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VOL. 132 | NO. 68 | Wednesday, April 5, 2017

NYC Parks Commissioner Joins RegionSmart

By Patrick Lantrip

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The second installment of the RegionSmart Summit speaker series features the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation Commissioner Mitchell J. Silver, an internationally recognized, award-winning planner with over 30 years of experience.

At the event, which will be held April 27 at the Halloran Centre for Performing Arts & Education, Silver will speak on the importance of regional planning.


“For a region like Memphis, you can’t compete alone – you have to compete as a region,” Silver said. “Wherever I have worked or practiced it’s been a challenge because people will talk about regional planning, but it’s very difficult to execute.”

Prior to being named parks commissioner by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, Silver served as chief planning and development officer and planning director for Raleigh, North Carolina.

While serving as Raleigh’s planning director, Silver initiated a comprehensive plan update process and rewrote the development code to create a vibrant 21st century city, which garnered the attention of respected national and international publications, including Time magazine, The New York Times and The Guardian.

Silver says very few areas execute regional planning well, and fortunately for him, Raleigh was one of them. He also cited Minneapolis/St. Paul and the Bay Area in California as two other examples of areas with great regional planning.

At RegionSmart, Silver will talk about emerging issues that all municipalities in the Greater Memphis area need to be aware of, particularly the implications of the region’s changing demographics and economic competitiveness and why it’s important to compete as a region.

Silver will also discuss Memphis’ role within its larger “megaregion” and what the city and surrounding areas can do to establish an identity as a vibrant sub-region within in that market.

“The reason why I talk about megaregions is that those regions are really the driver of our national economy, and you want to make sure as a region, you position yourself quite well on what your identity is as a sub-region within your megaregion,” Silver said.

According to Silver, the Memphis Metro is located nearest to the Piedmont Atlantic Megaregion, which is anchored by Atlanta, Georgia, and Charlotte, North Carolina.

Silver said in terms of the economy, megaregions vary tremendously, but what ties them together is the businesses that cross pollinate between the metros due to their proximity.

He said the megaregion concept was created by the Regional Plan Association’s national infrastructure planning and policy program, America 2050. Eleven megaregions were identified by America 2050, with the Great Lakes, Gulf Coast and Texas Triangle Megaregions bordering our own Piedmont Atlantic.

In addition to his city planning roles in New York and Carolina, Silver has taught graduate planning courses at Harvard University, Hunter College, Brooklyn College, Pratt Institute and North Carolina State University, and has even been named one of the top 100 City Innovators in the world by Urban Times.

At the summit he will be joined by a plethora of other urban experts, including Peter Kageyama, Ellen Dunham-Jones and Paulo Nunes-Ueno.

More information on the RegionSmart Summit can be found at http://www.regionsmart.org.

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