Curtin Call: May 2024

May 30, 2024
Teal graphic with Julie Curtin's headshot for Curtin Call blog on economic development trends

One of the most interesting evolutions of economic development over the last decade has been its connection to “place making” which involves promoting, investing in and making our cities and public spaces more beautiful, more accessible, more creative and more sustainable as a means of elevating the entire ecosystem of a community.

I have always been drawn to writers, thinkers, visionaries, planners and thought leaders who have played a role in shaping the future of our cities.  As we head into the summer, the articles that hit my radar this month were those featuring urban, accessible, green space and creative ideas from cities around the country.

These stories inspired me to be intentional about noticing the use and transformation of space around me, and I hope they do the same for you!  So as we wrap up the month of May, here are a handful of place-based articles that are worthy of one more time in the spotlight….or as we like to say, worthy of a Curtin Call.

1. On Beautiful Urban Spaces

Art might not be the first sensory experience you think of when reflecting on the New York City subway system, but Bloomberg reported last month how the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Art & Design program is seeking to change that.

Since January 2023, when Manhattan’s Grand Central Terminal opened, commuters can now not only hitch a ride but enjoy a vast gallery featuring more than 400 works of contemporary art.

The artworks, often mosaics and glass pieces, are selected through a rigorous process involving community input and historical research, ensuring they resonate with the local context. This ongoing effort underscores the transformative power of art in public infrastructure, offering small moments of joy to millions of daily riders—and inspiration to other cities to do the same!

2. On Inclusive Public Spaces

Morgan’s Wonderland in San Antonio, Texas, is setting new standards for accessibility and inclusion in the attractions industry, according to this piece in USA Today. Known as the world’s first “ultra-accessible, fully inclusive” theme park, it features rides and facilities designed to accommodate guests with a wide range of disabilities.

The theme park serves as a model of inclusivity, where both disabled and non-disabled guests can play together comfortably.

Beyond its rides and attractions, Morgan’s Wonderland offers free admission to guests with disabilities, removing economic barriers and fostering an inclusive environment. The park’s impact extends beyond its gates, as it sets a standard and encourages other theme parks and ride manufacturers to consider accessibility in their designs.

3. On Creating Green Spaces

The BBC reported on New York City growing as a hub for climate tech startups—welcomed news for a city worried about air pollution and rising tides. Through a unique blend of resources and market opportunities that foster rapid business growth, the city has become a hotspot for solving sustainability challenges.

The New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) plays a crucial role in this ecosystem, offering support through investments, incubator programs and long-term partnerships.

New York City not only offers fertile ground for startups to thrive but also sets a global example for integrating innovative climate solutions into urban infrastructure.

4. On Finding Nature in Urban Spaces

Have we given up looking for a natural world that never really left? According to a recent Washington Post article, urban wildlife is thriving in unexpected places, from mountain lions near downtown San Francisco to penguins nesting under porches in New Zealand’s capital. The City Nature Challenge recently saw 83,000 participants in nearly 700 cities document over 2.4 million wildlife observations using the iNaturalist app.

Research shows that nature in urban environments significantly enhances mental and physical health. Despite the challenges of habitat loss, efforts to document and restore urban biodiversity are crucial.

Cities can serve as reservoirs for diverse species and offer regular encounters with wildlife, fostering a deeper connection with the natural world and promoting sustainable urban living.

Julie Curtin headshot
Written by

Julie Curtin

President, Economic Development Practice