On July 29th, ULI and the Citistates Group convened a week-long summit at the Rockefeller Foundation’s Bellagio Center to look at rapid urbanization in global cities, with a particular focus on infrastructure planning and investment. Discussions revolved around the challenges of creating prosperous, opportunity-rich, sustainable cities through the lens of four critical building blocks: transportation, water, energy, and public space. An implementation framework emerged, focused on leadership, technology, and financing structures and strategies.
The group came up with some “big ideas,” but no “big answers.” But the diversity of the group–geographic, professional, and intellectual–provided a rich backdrop for sharing ideas with people who don’t often get the opportunity to talk to one another. Planners from Addis Ababa and Mexico City told their stories to real estate investment fund managers from New York City. Decision-makers from Singapore discussed housing policy with senators from Pakistan. The group found consensus around the pressing need to think creatively about infrastructure and generally how these building blocks should work to support city-building. The space in between–implementation–is where the group’s big ideas came into play and where the really fruitful conversations took place, and that took into account the myriad external factors (including corruption, governance, and culture) that have an impact on how cities work.
The discussions centered on the various components of cities that make them livable and prosperous–open space, energy, water, and transportation—and how each of these individual parts of cities’ underpinnings are both challenged and enabled by issues related to finance, technology, and governance. While opinions on addressing these issues were as diverse as the group itself, everyone agreed that in the 21stcentury, the cities that are globally competitive will be those that are built for people, not cars, whether they are still-developing emerging markets or mature markets being redeveloped.
Download the full program and summit presentations