university partnership between the Georgia Institute of Technology and the City of Atlanta, and a featured project of both the MetroLab Network and NIST’s Global City Teams Challenge. In addition to technical challenges, MAPPD focuses on three additional aspects of Smart City scale-up: (1) building partnerships, (2) fostering engagement, and (3) establishing open data and open innovation policy to allow for future technology-led economic development.

Watch this blog next week for an in-depth introduction to this important project.

Open Data & Open Innovation Policy
open-data-vennOpen Data and Open Innovation are two key concepts for the Smart City. To understand the ways these ideas are being executed, research is being conduct to collect, compare, and analyze Open Data and Open Innovation policies, practices, and protocols across the United States. This research focuses on producing an empirical typology of Open Data and Open Innovation to inform policy and governance related to the Smart City.

PARSE: Participatory Approaches to Researching Sensing Environments

iot-graphicThe Internet of Things (IoT) — the ubiquitous computing vision of connected and communicative computational objects — has largely been conceived of in relation to industry. As such, an underexplored domain that offers a unique set of challenges and opportunities is IoT for public life, or Civic IoT. This NSF-sponsored project aims to understand the design and use of IoT technologies for enabling, organizing, and monitoring collective action, particularly in the context of urban communities.

In addition to the new web presence of these exciting endeavors, the Smart Cities research neighborhood also features a growing list of participants in the various projects within the neighborhood. This improvement also coincides with the addition of selected categories on this very blog, including that of Smart Cities, permitting readers with a particular interest to read only the posts that most interest them. This new research neighborhood and the many changes that accompany it represent an important new chapter in the growth and evolution of the Center for Urban Innovation and its many policy, research, and partnership activities. Keep an eye on the website for even more developments in time, including a brand-new image gallery of recent CUI events, presentations, and more.

Smart Cities India: Regional Lessons for a Sustainable Future

By Todd M. Michney

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The idea that our future cities must leverage information technology to become “smart” is one that has captivated the globe in recent years.  Likely debuting at a 1990 conference on the emerging “technopolis” held in San Francisco, and subsequently appearing in the title of the published proceeding, the term “smart cities” now conjures visions of conjoined innovations in engineering, computing, and ecology to create more adaptive, sustainable, efficient, and vibrant urban environments offering solutions to humanity’s most pressing problems of inequality, overpopulation, pollution, and climate change.  Moving in this direction this past January, Atlanta joined Dallas and Chicago in partnering with AT&T to install sensors capable of monitoring traffic and air quality, as well as detecting power outages and even gunfire –- more data than city officials presently even know how to manage.

At the same time, a number of observers have expressed concerns about the larger implications of ‘smart city’ technology, and leveled sometimes trenchant critiques of the underlying motivations and implementation of such programs, particularly when applied to the developing world.  Adam Greenfield, in a 2013 essay entitled “Against the Smart City,” encapsulated some of the most widely circulated:  the smart city as a generic blueprint insensitive to local conditions; smart city technology as typically proprietary and therefore too inflexible; and the smart city as camouflage for hidden agendas that are often corporate- and profit-driven.  Bleaker assessments see in sensor technology the possibility of implementing “continuous geosurveillance” with the capacity to ultimately “destroy democracy.”  Taking a longer historical view of urban development but similarly critical of short-sighted smart technology rollouts, Anthony Townsend, in Smart Cities: Big Data, Civic Hackers, and the Quest for a New Utopia (2014), nonetheless envisions an alternative:  a bottom-up, gradual, and more organic emergence of smart cities, cobbled together by increasingly connected and tech-savvy urban dwellers themselves.

With 2008 as the first year in which over half the world’s population lived in cities, and the global urban population predicted to nearly double to 5 billion by 2050 –- with much of the anticipated growth in Asia and Africa -– the current century has been dubbed the “Century of the City.”  At the same time, the smart city concept “translates” uneasily to the global South, considering how basic infrastructure systems (water, sewers, electricity) there have often struggled to keep up with the rapid pace of urbanization.  This makes all the more striking the announcement by India’s prime minister Narendra Modi, soon after his ascension to power in 2014, of a “Smart Cities Mission” (SCM) committing that country to build 100 such places by 2022 –- coincidentally the same year that India is predicted to surpass China as the most populous country in the world.


smartphone ad

Set up as a grant competition with support from Bloomberg Philanthropies, the first 20 cities to be awarded funding out of a planned 98 were announced by India’s Ministry of Urban Development in January 2016.  While it was never entirely clear how the new smart cities emphasis overlaps with existing urban initiatives already in place, what became most immediately obvious was that the government planned to fund only a small portion of the SCM’s cost -– some 20 percent of a total estimated at $150 billion.  Instead, private sector capital was expected to supply the remainder, with an eye on India’s potential for economic growth, for example as the world’s fastest growing smartphone market.  The opportunities associated with implementing hi-tech infrastructure on a mass scale soon attracted the interest of multinational corporations, as well as of governments including the United States, China, South Korea, Japan, Singapore, France, Israel, and the United Arab Emirates, to name a few.  However, despite Modi’s promises to cut the red tape associated with such projects, a number have failed to get off the ground, and one recent assessment has declared SCM to be struggling, with private investment so far having favored “profit-intensive sectors like digital infrastructure and real estate” over essential, basic services.  Moreover, allegations of corruption overshadow at least one project, and the opposition has accused Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party of using the SCM as a form of political patronage.  Even before the initial 20 smart cities were announced, three municipal corporations in Maharashtra, India’s second most populous state, refused to sign on, and last month a lawsuit was heard challenging the SCM’s constitutionality.


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A careful examination of SCM’s mission statement makes clear that the initiative represents neither a dramatic break from India’s previous urban development strategies, nor is it nearly as ambitious as the initial impression might suggest.  First of all, rather than building nearly 100 entirely new smart cities, these are defined in the guidelines as areas which can be as small as 50 acres, leading some critics to describe the program as applying not to cities, but rather to “certain designated areas within them.”  The various specified approaches -– retrofitting, redevelopment, and “greenfield” development –- are long-established models, the challenges and drawbacks of which are by now well understood.  Thus redevelopment risks population displacement when applied to dense, often improvised urban residential districts (“slums”), or in some instances the loss of publicly-accessible green space, as in the case of one smart city project slated to replace a beloved park that catalyzed protests.  

“Greenfield” development of the agricultural hinterlands at the metropolitan periphery similarly threatens displacement, while additionally raising the issue of fair compensation.  In fact, India’s flagship, pre-SCM smart city project initiated in 2010, Dholera, is currently facing resistance from local farmers, and last year rural opposition forced Modi’s administration to take off the table a controversial loosening of the country’s land acquisition law.  In the wake of evidence that, despite SCM’s stated concern with affordable housing, planners were not adequately considering the needs of poor residents, one critic has asked whether their “democratic right to the city itself” was being “diluted.”  Language discovered in a promotional brochure, suggesting an intentional exclusion of the poor from the smart city’s benefits, has borne out even harsher assessments of SCM, for example as an undemocratic attempt to “monetize the commons,” or as the institution of “social apartheid.”


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Regardless of the SCM initiative’s shortcomings, smart city technology is coming to India, with some indications of more hopeful developments that may help promote a more equitable and accessible future even for city-dwellers of lesser means.  To be sure, there are already-existing smart city prototypes being built as public-private partnerships outside the scope of SCM, such as Wave (Infratech) City outside of Delhi, Gujarat International Finance Tec-City, or Hyderabad’s HITEC City (see accompanying pictures).  There are also entire, privately-owned cities like Gurgaon and Lavasa, which are even more impervious to public oversight than the projects planned under SCM.  At the same time, however, ordinary Indians are integrating current technologies into their daily lives on the household level, and citizen-innovators are creating bottom-up smart technology along the lines envisioned by Townsend, for example, community-driven mobile apps addressing garbage pickup, bribery, and sexual harassment.  Some observers have even looked to India’s poorest, yet “inherently smart” urbanites for ideas about how to move beyond the limitations of our current sprawl- and automobile-centered urban models.  Mumbai’s Dharavi district, for example, has been profiled as an innovation-generating “smart slum,” with one recent proposal seeking to empower residents by instituting a Community Land Trust as an alternative to demolition.  Visionary civil engineer Himanshu Parikh also tapped community knowledge in designing water and sewer systems for Ahmedabad’s slums, which by utilizing the natural topography, cost a fraction of conventional infrastructure and are spinning off new quality-of-life improvements.

These initiatives hint at the promise of a more creative, civic-minded, and community-led smart city concept.  But to reach its full potential, according to one commentator, the smart city should be rethought as an “ecology of practices,” emerging from and building on “the creative potential of its diverse inhabitants” rather than relying on a one-size-fits-all model delivered in the form of top-down, profit-driven imperatives.  Instead of standing as a passive beneficiary, then, India may offer an example of how citizens could adapt a more distributive smart city model to suit their own local needs -– a lesson that our own regionally-diverse cities in the U.S. should heed as we embark on making our own cities “smarter” and more livable for all in the decades to come.

Signaling in Policy Documents: The Case of Georgia QAP Incentives for Mixed-Income Projects

by Chris Thayer

Affordable housing is well-known as a powerful factor in economic development within cities, both directly and through enticing corporations’ headquarters to take advantage of the concentrated pool of employee talent, undisbursed to the less-expensive suburbs. One of the major tools for the provision of this affordable and workforce housing is the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit, as governed by each state’s Qualified Allocation Plan.

The Qualified Allocation Plan (QAP) is, necessarily, a policy document. Each state has its own version, in theory updated yearly, which covers the rules for the competitive allocation process for that state’s allowance of the federal Low-Income Housing Tax Credit, currently the largest supply-side affordable housing subsidy in the nation at approximately $6 billion per year in foregone tax revenue. The Credit is allocated to states on a population-based formula, whereupon each state organizes its own competitive application process, granting the Credits largely in accordance with its own preferences, rather than any federal mandate. Those preferences are laid out in the QAP, and typically change at least slightly year-to-year. Georgia is noted for having one of the lengthier and more detailed QAPs nationwide and a history of vigorous competition for the subsidy, as about half of projects that apply will be funded – granted the right to claim a specific number of Tax Credits. These Credits are sold to investors (called syndicators) in exchange for part of the funds needed to construct the proposed housing development, which will contain an agreed-upon number of long-term affordable-rent units. As the QAP’s contents are largely directed by the states, this allows for illuminating differences in policy approaches and results.

The Mixed-Income Project QAP Incentive
29 augAs part of a larger process of quantitative QAP change analysis for Georgia’s QAP between 2000 and 2016, it was observed that the provisions for incentivizing Mixed-Income Projects fluctuated substantially over time. The incentive appears in the first QAP on record, for 2000, as a sub-category of a larger scoring section, Tenancy Characteristics. It remained there through 2005, until in 2006 it became its own independent scoring category, perhaps reflecting the increased attention it merited in the policy development team’s priorities. It remained as such until 2009, when it dropped out of the QAP entirely and did not reappear until this year, 2016, as a sub-category of Stable Communities.

Recession & Reconsideration
This abrupt change in direction was in large part intentional. In a recent interview, Director Laurel Hart of the Housing Finance & Development Division at DCA (the Georgia Department of Community Affairs, Georgia’s allocating agency for Low-Income Housing Tax Credits), described the agency’s response to the 2008 financial crisis.

“We really changed our entire model after the crash… It really was a whole change in philosophy. We went towards less lending, we used options to increase cash flow, we changed our HOME requirements… We became much more risk-averse around that time. [The driving question became], ‘how do we make these properties sustainable?’”

This change in direction has persisted to this day thanks to the insights granted by existing properties’ experiences during the crash, which included elevated vacancy rates (due to renters’ inability to pay), unpaid water bills, and sometimes even foreclosure. DCA found that in many cases, nominally mixed-income properties featured market-rate units serving the same population as the 60% AMI (Area Median Income) affordable units, but without any form of subsidy to ease those renters’ burden–not mixing income groups at all. Director Hart emphasized the importance of integrating “what’s standard and what’s common in the industry” with an intimate understanding of Georgia economics in order to craft incentives that would let truly beneficial project rise, and prevent inefficiencies such as those seen with these earlier versions of the income-diverse properties. She also discussed the rebirth of the incentive in the 2016 QAP and the importance of its place within Stable Communities-winning (generally wealthier and more racially diverse) areas only, preventing the issue of too-low market rate rents from making the Mixed-Income Project points be essentially in vain.

Effects of QAP Incentive on Unit Mix
The appearance and disappearance of this incentive offers a unique opportunity to examine the relative effects of point incentives for Mixed-Income Projects on actual observed unit mix, both for applied and awarded projects, and to draw some potential conclusions for QAP development in the future. For the 2000-2016 period covered by available QAPs, full data was available for 2003-2016, and partial data for 2002, though there was nothing for the years prior. This data range, while less than ideal, is still robust enough to allow for correlational observations to be made about the units and incentives present. Upon analysis, this data pool reveals that the incentive has a very weak, possibly non-existent, effect on the competitive process itself.


The above figures demonstrate that there is not a meaningful difference in percent of market rate units, number of market rate units where present, or total units between the pool of all applicants and the applicants selected for an award. This means that any effect the Mixed-Income point incentive could be having rests not in the competitive process – one project edging out another for a part of the limited funding – but rather in the signal it might send to developers. But does it send such a signal?

Signaling Developers
29 aug 4To answer that question, the research took a slightly broader view, looking at each project’s status as either Mixed- or Single-Income – essentially, a Yes/No question of the project’s structure. Comparing the projects’ status with the incentive over time, it becomes clear that there is a strong signaling effect in the presence, or absence, of some mixed-income provision, evidently independent of the actual point value of its percentage of all possible points. This relationship is shown in the chart, and further analysis reveals that during incentivized periods, the average percentage of Mixed-Income projects applying for funds was 62, while in non-incentivized periods it was only 35, with a similar gap for awarded projects, clearly demonstrating the strong signaling effect of the QAP point incentive.

This research does bear several caveats. There were no 2000 or 2001 datasets available, and 2002 contained only a yes/no indicator for Mixed Income. 2007’s data was heavily cleaned due to a reliability issue, and is still likely to be somewhat skewed. Finally, this only reflects the experience of one state. It’s possible that the trends observed were caused by outside forces, such as the 2008 Recession, and more research is needed to support, or disprove, these conclusions.

However, the correlation between trends observed appears to be strong enough to merit some initial recommendations for QAP development. First, given that the Mixed-Income points themselves appear to serve as a signal, rather than a competitive factor, it could be useful to reduce the point amount given to only one, rather than the two it currently features. The point is symbolic, and a reduction here would make other categories – ones in which points awarded drive the competitive decision – have more impact by virtue of a smaller total number of points available. On a related note, the second recommendation this research suggests is a closer look at the total available points. This total has shifted wildly over time with no immediately apparent effort at consistency, making the relative value of a given section’s points vary in difficult-to-detect ways even if the section hasn’t been intentionally changed. Careful attention to this total and strategic point allocations thereof can somewhat regulate the swift-changing nature of the QAP, simplifying future fine-tuning efforts by having a relatively consistent base year-over-year.

Looking Forward
Reflecting on the future of mixed-income housing as a priority for DCA, Director Hart observed that its greatest potential successes are in cities, especially Atlanta, where the can be a meaningful differential between assisted and market rents. She also indicated that the recent resurgence is in part due to industry changes from the recent Supreme Court decision on Fair Housing, and said “Our properties shouldn’t just be warehousing people of a certain income, a certain color, into a certain area… I think that the Mixed Income [section] is coming back in part with that idea of ‘how do we make sure we’re not segregating the poor, segregating the people by color, into certain areas.’” This insight points to the power of mixed-income properties to encourage positive social developments. Indeed, the introduction of Mixed-Income Project incentives to competitive application processes could form a significant portion of initial Assessments of Fair Housing (AFH) that participating jurisdictions are now required to submit to HUD. As a feature of the new HUD Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, jurisdictions must submit their AFH plans to HUD for review, but HUD has notoriously scanty requirements or even suggestions for such plans. Developing and implementing a Mixed-Income incentive effort could prove a fruitful strategy for otherwise unsure jurisdictions, not only easing their regulatory burden but also increasing the presence of Mixed-Income communities, strengthening the affordable housing environment and promoting greater inclusivity nationwide.

Immigration in Georgia: The GIRN And “Welcoming Cities” Forum

By Anna Joo Kim, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
School of City & Regional Planning
Georgia Institute of Technology

Atlanta envisions itself a new Global City (Sassen, 2000), with the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport—the world’s busiest—a hub of economic development, spurred by the addition of about 250,000 new immigrants from India, South Korea, Mexico, Ethiopia, and other countries between 2000 and 2010. Data from the 1990, 2000, and 2010 census surveys indicate that the metropolitan area has become more African American, more Latino/Hispanic, and more Asian each year. Population growth in Georgia over the last 30 years has been largely driven by minority groups settlement patterns; and we saw the addition of Georgia’s first ever “majority-minority” county, with Gwinnett County joining 78 other counties in the United States that reflect a nation-wide “racial shift” – expanding the impact of immigrant residential preferences beyond traditional gateway cities like New York, Boston, Chicago, or Los Angeles.

Distribution of Racial and Ethnic Groups in the Atlanta Metro Region. Source: ARC Snapshot of the Region (March 2013).

How do cities that have not been traditional immigrant destinations adjust and adapt to new immigrants, new cultures, and new languages? Welcoming America, a national initiative helping cities develop policies and programs for welcoming new immigrants to their new homes, explains how to “Build a Nation of Neighbors” by incorporating diverse peoples in a variety of ways. Welcoming America helps cities make the most of their diversity and create a sense of belonging.

“It’s about the seed and the soil. If you are a new person coming into a community, a lot of the attention has been paid on the newcomer, watering the seed, helping the newcomer adapt, but we should also pay attention to the soil. Our goal is to create a broader community that is fertile ground for the new person to be successful. So we help communities answer questions about improving the soil, making the community stronger. Fertile soil makes communities more successful for everyone – not just newcomers” –- Rachel Peric, Deputy Director, Welcoming America

Georgia is at a national nexus of new immigration (Hernandez-Leon & Zuniga, 2002), and Atlanta has emerged as one of the few cities in the South seeking to welcome immigrants and embrace this demographic change (Welcoming America Immigrant Integration Initiative, 2013).

“We are trying to build this movement in the South, and lead this movement in the South, and make it natural and “doable.” In 2014 Mayor Reed commissioned a group of stakeholders, a body of people of diverse backgrounds, diverse ethnicities – to answer the question: What would make Atlanta a more welcoming city: what can we do at a policy level, at the community level, on a social level, that would make Atlanta a more welcoming city for immigrants? — Maria Azuri, Director of Programs, Welcoming Atlanta and Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs

But where Georgia has added over 50,000 immigrants in recent years (2010-2014), the foreign-born population of the City of Atlanta itself increased only by about 1000 persons. The vast majority of immigrant groups (across origins: European, Latin American, Asian, and African) are immigrating directly to the suburbs and fringes (older, inner ring suburbs) of the Atlanta MSA, with greatest growth occurring in Gwinnett County, parts of North DeKalb County, and a rapidly growing immigrant concentration to Clayton County (particularly the Forrest Park area).

It is suburban places that experience the most immigrant-driven growth and population change (Brookings, 2014), and reflect the ongoing national preference for suburban areas in general. Singer’s work at the Brookings Institute (2015) has revealed the Atlanta MSA’s national relative classification as a “major-emerging” immigrant gateway. The fastest contemporary growth rates belong to the major-emerging gateways (Atlanta, Austin, Charlotte, Las Vegas, Orlando, and Phoenix); together they comprise 8 percent of the total foreign-born population in 2014. But Atlanta’s immigrant communities are still markedly more oriented to the urban/urbanizing metropolitan statistical area compared to state residents overall; where the Atlanta MSA composes about half of Georgia’s total population, more than 75% of the state’s total foreign born population are drawn to suburbs within the MSA (which housed 689,361 of the 909,002 foreign-born persons within Georgia in 2010).

With the context of recent, rapid, and diverse immigrant population growth in the Atlanta region, a group of researchers at Georgia Institute of Technology, Georgia State University, and Kennesaw State University have launched a collaborative research network across the three universities. This group will study this new population and economic growth and the impact of immigration to Georgia and other emergent immigrant destinations. Dr. Cathy Yang Liu (Georgia State University) recently convened the first meeting of the three universities in the public forum “Welcoming Cities – A Dialogue Between Research & Policy” with presentations by partners Welcoming Atlanta (Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs) and Welcoming America. Topics at this event included the City of Norcross, Georgia’s recent efforts at immigrant inclusion, the recently-performedLatino Community Needs Assessment of Georgia, local-government-level initiatives and migration patterns, and the multiple scales encountered in the immigrant experience. For more on the scholarship presented at this event or the Georgia Immigration Research Network (GIRN)’s other recent activities, see, or contact the author at

The Predesigned Innovation District: Cornell Tech

By Sarah Carnes

In December 2010, then-New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg –- who framed his candidacy around innovation, introducing “bold new solutions to tough problems” –- announced the creation of Applied Sciences NYC, an unprecedented attempt “to capitalize on the considerable growth presently occurring within the science, technology, and research fields” through the development and expansion of applied sciences campuses around the city, namely to elevate New York’s attractiveness as an innovation hub in the knowledge economy.

The Cornell Tech Roosevelt Island Campus Project –- a partnership between Cornell University and Technion-Israel Institute of Technology –- has emerged as one of the most promising products of the Applied Sciences NYC Initiative and very much so as a “hopeful pillar of Silicon Alley.” Architectural renderings and design principles are sure to excite those tracking the innovation district model as an approach to economic development. The campus master plan aligns with the innovation district platform, purposefully integrating characteristics overwhelmingly identified in the literature. The Cornell Tech Campus will inevitably advance the larger innovation ecosystem conversation, helping to answer whether innovation can in fact be designed. The campus also begs the question if urban campuses inherently exhibit innovation district tendencies.

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Cornell Tech Master Plan



Temporarily situated in the bustling Chelsea neighborhood, Cornell Tech’s permanent home –- a redefined urban campus that will be “intimately integrated – in both mission and design – with the city” –- will eventually occupy 12 city-owned acres on Roosevelt Island and boast an equally impressive two-million square fopt real-estate portfolio, a healthy amalgamation of academic, residential, commercial, and public spaces upon completion in 2043. The first phase, slated to open next year, will feature 2.5 acres of public plazas and greenways and 800,000 square feet of building space.

Cornell Tech embodies several innovation district characteristics and even appears to favor one of the innovation district typologies identified by Katz and Wagner: the re-imagined urban area model, which places innovation districts along historic waterfronts in evolving industrial or warehouse corridors. This typology typically encompasses a comprehensive re-development project, as is the case with Cornell Tech, which is replacing the Coler-Goldwater Specialty Hospital and Nursing Facility. The universities will also act as anchor institutions.

Government-Sponsored Innovation District

Moreover, the proactive measures taken by the City of New York have enabled the realization of the Cornell Tech Roosevelt Island Campus. The City awarded the Cornell/Technion consortium access to the city-owned property on Roosevelt Island as well as $100 million in city-backed capital to be used to develop the site. The public investment will spur the creation of new firms and thousands of new jobs in addition to billions of dollars in economic impact. The New York City Economic Development Corporation estimates the Cornell Tech campus will “double the number of graduate engineering faculty and students in the city, and increase the number of engineering Ph.D. students by 70%.

The City of New York and Cornell Tech leadership clearly recognize the importance of cross-sector relationships. Harvard Professor Michael Porter suggests that there is inherent overlap between the public and private sectors’ success and the need for both to support productivity. The lines of appropriate investment are blurred due to a linked wealth-creation system between these two sectors. Applied in the innovation district context, this supposed linked system manifests as the “Triple-Helix thesis,” which connects university, industry, and government partners.

Innovation District Characteristics

At this stage in the planning process, three buildings support Cornell Tech’s status as an innovation district. Including:

1. The Bridge at Cornell-Tech

Touted as the “first-ever building in New York City designed and built to leverage resources from a cutting-edge research university with those from industry,” The Bridge will bring together well-established firms with burgeoning startups. Intentional design principles encourage serendipitous collaboration and collisions, which are common themes observed in innovation districts; students will have the opportunity to engage with business leaders and faculty-researchers. The Bridge will also house a business incubator, which Katz and Wagner also identify as an important economic asset within the innovation district.

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Artist’s rendering of the Bridge at Cornell-Tech

2. The Verizon Executive Ed Center

Similarly, the Ed Center “will provide another venue for synergy between the Cornell Tech academic community and industry.” The Ed Center will help facilitate purposeful networking opportunities across sectors.

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Artist’s rendering of the Verizon Executive Ed Center


3. The Bloomberg Center

Made possible through a $100 million endowment, The Bloomberg Center will primarily function as an interdisciplinary academic building but will also act “as a venue for chance collisions between academia and the world at large.

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Artist’s rendering of the Bloomberg Center

The long-term success of Cornell Tech will similarly be determined by how the market responds, including additional third-places to create a more interactive environment to attract more visitors in the surrounding community.


Cornell Tech is positioned to function as a successful urban campus and an innovation district because of the purposeful strategies, from physical design to intended industry mix, that have been prescribed in its plans. Immediate innovation district competitiveness is questionable, however. Given the 2043 completion date, we must closely monitor cross-sector interaction and collaboration over the next couple of years. Cornell Tech leadership must then integrate new and reformed strategies to better perfect the innovation district model as conditions on the ground change. Although in its infancy, the forthcoming Cornell Tech will likely demonstrate that innovation districts can in fact be inorganically conceived.