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February 24, 2022 | Tom Ballard

Architects offer thoughts on building innovation districts in small to mid-sized cities

Innovation districts are clearly a popular topic locally and around the country and world. Recent estimates suggest that there are well over 100 innovation districts emerging globally, including many in small to mid-sized cities like Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Dayton, Cleveland, Kansas City, Providence, and two Tennessee cities – Chattanooga and Memphis.

In this recent article in Urban Land, two executives from GBBN, a Cincinnati-based architectural firm, discuss a company project to transform a brownfield along the Monongahela River in Pittsburgh into a center for innovation and a model of sustainable development. Then, they conclude with this advice: “The point in all this is to be yourself. You can’t out-Boston Boston, and you shouldn’t be trying. If you’re contemplating developing an innovation district in a small to medium-sized city, you would do well to train your eye on identifying, investing in, and developing the strengths that differentiate your neighborhood.”

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