When Next American City first published its magazine in 2003, it was ahead of its time. Our non-profit organization had been formed in an era when sprawl, car use and obesity were reaching their peak, and few people were talking about how cities could drive the U.S. economy. The country was still reeling after September 11, at war in Afghanistan and entering the Iraq War. The dot com bubble had burst and Web 2.0 had not yet found its footing (there were no iPhones or Facebook). A small cadre of academics like Saskia Sassen and Richard Florida, and organizations like the Brookings Institution and Smart Growth America, were urging regular people and politicians alike to recognize all the innovation and sustainability that cities have to offer, but their voices rarely reached a mainstream audience.
Nearly a decade after Next American City was founded, there has been a fundamental paradigm shift (and we take some pride in helping make that happen). Cities are now widely recognized as the sources of cultural innovation and economic growth. Meanwhile economic, social and environmental realities have caused the suburbs to become decreasingly desirable. Many now think that exurban growth has halted and we have moved beyond peak car use.
As a result of this shift, media have caught on. Now major publishers like The Atlantic Monthly and CNET have started websites focused on urban issues, while a host of blogs and independent urban affairs sites have proliferated, all in an effort to feed the growing interest in understanding and improving our urban communities. And multinational corporations like IBM and GE have found out that there’s a multi-billion dollar industry in making cities more efficient.
To match this shift in thinking, Next American City decided to launch a new weekly series of long-form articles about cities around the world. Forefront will allow us to reach a much bigger audience than did our print magazine, give us more time to focus our energy on creating great content and also produce international reporting. In the coming weeks, you will be treated to in-depth material that investigates topics of transportation, economic development, housing, governance, culture and more — all you need to do is subscribe to be in constant dialogue with these issues, our writers and other readers like you. We don’t think you’ll be able to find this kind of quality content, with a focus on urban affairs and information you need to know, anywhere else.
A decade after we stood out as pioneers of the latest urban renewal effort, we think we’re ahead of our time again. While we have gotten some letters from subscribers bemoaning the end of the print magazine (we’re sad about it too!), we think that a decade from now most of our reading will be done on electronic devices. We want to get a head-start on that trend so that we’ll be equipped to take full advantage of technological changes.
We also have changed our website, americancity.org, to take advantage of all the local urban affairs reporting happening in places as diverse as New Haven and New Orleans, Minneapolis and Miami, Seattle and St. Louis. The content we curate from our partners is just the beginning of what we hope will be a series of editorial collaborations and a widening national network built on the strength of local support.
We are eager to hear your feedback. We’ve changed our commenting system to make it easier for people to comment. While we love hearing from you on Facebook and Twitter, it’s also great to have comments on this site — those are the comments that people will still be able to read a decade from now when we will surely be adapting to yet another series of shifts in the policy and media landscapes.