Harvard Recognizes White House Strong Cities, Strong Communities Initiative as a “Bright Idea”


In February 2015, the Strong Cities, Strong Communities (SC2) initiative, which includes the National Resource Network (the Network), was selected as a finalist by Harvard University’s Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation for its annual Innovations in American Government Award. SC2 also received a “Bright Idea” designation and joined the Ash Center’s Government Innovator’s Network. HR&A is proud to have helped design and implement the National Resource Network with its consortium partners, Enterprise Community Partners, Public Financial Management, International City/County Management Association (ICMA), and the NYU Wagner School.


The National Resource Network is a key component of the SC2 Initiative, which was launched in 2011 as a partnership between the federal government and mayors of distressed cities around the nation that have faced long term economic challenges. The Network was developed as a responsive and flexible vehicle to deliver high quality professional technical assistance to cities that need it most. With over 270 eligible cities around the United States, the National Resource Network has begun providing targeted assistance from coast-to-coast. The goals of Network projects are to create long-lasting economic improvements through implementation-focused projects covering a wide range of economic development challenges.


In HUD’s recent press release for the SC2 Initiative’s nomination, Secretary Castro highlighted the importance of developing new programs to empower local communities to build success.


“We’re living in a Century of Cities, a time when people around the world—including here in the United States— are urbanizing at a breathtaking pace,” said HUD Secretary Julián Castro. “The SC2 initiative is empowering local leaders with new tools to maximize federal investments, spark economic activity and expand opportunity for their residents. I congratulate the SC2 team, and all of its partners, for being selected as a finalist. I’m confident that this effort will continue to help build cities poised for future success.”


As part of the National Resource Network, HR&A is leading engagements in Meridian, MS and Kansas City, KS. Both cities are focused on revitalizing their downtowns. HR&A is working closely with the Unified Government of Wyandotte County in Kansas City to create a new Healthy Campus, anchored by a grocery store and new community center. This development is part of a larger effort to improve the health of residents. Building from the initial work completed by the City, community, and Gould Evans, a local planning firm, HR&A helping translate the vision for a Healthy Campus articulated in a plan into reality.


In Meridian, HR&A partnered with Perkins+Will, an international planning firm, to create a strategic redevelopment plan for the creation of a Health District adjacent to Downtown Meridian. The goal of the work is to provide a strategy for growing the local medical cluster, attract private investment to the area, create new jobs for city residents, and support the continued revitalization of Meridian’s city center. Under the National Resource Network’s “311 Assistance” program, HR&A is also working with the City of Lancaster, CA and the Antelope Valley Healthcare District to assess the merits of a medical and wellness district in that city, and strategies for procuring needed professional services to implement it.