Skip to Content

Meeting 007 – Jim Kostaras, Institute for International Urban Development

At our seventh quarterly meeting on March 13, 2015, BSA Global was pleased to host Jim Kostaras, AIA, AICP, Senior Fellow at the Institute for International Urban Development (I2UD) in Cambridge. I2UD is a non-profit organization that was originally a center with the Harvard Graduate School of Design. It relaunched as an independent institute about 10 years ago and seeks to address the problems presented by rapid urbanization, poverty, and urban climate adaptation. Funded by the World Bank, the UN, Ford Foundation, and Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, I2UD provides cities with urban planning and management expertise and assistance; and it trains and builds capacity of city governments to plan strategically. Their ideal project will integrate both the technical and educational sides of I2UD's mission.

I2UD's portfoio includes:

  • Strategies for historic conservation and urban revitalization. Examples: Fez, Morocco; and Havana, Cuba
  • Housing and informal settlemens. Examples: Cairo, Egypt; various locations in Central America
  • Research and planning to make cities resilient against the impact of climate change. Examples: La Paz, Bolivia; and Cartagena, Columbia
  • Economic development planning. Example: Arusha, Tanzania
  • Capacitiy building and training local governmetns to prepare strategic development plans. Example: Belize
  • Post-conflict development and reconciliation through collaborative urban planning and development. Examples: the Balkans and Northern Ireland

Jim used Belize as a case study for delving more deeply into I2UD's process and as a springboard for discussion. Key concepts:

  • Don't force US methodologies, but also help open local eyes to the possibilities. For example, infill developmetn is a radical idea in the Belize context.
  • When training local governments on how to conduct a participatory planning process, start by asking very basic questions to build an analytical process.
  • Infrastructure is inextricably intertwined with questions of density and development standards, and infrastructure can be a catalyst for economic development. For example, providing a simple swale or culvert for storm water management can spur business development, making a location in the city attractive for business and commerce.
  • Transportation: development tends to follow the suburban model, which depends primarily on automobiles for transit; but the population cannot afford private automobiles. Fundamental cognitive dissonance. Roads must be constructed to support walking and bicycles in the absence of public transit.
  • Don't provide running water unless you can also provide a sanitary sewer system. Running water promotes growth, but development needs both sides of the system.
  • On the value of open space: it is not just leftover space but has value for the community and can be part of a climate resiliancy strategy. But, it needs to have a program; e.g., football (soccer) fields or grazing pastures.

We look forward to having Jim lead a future meeting to continue the discussion on these important and challenging topics.