5 Can’t-Miss Conversations at This Week’s New Cities Summit

This week, some of the leading minds in cities and urbanism will descend upon Dallas for the New Cities Summit. A two day colloquium organized by the New Cities Foundation, the summit will feature conversations on everything from “air hubs” to “urban data” to “green cities.” And because Dallas is the host of this year’s summit, this city will enjoy its share of the limelight, including speakers like bcWORKSHOP’s Brent Brown, Café Momentum’s Chad Houser, and, of course, Mayor Mike Rawlings.

The New Cities Summit comes to Dallas at an interesting moment in the city’s history. As the Dallas Morning News’ freshly published Future Dallas report lays out, the state of the city mixed. Dallas looks prosperous, but it is lagging according to key economic indicators. Economic growth continues to flee to the suburbs, the income equality gap is widening. There are also education, transportation, and governmental service challenges. At  this critical moment, the New Cities Summit offers an opportunity to take stock, find inspiration, and discover new ideas that have driven positive growth of cities around the world.

For more on how the Dallas Arts District’s ambitions are tied to the New Cities Summit, check out this interview from the June D Magazine with Dallas Museum of Art director Maxwell Anderson, who helped secure the summit for Dallas. Here’s the summit’s full program. However, if you can’t carve a full two days out of your schedule to fully indulge your inner urban wonk, here are a handful of discussions that we’re looking forward to.

Dallas – A Case Study in Re-Imagination and Transformation (June 17, 11:30-12:30. Winspear Opera House - Main Stage)

A smattering of local notables, from DPD chief Dave Brown to the Headington Companies’ Michael Tregoning, will discuss Dallas today: how the city is changing, the challenges we face. It will be interesting to hear how these speakers frame Dallas’ story for the international audience.

Mobility and the Urban Form  (June 17, 1:45-2:45. Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual arts — Montgomery Theater)

Mobility is a huge issue facing Dallas, and this panel promises to address not only transportation but how issues ranging from technology to sprawl will affect mobility in the 21st century city. The panel includes Harold Madi, the Director of Urban Design for the City of Toronto, and Alex Krieger, a Harvard professor and principal at the global architecture and planning firm NBBJ.

Financing Tranformation (June 18, 11:30-12:30. Winspear Opera House — Hamon Hall)

Some of the conversations around development in Dallas lately, particularly the debate over the Sam’s Club project at Cityplace, have made it clear that no matter how much attention we pay to planning and zoning, financial viability and habits of development will have a profound effect on the types of uses and urban forms that are developed in Dallas. This panel looks at what financial models can create successful cities, as well as various ways public, private, philanthropic, and civic stakeholders have come together to fund urban renewal.

Cultural Districts as Engines of Urban Transformation (June 18, 1:45-2:45. Winspear Opera House — Hamon Hall)

There are three sessions dedicated to the topic of culture, including a Maxwell Anderson-moderated panel on “cultural capital” and a keynote address by the Chinese artist Huang Rui. But I like how this panel on Wednesday frames the conversation, noting the difficulty cultural districts have in sustaining themselves and then taping a variety of speakers to address how these challenges are met in cultural districts around the world. Panelists will include Manal Ataya, director general the United Arab Emirates’ Sharjah Museums; Jamie Bennett, executive director ArtPlace America; Adrian Ellis, director of the Global Cultural Districts Network; Zhiyong Fu, vice director of the information art and design department at Beijing’s Tsinghua University; and Jeffrey Johnson, founding director of the China Megacities Lab at Columbia University.

WhatWorks (June 18, 1:45-2:45. Winspear Opera House — Main Stage)

What little ideas have created big changes in cities around the world? This panel will talk with individuals who have led innovative projects – from a Serbian company that works to expand access to renewable energy to a 22-year-old who developed a way to help law enforcement use code to better fight crime – that have had big impacts. Dallas’ own Chad Houser will also speak about his Café Momentum.