This week, we are making history.
Between Nov. 6 and Nov. 10, 50 brilliant rising leaders from cities across the globe will converge in Newcastle, Australia, to learn what happens when the people of a city come together with regional government to imagine new ways to thrive and compete in the global economy.
The Next City Vanguard conference is an experiential leadership program that brings together inspiring young urban change-makers and this week, we are holding our first Vanguard Australia program. It will be the first Next City conference held outside of North America, hosted by a local committee that includes representatives of the New South Wales government, Newcastle City Council, the University of Newcastle, Hunter Development Corporation, and Transport for New South Wales.
Newcastle Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes is another one of our generous hosts. She uses three adjectives to describe her city’s future: smart, livable and sustainable.
It’s a new mantra for a historic industrial center long known as Coal City and then Steel City, for the massive steelworks that served as its main economic driver until the plant closed 18 years ago. Still today, Newcastle exports more coal than any other city in the world. But like cities such as Pittsburgh, Richmond, Cleveland and so many others, Newcastle’s leaders have recognized that the city must diversify its industries and foster a cleaner and more equitable economy. Industries such as healthcare, retail, construction and hospitality are growing, replacing some of the jobs lost as traditional industries such as mining and manufacturing employ fewer people locally. Artists and entrepreneurs are rehabbing old warehouses and bringing life back to abandoned sections of the city.
It seems fitting somehow to gather urban leaders here in a city that knows so well the toll of fossil fuels in the same week that world leaders are convening in Bonn at a United Nations conference on climate change. The theme of the Vanguard Australia conference — sustainable, equitable and accountable reinvention — is at the heart of Next City’s mission to inspire better cities — and at the center of the global conversation about reversing destructive patterns.
At Next City, we always strive to ensure that our conferences lead to impact. With that in mind, this Vanguard conference will culminate in Newcastle’s first Big Idea Challenge. A public design competition to be held on Thursday evening, the Big Idea Challenge will be an opportunity for our Vanguards to compete to provide Newcastle with visionary adaptive reuse concepts for two dormant architecturally and culturally significant historic landmarks in the city center: the old Newcastle post office and the old Newcastle rail station.
As Novocastrians know, these two beautiful buildings hold the potential to be incredible destinations within a thriving city center. We are honored by the opportunity to participate in these historic revitalization projects and want to hear from you about what you see for the future of these places. Please connect with us on Twitter and Facebook and look for the hashtag #VanguardOz to follow our trip.
Tom was president, CEO and publisher of Next City from May 2015 until April 2018. Before joining Next City, he directed the Center for Resilient Design at the College of Architecture and Design at the New Jersey Institute of Technology. Prior to that, he ran the Regional Plan Association’s New Jersey office, and served as a senior adviser on land use for two New Jersey governors. Tom is a licensed professional planner, and a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners, as well as an adjunct professor at the New Jersey Institute of Technology, where he teaches land use planning and infrastructure planning.