Future cities will be taller, tougher and more opportunity-rich: Next City's Ariella Cohen - Generocity Philly


Dec. 8, 2015 12:25 pm

Future cities will be taller, tougher and more opportunity-rich: Next City’s Ariella Cohen

Cohen said an important element of future cities will be a "fusion between the formal and informal" at #RiseConf15.

Taller, tougher, more opportunity. (Photo by Flickr user OZinOH, used under a Creative Commons license)

(Photo by Flickr user OZinOH, used under a Creative Commons license)

Today, approximately 54 percent of the world’s population dwell in urban areas. By 2050, that percentage will jump to 66. For inclusive and livable cities of the future, we need to begin planning now. According to Next City Editor-in-Chief Ariella Cohen, that means cities need to be taller, more resilient and rife with opportunity.

The first problem: Finding a place to put all those people. The solution: Build higher and smarter.

“[Existing] housing is a huge challenge for buildings of the future,” said Cohen at Technical.ly’s Rise Conference, emphasizing the need for American cities to renovate their older homes. Not to do so, she said, is to lose that land as a resource for more useful buildings.

And as the global climate changes, Cohen said there will be future employment opportunity in building resilient cities — jobs in green construction, green retrofit and green infrastructure. Plus, Cohen said, development of public transit will present a huge opportunity for today’s cities to create jobs, reduce carbon emissions and more dense, walkable and livable communities in the near future.

Continuing the topic of employment, Cohen said it will be crucial for cities to bridge the divide between “formal” and “informal” work. That fusion between the two will be driven by technology, and Cohen used ride-hailing app Uber as an example. Uber, she said, is nothing but a “gypsy cab rigged up” to an app.

“We need to learn how to engage people who have been doing informal work,” she said. “In terms of economies and housing, we need to be thinking about how not to fight back the informal but how to welcome it in, grow together and innovate together.”

An example of what not to do, Cohen said, is HafenCity in Hamburg, a city “by the rich, for the rich.”

HafenCity might be forward-looking in its architecture and amenities, but by the same token, it’s a city rendered economically inaccessible to most people. But Cohen said a remedy might lie in public-private partnerships.

“There are ways to leverage the wealth coming to cities for the good of everyone,” Cohen said. “What we need to do is have more intentional government policies to make sure that with every fancy new development, there’s inclusionary zoning.”

From our Partners

One tactical solution could be community land trusts, in which the land is owned by a nonprofit, but the home built on the land is bought on a long-term lease that controls how much profit the buyer can make on the sale. It’s worked in Boston, Cohen said, adding that the Philadelphia Land Bank has been entertaining the idea. But there’s one problem.

“It’s a little politically tricky because it kind of sounds like socialism,” Cohen said. “We have to get past that, but there’s real potential there.”


From our Partners

In May, let’s play with the future

An advantage of the government’s new payments for families: Not humiliating poor people

Disappearing benefit packages leave workers with chronic economic insecurity


Generocity Philly

Beyond Literacy: Combining nearly 90 years of history into one org



Tech Leadership Fellow

Apply Now
Philadelphia, PA

United Way of Greater Philadelphia & Southern New Jersey

Managing Director, Financial Empowerment

Apply Now

Read by 4th

Manager of Data and Learning

Apply Now

Next five months are urgent for arts and culture organizations trying to stay afloat

New research parses how income inequality drives homelessness in U.S.

Updated report on gender diversity of eds and meds boards shows some gains


Generocity Philly

Inscripción Doble en Congreso: Lo que trae el futuro

Philadelphia, PA

Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) Philadelphia

Assistant Program Officer-Economic Development

Apply Now
Philadelphia, PA

Schultz & Williams

Project Manager

Apply Now
Philadelphia (Open to remote for the right candidate)

Friends World Committee for Consultation

Operations Manager

Apply Now

Sign-up for daily news updates from Generocity