A roadmap for post-pandemic economic recovery and resilience

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What is the ERA?

COVID-19: A City Problem

The COVID-19 pandemic uniquely challenges cities: the same forces that drive urbanization and globalization — interconnected systems of seamless transfer of money, goods, services, people, and technology — have also amplified the negative outcomes of the public health crises.

City78's ERA: Analysis & Insights

City78's Economic Recovery Accelerator (ERA) white paper outlines recommendations and tools that cities and the industries within them can adopt to speed up economic rebound, limiting the negative economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic while also securing public health now and in the future.

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Space & Place

Economic outcomes are anchored in a shared geographic and spatial proximity — determined, maintained, and modulated by the built environment.

Elements at Risk in the Built Environment

Virtual collaborations have had a profound impact on the quality of innovation, discovery, and shared knowledge generation — elements previously integral to the built environment of the city

Assessing Place Identity via National & Global Rankings

Even as the COVID-19 pandemic rages on, competition amongst cities for the attraction of investment and economic growth continues, and is now perhaps more fierce than ever.

Space & Place

Ultimately, buildings are merely empty shells unless people are there to lend them meaning and context. City78's ERA White Paper

COVID-19 has shifted our perception of the positives and negatives of working remotely, and until recently the impact of mass teleworking had not been explored. City78’s work-from-home survey results illustrate that the near-universal shift of office workers collaborating in a shared space of an office to working from home has had a divergent effect on individual versus company-wide productivity. While teleworking has some considerable benefits for both employers and employees, the benefits are maximized and the consequences minimized when employees work remotely only part time. Learn More

Elements at risk in the built environment

Commercialization of public open space: restaurant and retail locations in downtown Washington, D.C., within a 0.5-mile radius of open space and public right-of-way. (Source: City78)
Commercialization of public open space: restaurant and retail locations in downtown Washington, D.C. (Source: City78)
COVID-19 has spurred two major trends in the use of open and public spaces, the first being the democratization of public space and the second being the reorganization of public space away from traditional uses. These trends are likely to continue into the future, as tactical urbanism and associated spontaneous, low-cost interventions help reinforce place identity, allow people to social distance, and give people a sense of ownership over the built environment. There will also be a continued movement away from homogenized space, as public space becomes more sustainable and responsive to the natural environment. Learn More

COVID-19 fatigue...could also lead to a more permanent shift toward remote work, which will undoubtedly have a tremendous effect on productivity, innovation, and problem solving.
City78's ERA White Paper

Assessing Place Identity:
National & Global Rankings

City78 City Ranking Methodology
City78 city ranking methodology, visualized. (Source: City78)
In order to gauge the comparative potential of large cities in the United States, based on the effects of COVID-19, City78 created a national city rankings methodology and list that compared U.S. cities for COVID-19 response in the first two quarters of 2020. Sixty five cities across the country, all with populations over 300,000, were selected. Through this analysis, City78 identified various trends across the cities then formulated recommendations based on their performance. The data show us that in order to effectively contain a deadly and highly contagious virus like COVID-19, cities must commit to reopening slowly and with great emphasis on social distancing. But how can cities maintain social distancing longer term when many, like New York, rely on large gatherings as the foundation of their economies? New York ranked number one on our COVID-19 national city rankings, implying that the city is well equipped to recover from the pandemic. This is largely due to the city’s willingness to embrace a culture of social distancing after experiencing the devastation of the first wave of the virus. The city’s robust economy pre-COVID-19 also cannot be overlooked. However, in order to truly recover successfully, New York — and all cities — must reconcile this new culture of distance with the past drivers of prosperity, many of which may seem incompatible with a near-term post-COVID-19 urban landscape.

Even as the COVID-19 pandemic has raged on, competition amongst cities for the attraction of investment and economic growth has persisted, and is now perhaps more fierce than ever.
City78's ERA White Paper

View City78 Global City Ranking Story Map
View City78 Global City Ranking Story Map (Source: City78)
So what does embracing a culture of distance look like while maintaining a city’s sense of place? In an article published by the Brookings Institution early in the pandemic, authors Richard Florida and Steven Pedigo proposed a number of ways in which a city can adapt to the realities of a post-COVID-19 environment while at the same time maintaining its place identity and economy. Notable among their recommendations were pandemic-proofing large civic assets, “pedestrianizing” infrastructure, and protecting the creative economy. What this all comes down to is supporting the physical components and activities of a city’s place identity while adapting them to survive a pandemic-proofed world. For cities such as New York, the vibrant activities of the city like attending shows, sporting events, and dining out are major players in the city’s place identity and thus its economy. In order to make sure these activities persist, cities must modify activities and events by taking steps to first ensure these activities are safe. Learn More

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Our academic and external advisers challenged our thinking and added new insights throughout the course of this project. We are grateful for the input and guidance of Uwe Brandes, professor of the practice and faculty director of the Urban & Regional Planning Program at Georgetown University and faculty director of the Georgetown Global Cities Initiative; Dan Simons, co-owner of Farmers Restaurant Group; and Jess Zimbabwe, founder of Plot Strategies and executive director of Environmental Works Community Design Center. We thank the many business leaders, policy makers, and researchers at public and private institutions who shared their insights confidentially.