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SLU Innovation district

 

Vulcan Inc.

From left, Bruce J. Katz, Ada Healey, Megan Murphy, Lori Mason Curran and Sharon Coleman.

FOSTERING INNOVATION THROUGH NEIGHBORHOOD DEVELOPMENT

7/23/2014

FOSTERING INNOVATION THROUGH NEIGHBORHOOD DEVELOPMENT

7/23/2014

SLU Innovation district

 

Vulcan Inc.

From left, Bruce J. Katz, Ada Healey, Megan Murphy, Lori Mason Curran and Sharon Coleman.

A few years back, research parks in suburban or rural areas were the favored locations for companies and organizations working to develop cutting-edge technologies. As traditional economic engines in cities have sputtered, there has been a push to recreate the research park format in urban areas. Seattle's South Lake Union is one of these areas that has developed with the goal of creating a culture of innovation. 

Bruce Katz, vice president at the Brookings Institution and the founding director of the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program has recently published The Rise of Innovation Districts: A New Geography of Innovation in America. Katz visited South Lake Union earlier this year and included the neighborhood as an example of the “re-imagined urban area” model in his report.

Pointing out “the shifting of public university advanced research facilities to innovation districts” and specifically citing “the location of UW Medicine in the South Lake Union district of Seattle,” Bruce Katz considers the neighborhood (along with the Brooklyn Navy Yard, San Francisco’s Mission Bay, and the South Boston Waterfront) among the primary examples of this emerging urban model.

In his report, Katz outlines the importance of these emerging innovation districts and frames them as promising solutions in the aftermath of the Great Recession. As centers of job growth and economic recovery, Katz lists five primary contributions of the innovation district model:

  1. They shift jobs created by advanced industries into urban areas and generate new jobs during a time of sluggish growth.
  2. They can specifically empower entrepreneurs as the prime vehicle for growth. 
  3. They lead to the creation of better and more accessible jobs at a time of rising poverty and social inequality.
  4. They can reduce carbon emissions and drive greater residential and employment density.
  5. They can help cities raise revenues and repair their balance sheets at a time when the federal government is shifting resources and many state governments are adrift.

Katz provides an overview of the institutions and individuals who are driving the growth of innovation districts and addresses Vulcan Real Estate and the rapid emergence of South Lake Union. In his discussion of strategic approaches to development, Katz points out that one of South Lake Union’s most successful actions was to entice Amazon Inc. to establish their headquarters in the neighborhood. Having an established business in the neighborhood attracts talented workers to the area and as one South Lake Union-based entrepreneur said, “talent begets talent.”

Vulcan has been at the forefront of this emerging model of innovative urban development by focusing on sustainability, conservation, infrastructure, and livability. These core values influenced the evolution of South Lake Union into a vibrant and productive center of innovation. Bruce Katz’s recent report illustrates how forward-thinking institutions and individuals can make an impact by creating innovative communities that foster growth.

To read more about the varied strategies that different innovation districts have used and are using to grow you can read the entire report here.

Innovation districts represent a radical departure from traditional economic development. Bruce Katz

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