The Cities in Transition (CIT) initiative is a four-year program designed to foster exchange and networking among policymakers and practitioners in older, industrial cities in the United States and Europe to promote best practices for the regeneration of distressed urban areas. Through annual study tours supplemented by a series of working meetings and policy workshops, network participants work closely to articulate critical policy challenges facing their communities and identify ways to adapt innovative solutions that older European industrial cities have implemented to address the myriad challenges associated with urban disinvestment and economic restructuring.

The first three years of programming focused on people, place, and economy within the framework of urban regeneration. These topics were explored on both city and regional scales. Given that connections between these three elements often do not happen organically, intentional collaboration across traditional silos is necessary to achieve equitable and inclusive urban regeneration. The final year of programming focused on diving deeper into the topic of urban regeneration as a whole, while looking through the lens of equity and inclusion.

The Cities in Transition initiative offers transatlantic perspectives and network development for policymakers and practitioners from five post-industrial North American cities: Flint and Detroit, Michigan; Cleveland and Youngstown, Ohio; and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

This initiative was generously supported by the Kresge Foundation and Surdna Foundation.

To learn more about the Cities in Transition initiative and outcomes, please see the final report for the program.

Year One (2010-11): Land Use and Vacant Properties

In its inaugural year, the Cities in Transition initiative focused on the challenges that arise from physical transformations occurring in a built environment that has been left behind by rapidly shifting settlement patterns. In cities in the United States’ Rust Belt and elsewhere, trends of decreasing population and suburbanization have sapped the vibrancy of many core city neighborhoods, leaving them both vulnerable to blight and not dense enough to support a healthy civic life.

Land Use and Vacant Properties Study Tour (Manchester, United Kingdom, and Leipzig, Germany)

In December 2010, GMF led a delegation of representatives from the five U.S. cities and from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development on a trip to Leipzig, Germany, and Manchester, United Kingdom to explore strategies used by these cities to counter population decline and urban disinvestment.

Developing Integrated, Transformative Investment Strategies Workshop (Youngstown, Ohio)

In June 2011, GMF hosted a workshop in Youngstown to build on conversations and key lesson learned from the Year One study tour. The workshop brought together key city and civic leaders in dialogue around the development of a targeted public investment strategy for the city of Youngstown, and the better integration of community development and economic development into strategic development plans for targeted neighborhoods.

Cities in Transition: Building on Assets Workshop (Cleveland, Ohio)

In July 2011, GMF convened Year One and Year Two participants for a workshop in Cleveland. The workshop served as an opportunity both to explore key takeaways in greater depth, as well as planning for the fall 2011 study tour, which examined the relationship between regional- and place-based economic development strategies in the Ruhr Valley and in Barcelona. Participants of the workshop brainstormed key questions for the study tour, with an eye toward understanding the linkages between the first and second year topics.

Year Two (2012): Economic Development

In 2011-12, the Cities in Transition project focused on regional approaches to economic development and explored their relationship to place-based strategies, that is strategies that capitalize on a place’s unique assets and that envision economic and community development as two parts of a single process. Programming explored how European cities have developed regional approaches to economic redevelopment, and linked these approaches with community and economic revitalization efforts in core cities.

Regional Strategies and Placemaking Study Tour (Barcelona, Spain, and Ruhr Valley, Germany)

In September 2011, GMF led a delegation from the five U.S. cities, the White House, and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development on a trip to the Ruhr region of Germany to study its approaches to building regional cohesion around economic growth; and to Barcelona, Spain, to focus on neighborhood-scale revitalization around the 22@Barcelona project.

Peer Learning & Project Planning Workshop (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania)

In April 2012, GMF brought participants from the first two years of programming together to plan for how the project’s third year — focused on workforce development — would be used strategically to round out project teams in each city, and would be able to collaborate on identifying opportunities for policy transfer.

Year Three (2013): The Educonomy Alignment

In 2012-13, the Cities in Transition initiative focused on exploring the importance of talent in urban and regional economic development systems. The third year of the project explored how cities and regions are developing strategic links between their economic development goals and education, workforce, and skill development policies.

The Educonomy Alignment Study Tour (Bonn, Dortmund, and Stuttgart, Germany)

In November 2012, GMF led a delegation from the five U.S. cities on a trip to Bonn, Dortmund, and Stuttgart, Germany to explore how the cities of Dortmund and Stuttgart are working toward the “Educonomy” alignment. The meetings and site visits focused on exploring the themes of coordinated planning and strategic partnerships, dynamic systems, career pathways, and learning by doing in more depth.

Connecting the Dots: Concluding Workshop

In May 2013, GMF hosted a concluding workshop for all three years of participants. During two days of intensive meetings, the participants discussed the overarching policy lessons from each year of the initiative; follow-up projects that were created as a result of participant experiences, including peer to peer review sessions; and what comes next for the Initiative.

Year Four (2014): Equitable and Inclusive Urban Regeneration

At the Connecting the Dots: Concluding Workshop, participants resoundingly asked for extended programming that focused on a holistic approach to equitable urban regeneration. In response, GMF was able to secure an additional year of funding for the CIT Initiative. The final year focused on exploring the integration of people, place, and economy through the lenses of equity and inclusion, and sought to answer the question: how can a city manage the impacts of demographic change while ensuring that urban regeneration strategies promote inclusion and social cohesion?

Unique to this year, GMF extended the invitation to participate to our broader urban network, as well as the Marshall Memorial Fellows in both Detroit and Cleveland.

City Scoping Workshops (Cleveland and Youngstown, Ohio; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Detroit and Flint, Michigan)

To launch the final year of programming for the CIT initiative, GMF hosted a scoping workshop in each of the five cities. The scoping workshops provided GMF an opportunity to convene the network to identify opportunities for GMF to support network members’ ongoing efforts, to discuss and identify participant goals, and to set a benchmark definition of equity.

Equity and Inclusion in Urban Regeneration: A Case Study of Hamburg, Germany (Hamburg, Germany)

In October 2014, GMF led a delegation of network members to Hamburg, Germany, to explore a much-needed transatlantic dialogue on the interplay between demographic change and urban regeneration, which focused on Hamburg’s policies, programs, and physical development sites that combine social inclusion and cohesion within regeneration efforts. Read more about this study tour here