When the French American Foundation and the Florence Gould Foundation identified the study themes for its two year reciprocal exchange program as neighborhood revitalization, the adaption of cities in transition, and the relationship of creative place making (e.g., sustainability, culture and art), Metropolitan Institute’s Associate Director Joe Schilling offered guidance on the program content and helped them coordinate their fall 2011 study visit to Washington, D.C., Baltimore, and Cleveland.
As part of the Metropolitan Institute’s efforts to expand its international outreach, the institute hosted the French American Foundation delegation in Alexandria, Va., including representatives from the French Ministry of Culture and Communications, a principal sponsor of the exchange. Metropolitan Institute Faculty Fellows Maggie Cowell, Ralph Buehler, and Derek Hyra, associate vice president for research in the National Capital Region, Don Leo, and researchers from Virginia Tech’s Advanced Research Institute joined the facilitated discussion as the group explored examples of how sustainability efforts on both sides of the Atlantic can facilitate the regeneration of distressed cities and neighborhoods.
In light of her scholarship on the economic resilience of distressed cities, from December 5th-9th professor and Faculty Fellow Maggie Cowell will part of the US delegation visiting two French regions: the cities of Paris (Ile de France region) and Lille (Nord-Pas-de-Calais region). Both cities are undertaking efforts to revitalize rundown neighborhoods via the PNRQAD program, a national policy initiative which seeks to promote affordable housing and prevent social exclusion. A visit of the French capital will provide a national perspective on urban planning policies and sustainability issues. Both Paris and Lille are invested in “creative place making” efforts. The “Grand Paris” is spearheading many cultural initiatives which connect directly to large-scale urban planning sustainability efforts. Lille was the European Capital for Culture in 2004 and has also incorporated artistic and cultural projects in its urban development plans. The Lille metropolitan area has an interesting economic and industrial history which has left many traces on its urban landscape with its old industrial sites and brownfields. Since 1996, a new policy for urban renewal (“renewed city”/”ville renouvelée”) seeks to rebuild the city on its old foundations by developing its old run-down neighborhoods and its 19th century industrial heritage.
For the Foundation the aim of this two year sustainable cities program and these study visits is to foster dialogue between leading US and French practitioners and experts on cultural and urban policy and provide a platform for transferable model practices. For the Metropolitan Institute these exchanges will help seed ideas and research opportunities into how cities respond to economic stresses and how policies influence their recovery. They will also build on the institute’s work on cities in transition as part of its grant from the Ford Foundation.