What lies in the future of small urban communities? “The Future of Small Cities” aims to be our crystal ball.

Small cities (see: Albany, Schenectady, Troy, Cohoes, Saratoga Springs) make up 20 percent of where all Americans live and are often considered the laboratories for making government and communities work smarter and more efficiently. 

It is with this premise that Aurelius Coworks, a Capital Region-based coworking company, has launched “The Future of Small Cities,” a program initiative that will “(explore) issues of cities, design and climate change featuring nationally-recognized experts.”

Aurelius Coworks is the company behind the Troy Innovation Garage (Troy) and the Bull Moose Club (Albany). Aurelius has plans to expand beyond the Capital Region into New England, with preparations for a coworking location in Providence, R.I. sometime in 2020.

According to their website, Aurelius is “particularly interested in building communities in middle markets and urban downtowns undergoing revitalization.” They aim to for places that embrace startup culture, are committed to supporting the needs of entrepreneurs, and have emerging business sectors.

The “Future of Small Cities” initiative, conceptualized by Aurelius founder Tom Nardacci, will run from Sept. 19, 2019 to April 20, 2020.

“I believe deeply that the success of our nation is directly tied to the success of Main Street in small cities whose fortunes are once again on the rise,” said Nardacci. “A variety of global issues — not just national ones — pose a juxtaposition of threats and opportunities for small cities. This conversation is long overdue and worth having in a way that shares knowledge and resources with the hundreds of cities looking to make the moves that will ensure their long-term sustainability.”

The season is being hosted by Reif Larsen, the 2019–2020 Writer-in-Residence at Troy Innovation Garage. He is the author of several bestselling novels, including The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet, and has written for the New York Times, GQ and other publications about urbanism and cities.

“Troy and the Capital Region is in the midst of a series exciting changes and now is the time to define what kind of direction we want our cities to evolve in, particularly when it comes to confronting climate change,” said Larsen. “One of the great things about living in a small city is that there is room to affect this kind of change. There is room to try things out, freedom to take risks and dream big. The future of the country will be in the health of its small cities.”

For the 2019–2020 season, titled Garage Talks, the ambitious programming will focus on myriad issues, from waterfront redevelopment and use, to public transportation, to the role of public art in communities. Each installment of the multi-month series will feature not only a presentation from a visiting expert, but also include a panel of local leaders and thinkers from the Capital Region that will respond to the visiting speaker’s case study and engage the audience.

Larsen says the goal of Garage Talks is to break down silos of provincial thinking, to embrace the idiosyncrasies of the region, and to draw out connections, lessons and best practices from across the world.

Garage Talks will also include an accompanying series of masterclasses for a small group of regional thinkers and doers to deepen the conversation and lead to policy suggestions and regional goals. Moving the region forward in a meaningful and achievable way is as important priority for the series, as is sparking thoughtful dialogue. For eligibility information for masterclasses, visit futureofsmallcities.com.

All Garage Talks discussions will be open to the public. Speakers, topics and dates are as follows:

High Water Marks: Redeveloping the Urban Waterfront (September 19, 2019Ray Gastil, Director of the Remaking Cities Institute at Carnegie Melon University Pittsburgh, PA

A City for All: Redefining Gentrification (November 7, 2019) Sabiyha Prince, Assistant Professor of Interdisciplinary Studies at Coppin State University, Artist, Activist Washington, D.C.

The Greenest City: Climate Change as Opportunity (January 21, 2020) Oscar Edmundo Díaz, Special Advisor to Mayor, Bogotá, Colombia, expert in bus rapid transit systems Bogotá, Colombia

A Living Capital: Cultivating Community in Downtown Albany (March 12, 2020) Dan Douglas, Director of Urban Design, Benchmark Planning Raleigh, NC *Discussion to be held at Bull Moose Club in Albany

The Artist is the City: Public Art and Urban Identity (April 20, 2020) Jared Hueter, Passageways Co-curator Chattanooga, TN; Molly Hunker and Greg Corso, Designers, Cofounders of Sports Collaborative, Syracuse, NY

The season of events is underwritten by Aurelius Coworks and the company’s owner Tom Nardacci, with additional support from Capital District Transportation Authority (CDTA), National Grid, United Way of the Greater Capital Region, and Cresa Albany, to name a few early supporters.

CivMix is a media sponsor of “The Future of Small Cities.”



1 Comment

  1. Colleen Ryan

    We have so much to work with here. I hope this series fosters the kind of visionary thinking we need to help our communities live up to their potential!


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