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Advancing a new wave of urban competitiveness: The role of mayors in the rise of innovation districts

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Over the past year, the United States Conference of Mayors and the Brookings Institution, along with the Project for Public Spaces have worked together to capture a new model of growth that is emerging in cities and the particular roles that mayors can play.

This handbook offers concrete strategies for mayors and their administrations to facilitate the rise of innovation districts—small geographic areas within cities where research universities, medical institutions, and companies cluster and connect with start-ups, accelerators, and incubators. They reflect profound market and demographic dynamics that are revaluing proximity, density, walkability, and accessibility—in other words, the natural strengths of cities.


Table of contents

  • Section 1: Introduction
  • Section 2: An overview on innovation districts
  • Section 3: 12 principles guiding innovation districts
  • Section 4: An audit of city assets—Identifying the potential for an innovation district
  • Section 5: Mayors as conveners—Engaging local leaders to consider a district strategy
  • Section 6: Mayors as champions—Playing a visible role to advance an innovation district
  • Section 7: Mayors as catalysts—Using city powers to strengthen an innovation district
  • Section 8: Conclusion


Related resources


Julie Wagner

Former Nonresident Senior Fellow - Anne T. and Robert M. Bass Initiative on Innovation and Placemaking

Steve Davies

Co-Founder and Executive Vice President, Project for Public Spaces


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