June 25, 2021  |  permalink

CoMotion Miami: Public Transit in Real Time

At this year’s CoMotion Miami, I was delighted to moderate a session on where public transit goes from here. Starring LADOT’s Seleta Reynolds, WSP’s Alice Bravo, the New York MTA’s Quemuel Arroyo,Transloc’s Catie King, and SberTroika’s Valeria Matyukhina, we had a spirited discussion started from the following prompt:

As we emerge from a year characterized by a collapse in demand for transit,  hopes are rising that an efficient mix of mobility options in cities will ring in a new era of transportation. Weaving together public and private offerings can elevate accessibility and efficiency for all, but must be done in a way that meshes the robustness of public transit with innovative, real-time solutions.

Click here or on the image above to watch.

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June 22, 2021  |  permalink

CoMotion Podcast Spring Season 2021

Fast Forward, the podcast presented by CoMotion, has just wrapped its spring season with special guest U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg at last week’s CoMotion Miami conference. Other guests have included the VC and lobbyist Bradley Tusk, REEF Technology co-founder Philippe Saint-Just, ChargerHelp CEO Kameale Terry, and many more. Click here for the full season on Soundcloud.

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June 10, 2021  |  permalink

Fast Company: Why the Great Lakes need to be the center of our climate strategy

(Originally published at Fast Company on June 10, 2021.)

Last month, President Biden issued an executive order directing government agencies to assess the risks climate change poses to federal assets, budgets, and investments. Presumably, this order also applies to the American Jobs Act, Biden’s $2.25 trillion plan to electrify transportation, build millions of energy-efficient homes, and upgrade to a more renewable and resilient power grid. Together with the proposed $1 trillion Green New Deal—which is aimed at creating new, green jobs and investments in frontline communities bearing the brunt of environmental injustice—they offer a blueprint for both cutting U.S. carbon emissions in half by 2030 and doing so equitably.

But neither plan explicitly grapples with the politically thorny question of where to invest. Should the money follow the people, who have flocked for decades to the Sun Belt, where homes are cheap and jobs are plentiful but climate risks mount by the day? Or, following the logic of Biden’s own order, should funds be directed to more resilient regions where people might move someday? If it’s indeed the latter, let’s make the Great Lakes great again. Not only is the region projected to avoid the most egregious climate impacts, but it also possesses an abundance of affordable housing, room to grow, and a commitment to equity and sustainability. Funneling growth there would not only address the legacies of disinvestment but create new opportunities for those who will need to move by providing dedicated resources for climate migrants relocating from other parts of the country.

The decisions can no longer be put off until the future. New data from the EPA reveals temperatures are rising, precipitation patterns are changing, and abnormal weather is the new normal. The problem is that development is still booming in some of the areas of the country most at risk.

Extreme heat is the number-one weather-related killer, but many of the country’s fastest-growing cities—Miami, Phoenix, and Austin among them—are already hot, and getting hotter. But Phoenix still grew by an average of 200 people per day for the last decade, despite breaking its own heat-related records in repeated succession in 2020, including number of days over 110 degrees. To save lives during extreme weather, we need air-conditioning, and lots of it. But abnormal weather, which is becoming the new normal, puts tremendous strain on electrical systems, as seen during Texas’s deadly winter storm. Summer blackouts may become even more common, and deadlier, as temperatures soar. The energy required to save lives during these events directly threatens emissions-reduction targets, and makes our planet even hotter.

Things aren’t much better along the coasts. Around the country, more than 300,000 homes (worth $117.5 billion) will be at risk of chronic inundation from rising sea levels by 2045. But despite the increasing availability of flood-risk data, homes are still being built two to three times faster in the riskiest areas of Florida, North Carolina, and New Jersey. The most vulnerable homes in California are appreciating the fastest.

The bipartisan Flood Resiliency and Taxpayer Savings Act would require federally funded projects to incorporate climate projections into their design, so vulnerable municipalities may struggle to win increasingly competitive national competitions for resilience dollars or borrow money as their credit ratings fall. Coupled with rising flood insurance premiums and stringent building code updates, these market shifts could result in budget cuts and housing price drops that could create a positive feedback loop of decline. As far back as 2016, Freddie Mac’s chief economist warned that losses from flooding coupled with panic selling are “likely to be greater in total than those experienced in the housing crisis and the Great Recession.”
The federal government’s strategy for permanently mitigating flood losses happens primarily through post-disaster buyout programs, which suffer from inconsistency, inequity, inefficiency, and a failure to address more systemic needs. That’s why, in 2020, the Government Accountability Office recommended Congress take action to develop an interagency climate migration pilot program “to enhance the nation’s resilience and reduce federal fiscal exposure.”

But climate migration—when people move due to experienced or expected climate impacts—is already taking place. An April survey by Redfin found nearly half of Americans planning to move this year factored natural disasters in their decision, bolstering a previous study indicating buyers will incorporate climate considerations when moving in the decade ahead. So where will people go?

This is where the Great Lakes and Green New Deal come in.

Some are already calling the Great Lakes the country’s climate refuge, thanks to mild weather and an abundance of natural resources, including an estimated 20% of the world’s surface freshwater resources. Buffalo has already proclaimed itself a “climate refuge city,” resettling hundreds of Puerto Rican families after 2017’s Hurricane Maria. These so-called receiving cities are the places where people will relocate to escape intolerable environmental hazards in their own communities.

Once the nation’s economic engines and manufacturing hubs, Great Lakes “legacy cities” such as Detroit, Cleveland, and Buffalo have suffered from decades of redlining, segregation, and political negligence. White flight and disinvestment led directly to years of contaminated water in Flint and similar crises. But these cities never abandoned their hopes for a renaissance, still possessing anchor institutions such as universities and hospitals, not to mention the capacity to house populations twice as large as today’s residents.

Forced to grapple with a shrinking tax base, they’ve also became leaders in sustainability. For example, Flint, Michigan; Worcester, Massachusetts; and Rochester, New York, are remediating contaminated land to create new amenities. In Ohio, Akron, Cincinnati, and Cleveland have focused their efforts on racial equity and resilience. Dayton, Toledo, and Detroit welcome refugees and immigrants to cope with population loss.

No place is immune to climate change, but these cities offer a solid foundation for investing in hard infrastructure and providing frontline communities with green jobs, affordable housing, and freedom from egregious climate risks.

What about people living along the coasts and in flood plains? Don’t they deserve green jobs, too? How do we ensure communities on the literal front lines—the ones who can’t move—aren’t left behind? And how can we ensure Great Lakes communities aren’t gentrified by wealthy climate migrants or barricaded by NIMBY homeowners already present?

The trick is to link the two: earmarking $500 billion for climate mitigation to frontline communities, as the Green New Deal for Cities would do, but also to make robust infrastructural investments in areas like the Great Lakes that are destined to be a refuge for people seeking relief from climate change. A robust federal climate migration pilot program must identify places where relocates will move to, including by leveraging other federal resources to cities and states that build resilient housing and economic opportunities in safe locations.

One tool legacy cities have wielded to preserve future affordability is land banks and land trusts, using public money to acquire and insulate properties against market appreciation. The American Jobs Act will reportedly include $318 billion to preserve or produce 2 million units of housing, including $45 billion for the National Housing Trust Fund established under President Obama to subsidize shelter for the poorest Americans.

Once again, it’s not only a question of how much, but where and for whom. The Biden administration should ensure those funds are steered toward land banks and land trusts in more resilient areas, using the EPA’s indicators as guides, and offer green jobs recipients in frontline communities priority access to affordable housing under these plans.

The federal government has the power to persuade with its dollars, by directing targeted investments to cities and regions where people could or even should move, with a once-in-a-generation opportunity to steer Americans to safety on higher ground. Funneling targeted infrastructure spending toward regions with fewer climate risks and providing dedicated resources to help climate-affected communities relocate can reap the benefits of mitigation and adaptation simultaneously. It can also ensure the longevity of these programs, providing a new legacy for the rest of the world to live up to.

Kelly Leilani Main is the executive director of Buy-In Community Planning. Greg Lindsay is director of applied research at NewCities, where he leads the Higher Ground initiative.

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May 30, 2021  |  permalink

Mutual Aid in the Time of COVID-19 and the Future of Hyper-Local Community Resilience

I am thrilled to announce my contribution to the new book COVID-19: Systemic Risk and Resilience has just been published. Our chapter, written with the University of Toronto Munk School’s Thea Koper, explore the ramifications of the literally uncountable number of mutual aid groups that appeared during the pandemic and where they go from here. Here’s the abstract:

“The COVID-19 pandemic has inspired the emergence of mutual aid groups across the United States. Popularized by the philosopher Peter Kropotkin, “mutual aid” refers to the voluntary exchange of resources and services for mutual benefit. In this century, mutual aid is more commonly identified with community-led recovery efforts in the wake of natural disasters. Post-pandemic mutual aid groups are notable due to their locally-isolated nature, use of digital tools and networks as a first resort, and the possibility of building more durable organization for future crises. This chapter provides a snapshot of post-pandemic mutual aid efforts, highlights their unique features, raises questions about their use of technology, and suggests future trajectories of these groups in the face of diminished government capacity and mounting natural and economic disasters.”

Needless to say, if you would like a (free) copy of our chapter, email me.

Related, I am also excited to further explore the subject in Rafi Segal’s and Marisa Morán Jahn’s forthcoming book What is Ours: Art and Architecture Towards Mutualism, funded in part by the Graham Foundation. From the latter’s description:

In this anthology edited by architect Rafi Segal and artist Marisa Morán Jahn, What is Ours: Art and Architecture Towards Mutualism features diverse perspectives from leading thinkers, designers, entrepreneurs, and activists who each evoke a powerful vision of society led by mutualism. As a pushback against notions of private gain, this mutualism—or collectivism—shifts focus towards new ways of shaping communal self-determination, wealth, and wellbeing. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, collectives were gaining momentum as a counterforce to the crisis of late capitalism, the exploitative gig economy, and stark economic precarity. With the onset of the global pandemic and social unrest, What is Ours examines the power of design in fortifying this new, emergent space carved between the private and public—a space constructed on trust, interdependence, and economic sovereignty. Offering timely and valuable critical, historical, and cultural analyses, What is Ours translates these ideas into practical guidelines for action and design across disciplines and industries, urging its readers to recognize the resources we can offer each other.

 

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May 30, 2021  |  permalink

El Pais: Tech moguls bet on the city of the future: private and with its own rules

El Pais’ Los Angeles bureau chief Luis Pablo Beauregard was kind enough to quote me in Spain’s newspaper of record in his story on the tech moguls and bros toying with creating cities from scratch (translated from the Spanish):

Analysts have warned that tech moguls may now take an interest in urban planning. “Frankly, many of these projects have no interest in the urban experience. The main interest is government, particularly the more libertarian variants of the style of governance that seek to get rid of the greatest amount of regulation, ”says Greg Lindsay, director of research for NewCities, an organization focused on urbanism, planning and sustainability.

...

These projects have given new life to the debate about what cities are for, a discussion that has added new arguments after the coronavirus crisis and where the virtues - and disadvantages - of remote work have been exposed. “Should cities and their authorities provide for those who arrive or serve the population they already have?” Reflects Lindsay, who believes that authorities should be cautious with this type of utopian development. “Many of these projects want to subvert local governments. The goal is to capture the benefits of being outside a local model, or even federal, while forcing the neighbors to take the worst part, in the form of pollution, crime or displacement of the premises,” adds the expert.

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May 28, 2021  |  permalink

threesixtyCITY with Valla Vakili

Good data is key to spurring equitable growth and promoting socio-economic vibrancy in cities. Still, cities face a myriad of challenges when it comes to collecting, monitoring, and showcasing specific needs through data that can lead to impactful place-based investment. We sit down with Citi Ventures Studio head Valla Vakili to discuss the future of data and how cities can leverage it to maximize public good and promote health and equity post-COVID.

Click on the image above to watch the video on Facebook, or click here for the podcast on Apple Podcasts.

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May 25, 2021  |  permalink

Fast Company and the Future of Decarbonization

(In May, Fast Company invited me to host a panel on how companies can work together to aggressively decarbonize their operations and portfolios. Click here or on the image above to watch; the recap is below.)

World leaders breathed a sigh of relief in February when the United States officially rejoined the Paris Agreement, making good on President Biden’s Inauguration Day commitment to the 2015 global climate accord aimed at limiting global warming to less than 2°C. Relief transformed into astonishment only two months later, when he made an Earth Day pledge to halve America’s greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, as Canada and other nations scrambled to follow suit.

But do these ambitious plans go far—and fast—enough? The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has warned the world needs to decarbonize completely by 2030 to achieve the Paris targets, 20 years ahead of schedule. Although the Biden administration plans to back his intentions with the $2.25 trillion American Jobs Act—which includes $174 billion for a national electric vehicle charging network, rebates for purchasing American-made EVs, and electrifying the federal vehicle fleet, along with $100 billion for upgrading the power grid—not even the U.S. government can go it alone. Rewiring the global economy in a decade or less demands the same go-for-broke levels of corporate innovation and collaboration witnessed during the pandemic, when pharmaceutical rivals raced to bring novel vaccines to market at unprecedented speeds. It will also require businesses, their shareholders, investors, and regulators to internalize the risks—and realize the trillion-dollar opportunities—of halting climate change.

“Companies are doing this for themselves—not just because shareholders want them to, or because it’s the right thing to do—but because it’s good business,” says Anne T. Madden, senior vice president and general counsel of Honeywell. “The demand is there, the technologies are here, and companies like ours can not only deploy innovations internally, we can also supply them to our customers even faster.” She made this point during an online discussion of what it would take to stop global warming by 2035—15 years ahead of schedule—presented by Fast Company and sponsored by Honeywell.

So, where do we start? In 2017, Project Drawdown published its first comprehensive plan to halt emissions and bolster carbon sinks on land and at sea. At the top of its hit list wasn’t coal-fired power plants or frequent flyers, but refrigerants—the incredibly potent gases lurking inside every refrigerator and air conditioner that tend to escape at the end of their useful life. A failure to phase them out now rather than 2050 could cost an estimated $629.4 billion to sequester them. To that end, Honeywell has launched its Solstice line of low-greenhouse gas emission liquid refrigerants—saving its customers more than 200 million metric tons of greenhouse gas (GHG) since they came on the market. It’s just one example of what Evan van Hook, Honeywell’s chief sustainability officer, described as “a storehouse of proven technologies” that has enabled the company to reduce its own carbon intensity by 90% since 2004.

No company can go it alone, however, and compelling laggards to catch up requires more than draconian regulations. The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) created the template for a member-driven, voluntary race to the top when it developed the first Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system for construction and maintenance in 1993. Today, the average LEED building emits 34% fewer emissions and consumes a quarter less energy than comparable ones—delivering billions of dollars in savings as well. But driving its emissions to net zero underscores the need to think systemically across entire industries, said Mahesh Ramanujam, president and CEO of the USGBC. “Product manufacturers should focus on reinventing their supply chains upstream and increasing their disclosure downstream,” he said. “We also need disruptive technologies to modernize and decarbonize grids and cities, along with the widespread adoption of renewables. And we need big fiscal policies—bigger incentives and bigger guidelines—to make building green the norm.”

Normal is the operative word. To get to zero quickly, companies can’t see such measures solely as the province of ESG—environmental, social, and corporate governance—initiatives but, rather, as part and parcel of core business activities. Ideally, Madden pointed out, these should have clear metrics and objectives that can be “measured, tracked, and audited,” describing a near future in which GHG meets generally accepted accounting principles and practices. This will in turn drive changes in business models as the true costs of carbon become known. “If companies are going to commit to this, it can’t just be happy talk,” she said.

But how best to achieve this? Van Hook points to lessons from the postwar revolution in quality control led by W. Edwards Deming. “He started thinking in terms of tools, but ultimately realized it’s a cultural transformation, so that quality is built into the process,” van Hook explained. Honeywell is striving to do the same with its internal, eponymous operating system, through which it aims to achieve carbon neutrality by 2035—right on schedule.

“We’ve proven to ourselves we can do it,” Madden added. “Now we just need more companies to make that commitment and come on board.”

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May 21, 2021  |  permalink

Open Collectives at the Venice Biennale Architettura 2021

At long last, I am thrilled to present Open Collectives, an immersive installation and Website premiering tomorrow at the 17th Venice Biennale Architettura. Open Collectives features four digital and architectural platforms leveraging solidarity to strengthen economic sovereignty, housing affordability, communal self-determination, and mutual aid.

The installation showcases urban projects designed for collectives across different sites and programs, while introducing a crowdsourcing site to engage Biennale Architettura 2021 visitors in sharing their own ideas, experience, and knowledge with a global audience — extending the project’s reach beyond Venice and past 2021. Each component queries relationships between the individual and collective, figure and ground, form and signifier, inviting viewers to shift attention to the spaces we design for mutualism.

Visitors to the Open Collectives site are invited to peruse an archive of collectives and share their thoughts on future trajectories. These crowdsourced speculations paint a picture of opinions and attitudes of Labor, Care, Markets, and Living in a more mutualist future. In doing so, visitors form a collective of their own — one that will help shape future incarnations of the Biennale.

The installation’s physical structure embodies the open-yet-spatially-defined characteristics of an open collective. Videos and printed materials offer fresh perspectives on timely issues — the post-pandemic future of work, reputational economy, elder boom, and the climate refugee crisis, to name a few. Featured architecture projects include:

• Quipu is a micro-currency platform and physical marketplace empowering residents of a low-income community in Colombia.

Mosaic.us is a construction technology company striving to make home building more efficient and affordable.

Carehaus is an intergenerational cohousing community developed with the National Domestic Workers Alliance, in which caregivers live with and care for older and disabled adults.

Communit offers neighborhood-scale co-living in a neglected neighborhood of Haifa, Israel, known for its history of worker housing and diverse population.

Open Collectives is led by Rafi Segal, director of the Future Urban Collectives Lab, and Sarah Williams, director of the Civic Data Design Lab, both of which are initiatives within MIT’s School of Architecture and Planning. Collaborators include artist Marisa Morán Jahn, director of Studio REV-, a public art, creative media, and social justice non-profit organization, and Greg Lindsay, futurist and director of applied research at NewCities. A full list of credits follows:

Film Director: Marisa Morán Jahn

Open Collectives Installation Structure Design by Rafi Segal, Alina Nazmeeva

Collective Voices Platform: Sarah Williams, Ashley Louie, Kwesi Afrifa

Collective Archive Platform: Sarah Williams, Dylan Halpern, Prabhakar Kafle, Ashley Louie, Alina Nazmeeva, Angela Wang, Adam Janicki, Kwesi Afrifa.

Research Group: Meng-fu Kuo, Sheng-Hung Lee, Livia Foldes, Fiel Guhit, Vaidehi Supatkar, Dylan Halpern, Laura Cadena, Lesley Onstott

Web Design:  Alina Nazmeeva, Ashley Louie, Sarah Williams
Web Development:  Ashley Louie

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May 20, 2021  |  permalink

GovTech: Will Data Privacy Issues Affect New Orleans’ Broadband Push?

GovTech’s Skip Descant was kind enough to quote me at length in his story about New Orleans’s “Advanced Broadband and Smart City” RFP that proposes coupling widespread municipal broadband (good) with surveillance capitalism tech to pay for it (bad). Here are a few of my thoughts:

A lack of regulation in areas like consumer data protection can stymie smart city projects. One of the most high-profile rollbacks of urban technology was in San Diego, where city officials pumped the brakes on the data collection of thousands of smart streetlights following a wave of resident concerns around how that data was shared, particularly with police. Controversies about government-sanctioned surveillance have only become more pronounced in the wake of national awareness around equity and social justice following the murder of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis last year.

“I’m worried about things like what happened in San Diego, for example,” said Greg Lindsay, director of applied research at NewCities, expressing concern about large-scale smart city deployment in the absence of strong consumer data protection and regulation.

Several consumer data protection bills have been introduced in Louisiana but have failed to advance, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

One approach, said Lindsay, may be to separate the broadband expansion part of the initiative from the smart city efforts, as a way to avoid attaching equity to “this classic surveillance capitalist approach.”

“This is an important conversation at every level, as we’ve seen the call for a national rural broadband rollout as part of President Biden’s infrastructure bill,” Lindsay said. “So there is this sort of widespread understanding that broadband is essential. However, that it actually includes these provisions here about widespread surveillance technology as part of it raises all sorts of red flags.”

“It’s really the question of ‘How do you ensure that it’s being kept from police?’” he added. “I think there should be a conversation that goes beyond New Orleans about this.”

A 2018 investigation by The Verge uncovered a partnership between the New Orleans Police Department and Palantir, a Silicon Valley technology company, which used software to trace residents’ ties to criminal activity or gang membership. The program was disclosed to neither the city council nor residents, the investigation found.

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May 20, 2021  |  permalink

threesixtyCITY with Omayra Issa

In the decades following the Civil War, thousands of freed slaves journeyed north to the plains provinces of Canada to escape the institutional racism of Jim Crow and achieve their own “American Dream.” In doing so, they both paved the way for future Black migrations and entangled themselves in Canada’s own colonialist legacy. CBC journalist Omayra Issa joins us to discuss “Black on the Prairies,” her groundbreaking series exploring the role of Black Canadians in settling the west, as well as their future in a nation (and a world) caught between conflicting desires to welcome migrants and securing the borders at all cost.

Click on the image above to watch the video on Facebook, or click here for the podcast on Apple Podcasts.

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About Greg Lindsay

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Greg Lindsay is a journalist, urbanist, futurist, and speaker. He is the director of applied research at NewCities and director of strategy at its mobility offshoot CoMotion.  He is also a partner at FutureMap, a geo-strategic advisory firm based in Singapore, a non-resident senior fellow of The Atlantic Council’s Foresight, Strategy, and Risks Initiative, and co-author of Aerotropolis: The Way We’ll Live Next.

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Articles by Greg Lindsay

-----  |  July 1, 2021

2021 Speaking Topics

Fast Company  |  June 2021

Why the Great Lakes need to be the center of our climate strategy

Fast Company  |  March 2020

How to design a smart city that’s built on empowerment–not corporate surveillance

URBAN-X  |  December 2019

ZINE 03: BETTER

CityLab  |  December 10, 2018

The State of Play: Connected Mobility in San Francisco, Boston, and Detroit

Harvard Business Review  |  September 24, 2018

Why Companies Are Creating Their Own Coworking Spaces

CityLab  |  July 2018

The State of Play: Connected Mobility + U.S. Cities

Medium  |  May 1, 2017

The Engine Room

Fast Company  |  January 19, 2017

The Collaboration Software That’s Rejuvenating The Young Global Leaders Of Davos

The Guardian  |  January 13, 2017

What If Uber Kills Public Transport Instead of Cars

Backchannel  |  January 4, 2017

The Office of the Future Is… an Office

New Cities Foundation  |  October 2016

Now Arriving: A Connected Mobility Roadmap for Public Transport

Inc.  |  October 2016

Why Every Business Should Start in a Co-Working Space

Popular Mechanics  |  May 11, 2016

Can the World’s Worst Traffic Problem Be Solved?

The New Republic  |  January/February 2016

Hacking The City

Fast Company  |  September 22, 2015

We Spent Two Weeks Wearing Employee Trackers: Here’s What We Learned

Fast Company  |  September 21, 2015

HR Meets Data: How Your Boss Will Monitor You To Create The Quantified Workplace

Inc.  |  March 2015

Which Contacts Should You Keep in Touch With? Let This Software Tell You

Inc.  |  March 2015

5 Global Cities of the Future

Global Solution Networks  |  December 2014

Cities on the Move

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Henley & Partners: The End of the End of Cities?

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Tirana Design Week 2021

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New Paradigms for Greenfield Cities of the Future

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Live from Atlanta: The Intersection

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