Three experts share their thoughts on revitalizing communities through revolutionary methods and the spirit of volunteerism By Desiree Lyon
During “Transforming Communities Through New Urbanism,” the focus of the Seaside Institute’s recent symposium, an international audience was privy to lectures from some of the most esteemed minds on the subject.
Growing up in a rural community was the common denominator of three of the presenters — Michael Lydon, Jason Roberts and John Lettieri. Each one was influenced by the community spirit of neighbors laboring together to fulfill municipal and individual needs. As youths, they often encountered the heartfelt and action packed “raising the barn” activities at which friends quickly transformed an individual home or village square into a source of communal pride. Believing that people are the same today, these internationally renowned presenters, brought together the spirit of volunteerism along with their respective revolutionary methods and technologies to transform urban living. Their efforts are essential during the “best of times and the worst of times,” a skill sorely needed to combat the present ongoing disasters.
Jason Roberts, the founding director of Better Block, was inspired in his youth to create healthy, vibrant and sustainable neighborhoods. One of his early initiatives stimulated a global movement to transform communities in need of restoration. Namely, he organized neighbors to restore a commercial city block by developing pop-up shops, planting trees, painting bike lanes, and creating cafe seats to relax and enjoy the fruit of their labor.
Roberts believes in the power of neighbors together with businesses to create one Better Block after another. His presentation, “Mobilizing and Revitalizing Communities,” focused on his early inspiration, mobilizing communities to accomplish transformations around the world. In 2017, Roberts was voted as one of the top 100 most influential urbanists in the world by Planetizen.
Mike Lydon, also as a youngster, envisioned means to create safe, more livable cities. Carrying this dream forward, today Lydon is a principal of street plans, an award-winning international planning, design, and research firm based in Miami, New York City and San Francisco.
Lydon’s address, “Tactical Urbanism,” highlighted international emerging trends and projects, as well as opportunities for government agencies, the private sector and neighborhood groups to employ similar tactics for executing public realm projects with greater speed, effectiveness, and community involvement. In 2017, Lydon won the Seaside Prize and was named by Planetizen as one of the 100 most influential urbanists.
When John Lettieri was young, he was fascinated with why some cities grew successfully and others remained stagnant. His early impressions about how cities can maintain growth and vigor became his lifelong passion. Now, as president and CEO of Economic Innovation Group, Lettieri oversees efforts to study, understand and address regional inequality and the decline of economic vitality in the United States.
In his presentation, “The New Map of Economic Growth and Opportunity,” Lettieri discussed our longest economic expansion on record, as well as the persistent widening gap between prosperous and distressed areas. To combat this situation, Lettieri related traditional approaches that no longer work well and a new wave of innovative solutions.
He has been featured in a variety of major media outlets, including The Atlantic, Fox News, The New York Times, and The Washington Post.