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City gets some tips on getting a leg up on others

By Patricia Lowry,
Post-Gazette Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 05, 2002

Real estate and economic development consultant Donovan Rypkema thinks he knows what it takes to be a competitive city in the 21st century, and it has a lot to do with creating a distinctive sense of place.

“In economics it is the differentiated product that attracts a premium,” Rypkema told 144 people gathered for lunch yesterday in the newly restored auditorium and former banking hall of the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland on Grant Street.

Rypkema, who heads Washington, D.C.-based Place Economics, has consulted for state and local governments as well as nonprofits like the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s National Main Street Center.

Cities with an edge, Rypkema said, will be cities that develop the five senses — sense of place, ownership, identity, community and evolution or history.

“Begin with a sense of place and find ways to be public that fits that place,” he said.

Rypkema, who has traveled to cities in 48 states, described his own special talent as that of note-taker and list-maker, “seeing what works in communities.”

The list in progress he shared yesterday, titled “The Qualities of the Competitive Place in the 21st Century,” included:

Economic globalization. “Your competitors will not be Boston, Mass., but Bilbao, Spain.”

Continuing education for adults. People who haven’t been in a classroom for the past 24 months, he said, are falling behind.

* An understanding that economic growth and population growth are not necessarily the same.

* Human diversity.

* Arts and cultural activities.

* An inventory of affordable housing for people working in the millions of new, lower paying service jobs that will be created in the next 10 years.

* Partnerships: “More and more issues will be addressed locally through partnerships.”

* A vision and a long-term perspective: “We should think as far into the future as the age of the oldest building still in use.”

* A strong, healthy, vital downtown: “A city that has a rotten core will ultimately become a rotten city.”

* Restored and renovated historic buildings, especially downtown.

* A local culture that is valued.

Rypkema’s audience comprised developers, architects, representatives of community and preservation groups, and municipal government leaders and staffers, including 48 people from Fairmount, W. Va. The event was sponsored by Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation.

Patricia Lowry can be reached at or 412-263-1590.
This article appeared in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette. © Pittsburgh Post Gazette

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