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Cities to watch in 2015


The Nickel Tour: Though 2015 promises much change for cities around the world, these six are set to see the most profound transformations.

We expect 2015 to bring a lot of great things for cities and the people that live in them.

But there are some metropolitan areas that stand out among the rest. Here are the areas we’re looking forward to watching in 2015.

Boston, Massachusetts

At the moment, Boston seems to be leading the pack for those gunning to host the 2024 Summer Olympics, a bid that would send the city into a frenzy of infrastructure projects (many of them with innovation in mind).

The greater Boston area is set to boom, too, writes Business Insider: “Tens of thousands of 25- to 34-year-olds, especially from Cambridge’s Harvard and MIT, as well as the 100-plus colleges in nearby Boston, are drawn to Cambridge for the growing biotech industry.”

The area could also lead the way for how cities adapt to a growing population. New York University’s Rudin Center for Transportation Policy and Management sketched out a future Beantown. What it found: Self-driving bikes and cars to ease traffic and smaller apartments (think around 160 square feet) to fit more people, BI reports.

Raleigh, North Carolina

Raleigh got some buzz earlier this year when it was named the country’s top city for young families.

Forbes says North Carolina’s capital also has the country’s best business climate. And the city was the only American metropolis on Transferwise’s 2015 list for its role in the “North Carolina Research Triangle, one of the most prominent U.S. research parks pioneering in IT and biotechnology.”

The region (known as Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill) is anchored by cutting-edge research institutions from surrounding universities, growing high-tech companies like Bandwith and Yealink as well as Fortune 100 companies IBM, Cisco, Sony Ericsson and many more.

Austin, Texas

The Milken Institute has released updated rankings of America’s “best-performing” cities, “where job growth in emerging sectors–tech, biosciences, digital media, and shale gas–is high.  These cities are booming with new construction, new residents, and economic success.”

According to Milken, the area has added some 200,000 jobs in the past eight years. And it also has the 13th-highest concentration of tech GDP, making it ripe to become a bed of innovation.

Boulder, Colorado

Boulder’s population of 100,000 may be modest when compared with the 4 million residents who call Silicon Valley home, but in terms of activity per capita, Boulder is becoming a formidable force. USA Today lists Boulder among the top 10 cities for technology start-ups, thanks to its creation of incubators like TechStars and investors like Foundry Group. According to TechStars co-founder Brad Feld, Boulder amassed its 166 start-ups through its “‘give before you get mentality,” which encourages “a powerful long-term dynamic.”

Detroit, Michigan

Yes, Detroit. It’d be accurate to say we like underdogs. But we have good reasons.

Sure, the city spent 16 months in bankruptcy, a relatively short stint given the size of Detroit, and the scope of their financial woes (especially relative to other cities that have faced bankruptcy in recent years).

But it recently put a plan in motion to clear approximately three quarters of the city’s overall debt. It’s reviving its arts scene, too, not only by taking its museum out of city control and putting it into a charitable trust, but also by turning empty alleyways into galleries and live performance spaces. 

The “motor city” is also becoming a hub for, of all things, bicycle manufacturing, an industry that, believe it or not, is largely outsourced to other countries. Seven such companies have popped up in Detroit in the past year, Forbes reports. One of them hopes to make 50,000 bikes a year alone.

Seattle, Washington

The home of Amazon and Boeing recently saw a 2.8 percent population increase, making it the fastest growing major city in the U.S. — “a sign of a healthy economy drawing talent and the ‘back-to-the-city’ movement,” says The Seattle Times. 

The city’s real estate market is set to be one of the hottest in the country in 2015. Almost 13,000 new apartments are coming to the area in 2015, Curbed reports, a housing jigsaw puzzle you’ll want to watch.

But the reasons to keep an eye on the Emerald City aren’t all great. Rents were up 8 percent in Q4 of the year, about four times the rate of inflation, according to Curbed.

Then there’s the Alaskan Way Viaduct, which props up State Highway 99 as it winds along the city’s waterfront. It is, as Grist describes it, a giant fustercluck.

[First],to get from the downtown core to the adjacent waterfront, pedestrians have to walk through a gloomy, shaded area beneath the highway, which, because it’s gloomy and shaded, has been given over to parking lots, a waste of precious urban land. This has left the waterfront isolated, a tourist destination rather than an integrated part of city life.

Second, the highway is on the verge of falling down. In 2001, the Nisqually earthquake damaged it, leading to $14.5 million in emergency repairs. Since then, the viaduct has been “settling,” i.e., sinking and cracking.

Officials vowed to shut the thing down. But, here we are in 2014, and it’s still up. A renovation project began in 2011, but was halted recently when a machine … got stuck. Yes, embarrassing. Already, the pavement has sunk an inch. Can Seattle dig itself out (literally)? We’ll find out.

Alicia Liu and Njaimeh Njie reported for this story. 

Image courtesy of Michael Kafka.

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17 Responses to Cities to watch in 2015

  1. Steve English January 5, 2015 at 7:39 pm #

    Or, you could leave the city, and go the country, or, just leave the country; but, whatever you do, take your heart, and your soul, and your passion, and your sacred activism, with you!

  2. Chris J Gadsden January 5, 2015 at 7:52 pm #

    More globalist nonsense. I want my kids to be free to roam green grass and ride their bikes, not live in some 600 sq ft chicken coop.

  3. Chris J Gadsden January 5, 2015 at 7:52 pm #

    More globalist nonsense. I want my kids to be free to roam green grass and ride their bikes, not live in some 600 sq ft chicken coop.

  4. Jon Spangler January 5, 2015 at 7:53 pm #

    What? No mention of San Francisco, Oakland, or San Jose, California? These three Bay Area cities–as well as the region as a whole–are working on a number of creative approaches to urban revitalization, alternative transportation (complete streets/universal and routine accommodation of bikes, transit, and pedestrians), housing, energy, and other issues, including economic justice and revitalization.

  5. Justin Kohl January 5, 2015 at 8:00 pm #

    Why no mention of Cincinnati ever? It has been one of the hottest cities for a few years now and we've received tons of national recognition lately. Yet Urbanful continues to leave them out of everything… Detroit? Really?

  6. Justin Kohl January 5, 2015 at 8:01 pm #

    I love my 689 sq. ft. "Chicken coop" in the city. Wouldn't trade it for anything.

  7. Chris J Gadsden January 5, 2015 at 8:03 pm #

    Justin Kohl If you are alone, you might. But if you have three kids…. sorry. You'd go nuts.

  8. Steve Procaccini January 5, 2015 at 8:53 pm #

    The byline said "7 Cities…"; i only see 6 listed. Did i miss something?

  9. Debra Gunow Osuch January 5, 2015 at 9:10 pm #

    The subject header in my email was "The 7 American cities to watch in 2015." I only count 6. What's the 7th?

  10. Urbanful January 5, 2015 at 9:27 pm #

    We'd love to say we did it to make sure you were paying attention, but unfortunately it was just a typo. Thanks for keeping us on point!

  11. Urbanful January 5, 2015 at 9:29 pm #

    An unfortunate typo on our first Monday back in the office. Thank you for your keen eyes!

  12. Robin Rather January 6, 2015 at 3:43 am #

    Erica- I live in Austin and appreciate your comments re job creation but there is way more going on here – good and bad- than ** just ** innovation. And Nashville is a smokin' hot city that should be your # 7!!!!

  13. Michael Knight January 6, 2015 at 8:39 pm #

    Raleigh rocks!

  14. Tod Leonhardt January 7, 2015 at 1:34 pm #

    Raleighwood!!!! Way to go Raleigh!

  15. Erik Landfried January 7, 2015 at 7:14 pm #

    Then you should be rooting for dense, liveable cities. Otherwise, your green grass turns into strip malls.

  16. Sharon Lynch January 14, 2015 at 5:06 pm #

    Yeah Detroit!! Hope this means I can come home!

  17. Maximillian Mahalek January 23, 2015 at 6:56 pm #

    Technically, Boeing's corporate headquarters is in Chicago, not Seattle. Also, although the city has lost overall population (mainly from the south side), downtown Chicago is the fastest growing in the country, and its going through both a tourism/hotel and tech boom at the moment.


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