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Archive: Nicholas You

Medellín Shows the Power of Innovation and Inclusion

Nicholas You / May 23 2013

For Release Thursday, May 9, 2013
Citiwire.net

(Editor’s note: This column was originally published May 9).
Plenty of people who knew of Medellín only through its reputation for drug wars were likely surprised when the Colombian city won City of the Year earlier this year, from the Wall Street Journal and Citi, besting New York and Tel Aviv in online voting run by the Urban Land Institute. In this piece, Citistates Associate Nicholas You recounts the decade-long work by a series of innovative mayors to improve not only the physical environment but to inspire social inclusion among the city’s poorest neighborhoods. – Mary Newsom

Nicholas YouMy first visit to Medellín, Colombia, was in 1995, just a little more than a year after the demise of Pablo Escobar, the renowned drug lord who ran the Medellín Cartel. The internecine warfare sparked by his death brought the city to its knees through relentless violence and crime. By 1999, my second visit, no one ventured out after dark.

Yet it was during this time that the first phase of the Medellín Metro rail system was launched – Colombia’s first mass transit system. Its two lines connected downtown with middle class suburbs and a few lower-income neighborhoods. Today it provides efficient and reliable service for more than half a million commuters daily. The metro also inspired a series of urban rehabilitation projects that began to transform the city center into a more urbane space. Rundown warehouse areas were converted into attractive pedestrian malls for stores, restaurants and cafes.

Even so, the city – second largest in Colombia – continued to suffer the ravages of its narco-trafficking past. Violent crime and social exclusion characterized the city, and to this day its income inequity remains among the most extreme of any city in the Western hemisphere.
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Medellín Shows the Power of Innovation and Inclusion

Nicholas You / May 09 2013

For Release Thursday, May 9, 2013
Citiwire.net

Plenty of people who knew of Medellín only through its reputation for drug wars were likely surprised when the Colombian city won City of the Year earlier this year, from the Wall Street Journal and Citi, besting New York and Tel Aviv in online voting run by the Urban Land Institute. In this piece, Citistates Associate Nicholas You recounts the decade-long work by a series of innovative mayors to improve not only the physical environment but to inspire social inclusion among the city’s poorest neighborhoods. – Mary Newsom

Nicholas YouMy first visit to Medellín, Colombia, was in 1995, just a little more than a year after the demise of Pablo Escobar, the renowned drug lord who ran the Medellín Cartel. The internecine warfare sparked by his death brought the city to its knees through relentless violence and crime. By 1999, my second visit, no one ventured out after dark.

Yet it was during this time that the first phase of the Medellín Metro rail system was launched – Colombia’s first mass transit system. Its two lines connected downtown with middle class suburbs and a few lower-income neighborhoods. Today it provides efficient and reliable service for more than half a million commuters daily. The metro also inspired a series of urban rehabilitation projects that began to transform the city center into a more urbane space. Rundown warehouse areas were converted into attractive pedestrian malls for stores, restaurants and cafes.
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An Inside Take On the Guangzhou Awards For Urban Innovation

Nicholas You / Jan 10 2013

For Release Sunday, January 13, 2013
Citiwire.net / Citiscope.org

Nicholas YouEditor’s Note: For decades, Citistates Associate Nicholas You, in positions with the United Nations and beyond, has been a leader in seeking to identify, publicize and spread the best learning and experiences of world cities to companion city regions around the globe. I first wrote about his work following the Habitat II conference in Istanbul in 1996. You has also been key in inspiring our Citiscope project to commission journalists’ articles about innovations in their cities across the globe.

It was no surprise that Nicholas became a key adviser to the first Guangzhou International Award for Urban Innovation, serving on the technical assessment committee and jury for the process last fall. He has kindly provided a summary report on the process, as well as brief summaries of 45 of the most impressive entries. His message below describes the background and scope of the Guangzhou process. The summaries of the 45 may be reached by clicking this link. – Neal Peirce

Nicholas You’s Report: Like many other major metropolises, Guangzhou, China, population of more than 14 million, is striving to become a more livable and sustainable city. As early as 2002 it was recognized by the Dubai International Award for Best Practices for enhancing its urban road transport network. Car ownership and usage rates rapidly overtook the system, and by 2007 the city was again suffering hideous traffic congestion. Ready to learn from others, the mayor of Guangzhou, having seen for himself the benefits of Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) in São Paolo, Brazil, decided to implement what is today one of the world’s most impressive BRT systems, providing affordable, timely and effective transport to some 800,000 commuters a day.
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