communities where economic activity is beginning to aggregate in innovation clusters.”
This symposium is considering how we can create successful innovation clusters in more places, she said. “You cannot tell the story of the nation's strongest innovation clusters without recognizing the role that federal policy and federal funding played in making these clusters possible. You have to remember that every year since World War II, Boston and Silicon Valley have had hundreds of millions of current-year dollars poured into their research universities. After 65 years, it would be shocking if those places were not centers of innovation. All the other regions trying to innovate are trying to accelerate the process so it doesn’t take them all 65 years.”
In the same way, she said, “you cannot tell the story of the nation’s economically distressed communities without recognizing the role that federal policy and federal funding played in making this economic distress inevitable.” She said that it was important to talk about these two issues “in the same breath.” An innovation cluster cannot be considered apart from where it is situated in its community. A cluster can indeed lift all boats, she said, but they cannot be successful if they are isolated.
The Urban Renewal Movement
She said that the urban renewal movement, which began just after World War II, was partly responsible for the shape of many urban communities today.1 A popular idea was that cities were declining because buildings were aging and street grid patterns were out of date. One solution proposed was to make the cities more attractive by removing aging housing stock and replacing it with malls, parking lots, and other modern structures. At that time, she said, the well-meaning foundations in Pittsburgh were “doing what you would hope foundations would do—taking the lead.” Richard King Mellon, head of the largest foundation in Pittsburgh, was involved, as was Mayor David Lawrence and the Allegheny Conference on Community Development.
“The foundations started very proudly,” she said, “grabbing this issue of urban renewal before anyone else in the country. We took our smoky city and turned the area where the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers come together into the Golden Triangle, a major success story. Because of this success, we felt we could do other things. So across the river, in Allegheny City, which is now called the North Side of Pittsburgh, hundreds of city blocks were bulldozed, including what were a beautiful park and vibrant weekend market. In their place is an empty
1For an examination of urban renewal, see: Mindy Thompson Fullilove, Root Shock: How Tearing Up City Neighborhoods Hurts America, and What We Can Do About It, New York: Ballantine Books, 2005.