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Oklahomans Study Innovative Urban Development and Placemaking as Economic Development Strategies in Three Cities in Germany

OKLAHOMA CITY (June 18, 2019)— Two Oklahomans representing the nonprofit organization Creative Oklahoma traveled to three cities in Germany to study their significant successes in developing diverse and robust economies through improving community livability via urban place-making, investing in community-accessible high performance computing and strategically nurturing ecosystems that support growth in a wide variety of creative-based industries.

Rep. Meloyde Blancett, interim Executive Director of Creative Oklahoma, and Jane Jenkins, President and CEO of Downtown OKC, served as the Oklahoma ambassadors on this entrepreneurial study mission which was organized through the International Districts of Creativity Network (DC Network), based in Flanders, Belgium. The non-profit Creative Oklahoma is a long-standing member of the network, and is the only state or region in North America that is a member. The three cities visited were Stuttgart, Mannheim and Heilbronn.

“From small scale experiments to large urbanization projects, this Reverse Mission has shown the impact innovative solutions and creative industries can have on urban place-making throughout a range of impressive projects,” said Jenkins. “I came away with a lot of ideas we can use here.”

Blancett and Jenkins said among the initiatives studied in Mannheim was an innovative urban development project, a decommissioned military base the city was transforming into a 350-acre planned community development, called Franklin Village. The base was the region’s largest U.S. military base housing up to 15,000 residents. Through extensive ongoing community collaboration, the property and its buildings are being redeveloped into a sustainable mixed-use urban district for about 9,000 residents.

Reverse Mission participants talking to developers of Franklin Village, a 400-acre development project undertaken by the German city of Mannheim. The Village was a large decommissioned US military base that housed more than 15,000 residents at its peak.

They also heard the director of the Mannheim Culture Commission discuss the economic value of investing in efforts that fostered a robust film and music industry which helped it obtain the global designation as a UNESCO Music City.

In Stuttgart, they visited the government-funded HLRS High Performance Computing Center that provides scientists, businesses and researchers access to state-of-the-art supercomputing power, i.e. for fields like animation rendering used in the global film industry and the analysis of big data for businesses and researchers. Included in the presentation was an exclusive look behind the scenes at the work of the Stuttgart-born firm Pixomondo, a world famous animation company responsible for all the animation for the popular television series Game Of Thrones.

Finally, the group visited Heilbronn, once a city known for its stagnant growth and little culture, but through strategic federal and city investment, has changed that reputation which has driven a 35% growth in jobs since 2000. The group toured the most recent investment, the Federal Garden Show that first opened its doors for visitors in April. On 100 acres of downtown area and along the river Neckar, the unusual garden and city exhibition transformed a once derelict industrial area to extraordinary gardens with highlights from art, music, dance and sports as well as public programming on topics around garden, health, city and mobility.

“The trip was very inspirational and provided us with new business relationships, collaborative project possibilities, and ideas for Oklahoma’s own urban development and high technology solutions,” said Blancett. “What’s so valuable in making these connections is that the cities we visited aren’t the world’s powerhouse cities like Paris or London; they are more like Oklahoma in terms of size and challenges, so their innovative solutions are extremely applicable to us. We can learn a great deal from them.”

Aside from Oklahoma, the German study mission included 35 representatives from Baden-Wurttemberg, Germany; Flanders, Belgium; Scotland; North-Brabant, Netherlands; Central Denmark; Tampere, Finland; Karnataka, India; Shanghai; and Catalonia.


About International Districts of Creativity Network (DC Network)
Founded in 2004, the Districts of Creativity (DC) Network unites regions around the world to share and develop practices on stimulating creativity in society to foster innovation and prosperity. Our international orientation makes us a unique network of regions that put creativity and innovation high on the agenda. From the USA to China and Scotland to India, the Districts of Creativity network spans the globe and continues to grow. For more information, please visit https://districtsofcreativity.org.

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