6 Ways To Make DC A City Of The Future
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As someone who was born in Los Angeles and spent time in San Francisco, Jair Lynch vice president of development Kevin Roberts said he views DC with the eyes of an outsider, and he thinks DC is poised to join the top tier of global cities.
"DC is a fantastic city and it's on a trajectory to become Berlin, London or Paris," said Roberts, speaking on VisionDC's Designing the Future City panel on Monday. "People underestimate it, and sometimes in meetings with my colleagues who are from DC, they think DC has only been this way or that way and it can’t become something new or reinvented."
"In DC, we're becoming the global city we always should have been," he said.
Zipper then tasked each of the five panelists, a group of developers and design experts, with pitching innovative ideas for how the District can become a top global city, and the answers covered a range of topics.
1. Mobility as a service
To streamline different types of public transportation and boost efficiency, Zipper kicked off the discussion with the idea of mobility as a service. Residents would be given a smart card that could be used for Metro, buses, ride-sharing, bike sharing or streetcars. He said the idea has taken off in Helsinki and other Scandinavian cities.
"It's like getting everything you need to get around, apart from a car, in that card, which can be subsidized by government or your employer as need be," Zipper said. "It really nudges people away from the consumption of a single occupancy vehicle."
2. Double down on bridges
Roberts pointed to one infrastructure project underway, the 11th Street Bridge Park, as a way for DC to focus its efforts on creating something special. The bridge that connects the Navy Yard to Anacostia is currently being transformed into an elevated park, expected to be complete in 2019. Roughly the length of three football fields, the park will include art exhibits, an environmental center and plenty of green space.
"I know some of our bridges aren’t that great, but the bridges around DC are attractive, and I think the 11th Street Bridge could be the next moonshot," Roberts said. "I think it could be much like maybe Prague and we should shoot for that, set a very high aim."
3. Reinvent the city's public spaces
James Corner Field Operations principal Isabel Castilla helped design the High Line in New York City and is working on transforming the C&O Canal in Georgetown. She views it as an opportunity for DC to integrate its history into its public spaces to create something unique.
"The idea of creating a public space that speaks to DC, that speaks to the history, rather than creating a High Line, which often gets talked about. But that’s not the solution," Castilla said. "The solution is creating something that’s intrinsic to its history, that’s what I’m most excited about."
4. Connecting business and tech to education
Pigmental Studios CEO Marina Martins just opened an animation studio at Gallaudet University, which has inspired her to engage with the campus and local community. Martins said DC's business and tech community should find more ways to work with students to inspire future entrepreneurs.
"The future of any city is its children and the exposure of its children to the opportunities that they could engage in and they could dream about and they could bring to fruition," Martins said.
5. Using data in transportation and housing
An autonomous vehicle market strategist for INRIX, Avery Ash has a close-up view at how cities are preparing for a disruptive technology poised to change the way people get around. Ash said the key to getting it right is using data, and he pointed to Boston as an example of a city on the cutting edge of self-driving car experimentation.
"They are committed to measuring and to adjusting and they’re not blocking themselves into a solution and waiting until they get to the end to recalibrate," Ash said. "I would love to see DC take that same sort of method and apply it not just to transportation but to housing, to the arts, to our transit system, to public spaces and really start to get some data that allows us to make better decisions and be a little more accountable for the decisions we’re making."
6. Closing the gap between jobs and workforce
Sagamore Ventures managing partner Demian Costa, one of the developers working on Kevin Plank's 160-acre Port Covington development in Baltimore, said a key issue facing cities today is the skills gap between those seeking employment and the available jobs. In Baltimore, Sagamore is working on programs to expose people from underserved neighborhoods to trade skills and give them the opportunity to pursue things like welding and woodworking as a career.
"You see cities like Boston and Austin and Pittsburgh are doing a pretty good job, but no one I think really stands out as a shining example of taking workforce development as a whole and trying to figure out, 'how do we train and create this labor force that needs to exist to take the jobs that are going to be created as these companies grow and excel and move and take root in these different cities?'" Costa said. "We've really got to work on training the labor pool and creating the jobs on the other side."