Our Current Research Agenda
Our goal at ESI Center for the Future of Cities is to make cities and regions of all sizes and shapes more competitive, livable, and equitable. We recognized that coming out of the pandemic, there was a need for understanding the changes that cities were going through, the future forces that would affect our metropolitan regions, and the impact that new technologies and approaches would have on city residents, businesses, and governments.
Catalyst for Change: The Future of Cities
Helping cities become smarter, healthier, and more connected
As Econsult Solutions celebrates the one-year anniversary of ESI Center for the Future of Cities, we are thrilled to present a collection of our smart city-focused thought leadership and research. This portfolio connects the firm’s urban economics, policy, and strategy expertise and sits at the forefront of addressing the most challenging issues city leaders face today. The ESI team has produced ground-breaking research that has helped lay the foundation for building out a more just, sustainable, and prosperous future in four key focus areas: Livability, Mobility, Investment, and Government.
As we move forward, ESI Center for the Future of Cities will continue to build on those ideas and sit squarely at the intersection of public and private needs.
Reimagining What it Means to be a 'Smart City'
In the past two years, city leaders have been forced to rethink and refine what they mean when they think about being a smart city. A confluence of interconnected health, economic, social, political, financial, and technological challenges has meant that local governments have had to be more flexible and creative as they deliver services, protect their citizens, and invest in their economic futures.
The pandemic accelerated the need for adoption of smart technologies, not just for the biggest and most well off, but for medium-sized and smaller communities as well. Connectivity, not just between government agencies, but between the government and their citizens, has moved from a luxury to a necessity in rapid times. And that acceleration has helped to identify gaps that must be filled to meet new demand.
Building on ESI’s groundbreaking smart cities research through its prior thought leadership initiative, ESI Center for the Future of Cities is launching a research focus on how cities and communities of all sizes are reimagining what it means to be a “smart city”. To learn more about how you can be involved, connect with ESI Principal Steve Wray.
Reimagining Smart Cities Prospectus
Produced by ESI, this report is the first-ever economic impact study of the New York City's nightlife economy. ESI's analysis resulted in an estimate of the total economic direct impact and allowed us to identify trends by geography and subsector.
The Strategic Plan for Newark’s Connected City Future prioritizes opportunities as well as highlights best practices, and defines implementation steps to help Newark realize its full technological potential. The plan reflects the values of Newark and their alignment with Mayor Baraka’s strategic goals for the city. The strategic plan provided a business case for adapting connected cities strategies through smart technologies to help shape the future of Newark.
To succeed in the post-COVID world, urban leaders need access to evidence-based analysis showcasing the innovative technologies, solutions, and business models that will work best, particularly when the next disruption hits.
Ensuring Accessible Quality of Place
As we have moved from the COVID pandemic to the COVID endemic, we are realizing that getting back to what in 2019 we thought of as “normal” may never happen. Two years of work from home requirements may have fundamentally changed the future of work. In many cities, offices remain stuck somewhere between 40 and 50% occupancy rates, as combinations of COVID outbreaks and permanently changed work patterns have combined to reduce the physical presence of employees in now half-full (or less) offices. Professional service firms have struggled to find the right balance between the innovation and collaboration that comes from in-person meetings and encounters and the focus and efficiency that we learned was possible during the height of the pandemic.
Our changing work life has also made a difference in our out of work time experiences. There has been an increased emphasis on outdoors experiences, whether that is sidewalk cafes and patio seating for restaurants, to increased use and demand for trails, parks, and other outdoor amenities. New policies for investments in these and similar amenities are now required for communities looking to compete for and retain talent which can now work and live almost anywhere. Looking forward, we are seeking partners and collaborators interested in better understanding and documenting how a sense of livability is impacting the ability of cities to attract businesses and workers in this new reality that communities face. To do that, ESI Center for the Future of Cities has developed a research focus area in Accessible Quality of Place. Connect with ESI Principal Gina Lavery for more information on how to get involved.
Quality of Place Prospectus
This report provides a guide for decision makers in small to mid-sized communities on how to pay for green infrastructure. It covers green infrastructure definitions and benefits, the monetary value of benefits provided, available funding sources and financing techniques, and how to develop a funding and financing strategy for green infrastructure investment.
ESI quantified the benefit of residential growth on the Baltimore and Maryland economies, to determine whether that benefit represents a positive impact on existing residents, and to make the case for efforts that will foster population growth in the city. The report also examined growth from an economic equity lens and determined that it provides positive benefits to existing residents through local economic opportunity, funding for public services.
ESI translated open space and environmental protection investments into the commensurate impacts on the Mercer County and New Jersey economies. We estimated the ramifications of this composition of economic activity on annual and life-time benefits to tax revenues to the County and the State.
Fostering Inclusive Entrepreneurial Ecosystems
COVID was not the only factor that has disrupted and fundamentally changed cities over the past two and a half years. Civil unrest in cities has created a new urgency for addressing centuries-old patterns of racial discrimination, segregation, and economic inequity. Business and governmental leaders have pledged to create new vehicles for investment in cities, and to develop partners and intermediaries to build new models for minority business development and growth. But unlocking that value proposition takes hard and intentional work. For innovation cannot happen when entire groups are systematically excluded from making contributions and reaping the benefits based on race, ethnicity, sex, or income level. Unfortunately, there remains far too much disparity in access, resources, and opportunity in cities across the country, the legacy of historical injustices whose systemic influences carry into the present.
Building on ESI’s work with economic development organizations, universities and hospitals, and local governments, ESI has built a research agenda focused on better understanding inclusive environmental ecosystems that help promote jobs and investment in new and exciting ways. Connect with ESI Principal Lee Huang to learn how you can get involved.
Inclusive Ecosystems Prospectus
ESI analyzed a broad range of indicators to measure how accessible Philadelphia contracting opportunities are to women- and minority-owned businesses in the City. The Availability Study supplements the Annual Disparity Study that the City of Philadelphia has concurrently produced, which compares the availability of minority- and woman-owned businesses to do business with the City against the City’s actual utilization of such businesses.
ESI provided an independent assessment of the future workforce and talent needs of the cell and gene therapy and connected health sectors. Primary research was also conducted through surveys, interviews, and focus groups consisting of professionals with knowledge of the sectors, including academic researchers, industry and human resources experts, and workforce development organizations.
ESI conducted a market analysis for three Wilmington, Delaware area not-for-profit organizations. ESI interviewed numerous local merchants and small business advocacy organizations, marshaled demographic, economic, and bank data, and developed an interactive map of business locations.
As you can see, we are excited about the future of cities, and see real opportunity for employing ESI’s unique combination of urban economic analysis and thought leadership to these challenges and more. If you are interested in any of these topics please contact us today to learn how you can join these in-depth research programs.