UC’s School of Planning Makes the Case for Cities

A nine-month series of virtual conversations invites the public to help design healthier, more sustainable, and more equitable cities.

Major U.S. cities have been flash points in the spread of COVID-19 and in protests against racial injustice, leading some politicians and TV commentators to blast them as dangerous places losing tons of jobs and residents. Thanks to the negative drumbeat of news, urban planners fear that two decades of urban renaissance could possibly come undone in the span of less than a year.

The University of Cincinnati’s School of Planning is stepping up to remind us that cities aren’t the source of America’s current predicaments, but instead can be the ultimate solution to a healthier, more sustainable, and more equitable society. The DAAP program is hosting a free online conversation series called The Case for Cities starting Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. The monthly conversations will be broadcast from the Mercantile Library and feature national and local experts speaking virtually with DAAP professors.

DAAP’s overall mission is to create a better visual and design environment, says assistant professor Conrad Kickert, and service to the community as a whole is a key component. He and his colleagues started brainstorming ways to push back against what they saw as a rising anti-urban narrative and to engage a broader Cincinnati audience in their efforts. Eric Avner of the Haile/U.S. Bank Foundation suggested a series of virtual public conversations.

“We didn’t want this to be just another academic conference for planning faculty and students,” says Kickert. “There are a lot of issues around city living that the average person would be interested in, so the Haile Foundation and the Mercantile Library came on board to give us access to a wider audience. We’re trying to focus on how to make Cincinnati and all cities more inclusive and more equitable.”

The Case for Cities will touch on seven themes for building better cities, with opening and closing discussions. All programs are Wednesdays at 7:30 p.m. Here is the schedule:

September 30: Why Do Cities Matter?
Kickert hosts the kickoff conversation with Bruce Katz, co-founder of New Localism Advisors, and James Johnson-Piett, CEO of Urbane Development.

October 28: The Public City.
DAAP professor Vikas Mehta hosts urban designer Ken Greenberg and University of Washington landscape architecture professor Jeff Hou.

November 18: The Healthy City.
Hosted by DAAP professor Christopher Auffrey.

December 9: The Entrepreneurial City.
Participants include Julie Wagner, president of the Global Institute on Innovation Districts, and Allen Woods, co-founder of the Over-the-Rhine-based MORTAR accelerator program.

January 27: The Moving City.
A city that’s walkable, bikable, and well-connected by transit provides efficiency and equity while also bringing diverse groups together in a shared space of mobility.

February 24: The Living City.
A discussion of housing growth and equity featuring Liz Blume, director of the Community Building Institute at Xavier University.

March 24: The Well-Fed City.
A discussion of how our unique food and drink culture has placed Cincinnati on the national map and how we can ensure that all residents benefit from it.

April 14: The Green City.
Balancing nature and justice, hosted by Danilo Palazzo, director of UC’s School of Planning.

May 5: Justice, Urbanism, and Anti-Urbanism.
The series concludes with a conversation about planning, designing, and advocating for cities that are places of choice and of justice. Guests include Miami University history professor Steven Conn and Tufts University urban policy and planning professor Julian Agyeman.

Kickert says that each conversation is focused on its specific topic, so you don’t have to attend the previous session in order to participate. Registration is free and available here.

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