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Step Back on the (Place) Scale

Step Back on the (Place) Scale

Ah the new year! A time when we reflect on all that we've accomplished (hopefully!) in the past year, as well as make (sometimes lofty) plans and resolutions for "the new me." But making successful resolutions that stick is hard work...because it involves making changes, which is no easy feat (especially for cities, since that usually means getting others on board too)! Dropping 15 pounds, quitting smoking, organizing your closet, or creating better places (our wheelhouse!) can be difficult without the right tools and support. Although we can't help organize your closet, we can provide cities with an invaluable tool to achieve their place quality resolutions - to help make your neighborhoods and communities more walkable, livable, irresistible. Here's how...

How Cities & Investors Can Measure the Impact of Redevelopment Projects

How Cities & Investors Can Measure the Impact of Redevelopment Projects

For the past few years, our team has been working with Conservation Law Foundation to review and rate real estate development projects for the Healthy Neighborhoods Equity Fund (HNEF). One of their challenges is measuring all of the myriad factors that influence the neighborhood environment and the way these features interact with each other. That’s why CLF turned to State of Place. Learn how cities and investors can follow CLF's approach by using State of Place to measure the impact of redevelopment projects...

10 Experts Share How Cities Can Keep Summer Interns Long-Term

10 Experts Share How Cities Can Keep Summer Interns Long-Term

According to Google Trends, this is the time of year that students are evaluating cities for their summer internship potential. Maybe your city has the right internship programs in place to attract the best, but do you have the right amenities that will make your summer interns stay past August? We turned to the top urbanists to find out how cities can convince summer interns to stay for the long-term. Here are their top tips...

Step on the (Place) Scale

Step on the (Place) Scale

Ah the new year! A time when we reflect on all that we've accomplished (hopefully!) in the past year, as well as make (sometimes lofty) plans and resolutions for "the new me." But making successful resolutions that stick is hard work...because it involves making changes, which is no easy feat (especially for cities, since that usually means getting others on board too)! Dropping 15 pounds, quitting smoking, organizing your closet, or creating better places (our wheelhouse!) can be difficult without the right tools and support. Although we can't help organize your closet, we can provide cities with an invaluable tool to achieve their place quality resolutions - to help make your neighborhoods and communities more walkable, livable, irresistible. Here's how...

This week's blog will explain why you first have to step on the (place) scale to figure out where you're starting from, explain what the "scale" is telling you, and show you how our data and analytics serve as "walkmap" for you to follow on the "sidewalk" to success! 

Return of the Urban Detective:

Return of the Urban Detective:

A few weeks ago, I posted about how using State of Place turned me (and my mom!) into an urban detective. Today, as promised, I’m sharing what I actually found. Don’t worry, it’s only slightly technical - but I promise you’ll come away with a much better understanding of how green space influences walkability and how State of Place helped me quantify that.  

Why now is the best time to solve cities' problems with technology?

Cisco has asked Mariela Alfonzo, the Founder of State of Place, why there has never been a better time to solve problems with technology. State of Place is quantifying what people love about cities and why it makes economic sense to make them better. Our technology empowers cities to tell data-driven stories about the power of place. We believe that there has‪#‎NeverBetter time to use technology to make places more ‪#‎walkable, livable, and ‪#‎resilient! Do you agree?

Cisco has asked Mariela Alfonzo, the Founder of State of Place, why there has never been a better time to solve problems with technology. State of Place is quantifying what people love about cities and why it makes economic sense to make them better.

Are you striving to enhance walkability and increase qualify of life?

Wow, we cannot believe it's been four years since we published the Brookings Study that established the link between walkability and economic value! Today, we're happy to share that we're close to wrapping up development of our software beta that quantifies the power of place. Our aim is to empower cities and developers struggling to make the case for walkability to tell their own data-driven (economic) stories. We want to help them gain support for their development proposals and visions and help them identify improvements that will produce the biggest bang for their buck. We're currently gathering feedback on our software - if you're striving to enhance walkability and increase qualify of life, we'd love to talk to you and get your perspective on the software:

Call for Interviews with Cities and Developers Striving To Meet Demand for Walkable, Livable Communities

Enabled by funding from the National Science Foundation's Small Business Innovation and Research Grant program, State of Place is developing a predictive urban data analytics platform that ties place to economic value, launching this summer!

To date, we have spoken with over 50 cities and developers to better understand the challenges they face addressing the ever increasing demand for walkability. Among their biggest pain points is convincing stakeholders (lenders, residents, developers, tenants, and staff) that an investment in walkability is actually worth it - both in terms of dollars and cents and quality of life.

We've since been hard at work on a solution to help cities and developers not just heed the fact that walkability is now key to economic competitiveness - but capitalize upon it!

We are now looking to speak with additional cities and developers who are striving to create walkable, livable places and gather their perspectives and advice on our solution. We have also collected a lot of market intelligence that we believe cities and developers would find useful and would like to share those insights.

If you are interested in joining us for a quick 20-minute chat in the next week or two, please book a time with us below. 

Looking forward to connecting.

Mariela Alfonzo, Ph.D.
Founder & CEO
ULI 40 under 40

MVPs as antidotes for zombie cities: Lean Placemaking™ Part Two

 

Last week, I began to lay out my plan to "infect" cities - to unleash an epidemic of Lean Placemaking.

I explained why many cities are zombies - not quite failing, not quite succeeding - but that adopting Lean Startup principles could save them from this fate. I argued that cities have a lot to learn from startups' new disruptive approach to business development: spending less time writing an ultra technical business plan that investors may or may not read or programming the "perfect" app, and focusing more on figuring out the most optimal way to solve people's actual problems. For cities, that means "getting out of the building" and digging into the "place" - both physical and social - they are targeting!

Specifically, I outlined how Lean Startup thinking can translate into Lean Placemaking. Last time, we got through the first two of the five key processes. Today, I'll discuss the third process.

  1. Customer Discovery
  2. Measure/Test
  3. MVP
  4. Pivot or Persevere
  5. Repeat

Build MVP Approach:

In Lean Startup terms, an MVP, or a minimum viable product, is "that version of a new product which allows a team to collect the maximum amount of validated learning about customers with the least effort." This doesn't mean the product is "embarrassingly" minimal. The MVP still has to "deliver enough customer value" for the startup to better understand if their solution addresses a customer need (problem/solution fit) and if enough customers have the problem the startup is trying to solve (product/market fit). The MVP isn't about releasing early and often either: validated learning isn't about deploying an early version of a product, acquiring customer feedback, quickly incorporating some of the feedback, and re-releasing the product. This kind of feedback loop is not the same as the learn, measure, build loop we discussed last time. The purpose of the MVP is to help you test your specific, falsifiable hypotheses as quickly as possible.

So what does this have to do with cities?

Let's use the example from the last post: A city wants to build pocket parks in a neighborhood that they believe is lacking in green space. It's already passed the sniff test - or more precisely, the city has validated an assumption about its "customer problem" by conducting 10 customer interviews. The city validated its assumption, as five of the ten customers interviewed indicated that they didn't have enough green spaces within walking distance of their homes. Now it's time to validate the MVP - in this case, the Minimum Viable Project.

Source: Streetsblog.org ATLUrbanist

Although the city's proposed solution for its lack of green space problem is a pocket park, the approval process for that kind of project is lengthy and its cost, not insignificant. The pocket park itself is not an appropriate MVP. Instead, the city decides to temporarily transform two parking spaces into a pop-up mini pocket park and invites the five "customers" who felt their neighborhood needed more green space (the "early adopters") to be part of the process and test out the space (Stay tuned for how State of Place can help with this process!). This MVP still delivers enough of the value the city wants to deliver to its "customers" - green space - to test the its hypothesis and get further customer insight before investing in a full-sized pocket park. Most importantly, the MVP allows the city to avoid spending a lot of time planning and/or building something nobody wants or needs. 

While in this example, the MVP itself was inspired by what has now become an annual worldwide tactical urbanism event - Park(ing) Day - the purpose of the MVP isn't just about building a temporary green space. In fact, the lean startup warns against falling in love with the product - or in the case of Lean Placemaking and cities, the project. As entrepreneurs - or planners and designers alike - it's easy to fall into this trap, especially given relative training and expertise. But the MVP is about more than just the P - it's about saving precious time and resources by gaining valuable knowledge and validating assumptions before moving forward - or not.

 

tackle the "or not" scenario in the next blog post in this series in which I discuss how the 4th step in the Lean Startup process, Pivot or Persevere, translates to Lean Placemaking

And in the meantime, if you have a question about applying Lean Placemaking, State of Place, or urban design or walkability in general, just grab some time with me and we can personally chat about your needs or situation!

Read the next post! It's So Hard to Say Goodbye to...Zombies" Pivoting & Lean Placemaking™ Part Three

Read the previous post! Why Many Cities are Zombies (and how Lean Placemaking™ Can Bring Them Back To Life

Read the next post!