InTouch - 10/11/2007 (Plain Text Version)
In this issue:
Lessons from New York City
Leslie Lloyd, Jennifer Fischer, Mike Ogliore & Patrick Bannon
Themes of livability and mobility dominated the 53rd Annual Conference and International Congress of the International Downtown Association, held in New York last month.
The biggest takeaways had to do with what’s working in cities around the world – and perhaps none better exemplifies what can be right about cities than New York itself, which proved to be an excellent venue for the conference.
New York feels very different from the grime and crime city of the 1980s portrayed on TV in “Hill Street Blues.” To that end, the conference highlighted a long string of lessons on how the city’s leaders managed the dramatic turnaround. From major moves like tax policy to attract corporate presence, to progressive zoning policies, to favorable real estate economics, to little moves like putting recovering addicts to work. It has all added up for New York in an impressive and inspiring outcome of leadership that started well before 9-11 and carried on afterward.
First off, the planned growth through 2030 for Manhattan alone is staggering:
A recent long-range planning exercise led by the City’s Department of Economic Development concluded that to be successful going forward, four areas deserved continued focus: quality of life, fiscal discipline, a thoughtful, objective strategic plan, and leadership.
Quality of Life: Like many other cities we learned of, New York proves that focusing on quality of life will encourage investment, attract residents, attract companies, and attract visitors. Getting transit working – and making the system safe and inviting to use – played a huge role in reinforcing the livability of New York. Developing a hierarchy of streets, with some for express travel north/south, facilitates in-city vehicle travel. A multi-pronged approach to dealing with the homeless has had obvious results. Investing in public spaces adds to the list of things for residents to do and see. A get-tough approach to crime and the impact of 9-11 seem to have elevated the city’s civility. Bottom line: the city works – somehow.
‘Livability’ is a phrase we heard often (and is part of our vision for downtown Bellevue), and was best summed up by a resident we visited with. You may remember former BDA staffer Jessica Shambora, who currently lives and works in Manhattan. Jessica shared that “Everything I need to support living here can be found within two blocks of my apartment.” We could apply that measure in Bellevue – and even start a list of additional metrics we might track to chart Downtown Bellevue's livability:
We welcome additional thoughts about measures we can track as we evolve.
Fiscal Discipline: In a nutshell, prepare for the bad times while times are good, and then capitalize on the good times when you have them. This concept particularly applies to Bellevue, as our City contemplates how to meet its capital needs while times are booming.
Strategic Plan: The plan for New York focuses on two areas, Industries and Places. Their economic development efforts have focused on the following industries: tourism; film and TV production; life sciences/biotech; and corporate headquarters. To promote tourism, they created an Office of Events, which focused on attracting major events like the Republican National Convention. Hosting the convention yielded innumerable benefits, not the least of which was to demonstrate to a large number of potential future visitors, as well as travel writers, that New York was indeed a fine tourist destination. And like it has for Bellevue, the symbolic import of attracting corporate headquarters has proven to be significant in attracting subsequent investment.
Leadership: Three actions were identified:
Bellevue's downtown is unlike most of its urban counterparts across the country – a suburb intentionally urbanizing. We are not compensating for or overcoming bad policy decisions, major crime and safety issues or a lackluster retail core. We are trying to be an even more livable, desirable and memorable place. But we cannot be complacent in this task, because although things are just fine the way they are, they can quickly turn for the worse. And we have the potential to become a much more enlivened, exciting and desirable place. We welcome your thoughts on how to fulfill our potential as a great place.