What does it take to create a vibrant city with lots of opportunity? Well, in an earlier times, people might have cited a big anchor business or port facility or prime tourist attraction. But after years of thinking and research about urban renewal, the answers have gotten more nuanced and complex.
A city has got to attract talented people—like those creatives we always hear about—but not in a way that pushes out the working class that actually makes things go. Developing a cutting edge industry can be a boon, but cities also need to nurture ladders of opportunity that lead upward from low-wage service jobs. You want engaged citizens, yes, but too much NIMBYism can make it hard to undertake big projects.
It’s not easy distilling the secret sauce of urban vitality, but the Knight Foundation is making an effort with its Knight Cities Challenge, which just announced 32 winners to divvy up $5 million in funding from the foundation.