University Cities | A NEW SPECIES OF CITY
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There Is A New Species of City In America

University Cities share a singular DNA that produces a constellation of magical effects: highly educated populations, innovative economies with high rates of entrepreneurship, outsized arts and culture sectors, and large nonprofit sectors that indicate a vibrant civil society. 

  • Metro between 250k and 1 million
  • Major research university in the center of the city
  • More than 10% of population are students

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Edward Glaeser is the Fred and Eleanor Glimp Professor of Economics in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Harvard University, where he has taught since 1992, and is the author of Triumph of the City: How Our Greatest Invention Makes Us Richer, Smarter, Greener, Healthier, and Happier.

He regularly teaches microeconomics theory, and occasionally urban and public economics. He has served as Director of the Taubman Center for State and Local Government, and Director of the Rappaport Institute for Greater Boston. He has published dozens of papers on cities economic growth, law, and economics. In particular, his work has focused on the determinants of city growth and the role of cities as centers of idea transmission. He received his PhD from the University of Chicago in 1992.

Mayor Jim Gray

Jim Gray is the Mayor of Lexington, Ky., a vibrant university city of 310,000. Elected in 2010 and now in his second term, Mayor Gray has drawn upon his experience as the CEO of Gray Inc., an international engineering and construction firm, to bring an executive’s approach to government. Facing deficits as he took office, Gray led a reform of the city’s health care system and its police and fire pension system, saving more than $20M a year in a $300M budget.

The resulting surpluses have allowed the Mayor to invest in public safety and his vision for a new gathering place for Lexingtonians, the Town Branch Commons. Master-planned by the winner of Gray’s international design competition, the Commons will be a linear urban park that winds through the city’s booming downtown along the path of Lexington’s original water source, the Town Branch creek.

Mayor Wade Troxell

Wade O. Troxell is the Mayor of Fort Collins, Colorado. He was elected in April 2015 and re-elected in April 2017, now serving his second term as mayor. Wade is on the faculty and has served as the Associate Department Head, Mechanical Engineering, at Colorado State University. Mayor Troxell serves on the Platte River Power Authority Board of Directors, ChairNational League of Cities (NLC) Universities Communities Council (UCC), Executive Board – Colorado Municipal League, Chair – Northern Colorado Regional Airport Commission, City of Fort Collins/Colorado State University Leadership Committee, and Chair – City of Fort Collins Futures Committee.

President Eli Capilouto

Dr. Eli Capilouto became the 12th President of the University of Kentucky on July 1, 2011. Under his leadership, the $3.5 billion flagship and land grant research university has gained significant momentum in fulfilling its multi-faceted mission of teaching, research, service and health care.
Dr. Capilouto has led a process to enrich UK’s academic experience by investing in priorities that maintain affordability and access; support the institution’s talented faculty and staff; and revitalize the living, learning and research facilities across campus.

Lincoln Mayor Chris Beutler

Chris Beutler was elected Mayor of Lincoln in May 2007 and re-elected in May 2011. He is a native Nebraskan, who has devoted the majority of his life to serving the City of Lincoln, the people of Nebraska and the nation.

Chris attended Yale University, served in the Peace Corps and the U.S. Army and has a JD from the University of Nebraska College of Law. After building, growing and selling Beutler Title Company, Chris served in the state legislature from 1978 to 1982, and again from 1990 to 2002.

As Mayor, Chris has focused on infrastructure and economic development, including championing the Lincoln Haymarket Arena development.

Scott Shapiro

As Mayor Jim Gray’s Chief Innovation Officer, Scott Shapiro generates transformative projects that do not fall neatly within the standard method of city-service delivery.
A city-benchmarking project led Scott to discover a new species of city – the University City – and he writes and speaks frequently about the concept’s implications for Lexington, its peers, and aspiring University Cities. Scott also co-leads Lexington’s Gig project, which aims to bring a fiber-optic network with ultra-fast Internet speeds to the city. And he is launching the city’s first text-notification system, LexAlerts, providing advance notification to citizens regarding the impact of city services on a house-by-house level.

Dr. Kenneth Troske

Dr. Kenneth R. Troske is the Associate Dean for graduate programs and outreach in the Gatton College of Business and Richard W. and Janis H. Furst Endowed Chair of Economics at the University of Kentucky as well as a Research Fellow with the Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) in Bonn, Germany. Dr. Troske served as a member of the Congressional Oversight Panel whose task was to assess the existing condition of America’s financial markets and the regulatory system as well as to closely monitor the actions of the Treasury Department and financial institutions to determine if their actions are in the best interest of the American economy.

Omar Blaik

Omar Blaik is CEO of U3 Advisors. Omar founded U3 Ventures LLC, a predecessor of today’s firm, in 2006 with the belief that anchor institutions hold the key to sustainable community and economic development in many cities across the country. Omar leads the advisory and development efforts of U3 Advisors, working with university leaders, city and state governments, non-profit foundations, and real estate developers to provide expertise on institutional anchor strategy, campus edge planning, local economic development, and place-based real estate strategy.

Benjamin Kennedy

Benjamin Kennedy is managing director of The Kresge Foundation’s American Cities Practice, while also serving as managing director of the foundation’s Detroit Program.
Benjamin’s leadership of the American Cities Practice and Detroit Program involve overseeing grantmaking and social investments aimed at helping Detroit and other American cities grapple with a wide array of socio-economic issues.
Prior to joining Kresge in 2009, Benjamin was with JPMorgan Chase in Johannesburg, South Africa, where he was an associate on the firm’s mergers and acquisitions team.

Chantel Rush

Chantel M. Rush is a program officer with The Kresge Foundation’s American Cities Practice. Her grantmaking portfolio includes funding efforts to seed and scale innovative community development practices aimed at improving the lives of people with low incomes in America’s cities. Her grantmaking work also supports pioneering research, thought leadership and convenings to expand urban policymaking and practice. She also stewards the foundation’s place-based work in Memphis, Tennessee. Chantel joined the foundation in 2015, working as a special assistant to Kresge President and CEO Rip Rapson. Before joining Kresge, she served as senior analyst of global strategy and business development at Gap Inc.

Katie Appel Duda

Katie Appel Duda co-leads Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Government Innovation grant programs, which help city leaders and their teams in more than 200 cities around the world to better solve problems and share promising ideas that improve life for residents. Before joining Bloomberg Philanthropies, Katie served as assistant communications director to New York City Mayor Bloomberg. Previously, she served as a policy advisor at the Department of Homeless Services where she developed the methodology for New York City’s first-ever census of the unsheltered homeless population. A graduate of New York City public schools, Katie also holds an MPA from New York University and a BA from the University of Virginia.

Lilly Weinberg

Lilly Weinberg joined Knight Foundation in August 2012. She is the program director for community foundations, managing Knight’s $140 million investment in 18 small to midsize Knight communities. Weinberg graduated from the Harvard Kennedy School and the MIT Sloan School of Management, where she concurrently earned master’s degrees in public administration and business administration. While attending graduate school, she worked with the Boston Redevelopment Authority and the New York City Economic Development Corp., in both cases creating strategies to promote economic development, entrepreneurship and business growth.

Steve Dauphin

Steve has more than 20 years of venture-capital and fund-management experience, with a particularly focus on the agriculture sector. Based in Birmingham, Steve works with the Kirchner Group, a merchant bank, and Bonaventure Capital, a venture capital group focused on the southern U.S., with a focus on venture and growth-stage investments related to agriculture, energy and water. Steve has worked with funds totaling in excess of $200M. Prior to his career in finance, Steve was a DEA agent, graduated from Harvard with B.A. in economics and religion, and received an MBA from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

James Lima

James Lima has extensive private and public sector experience in the planning and implementation of urban revitalization projects throughout North America. His real estate and economic advisory firm, James Lima Planning + Development, helps public and private sector clients create more vibrant, equitable, and resilient places. JLP+D provides planning, policy, real estate, and economic advisory services for downtown revitalization, institutional real estate value creation, great placemaking, and shaping impactful public policy.

Warren J. Wilson

Lexington native Warren J. Wilson is a NYC-based mediatech entrepreneur advising corporate enterprises such as Unilever on global innovation strategy. He has also developed, scaled and funded 5 successful emerging tech cos in 6 years, including #1 influencer marketing platform Reelio (CSO) and Omnicom’s social innovation agency sparks&honey (CSO). He works with the French and German governments launching innovative companies in the US market. He is a founder of the Inside NYC Mediatech Summit, now in Tel Aviv and Shanghai, and advises international tech innovation conference La French Touch Conference Prior to founding YARDSTK LLC with the former presidents of AOL and Deep Focus, Warren consulted to TV/film studios and ad agencies and was head of business development for global digital agency RGA.

Scott Andes

Scott Andes is a fellow with the Anne T. and Robert M. Bass Initiative on Innovation and Placemaking. His work focuses on innovation strategies for cities, advanced manufacturing, and science and technology policy.

Prior to joining Brookings, he was a research analyst at the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation where he authored and co-authored reports on innovation and domestic economic policy. He was also Special Assistant to Senator Chuck Schumer at the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee and has worked on a number of state and national political campaigns.

John Burkhardt, Ph.D.

John C. Burkhardt is a clinical professor at the University of Michigan and serves as a faculty affiliate with the National Forum on Higher Education for the Public Good, an effort to make higher education more responsive to the needs of a changing society. He founded the National Forum in 2000 upon joining the Michigan faculty. In addition to his teaching and research responsibilities, he recently served as Director of the National Center for Institutional Diversity (2013-2016) and also holds the title of special assistant to the provost for university engagement.

University Cities share the same DNA…

University Cities are full of talent…

Population with Bachelors or Above 2015

University Cities0%
Cities of the same size0%
Large Metros0%
economically resilient…

GMP Growth 2009-2015

University Cities0%
Cities of the same size0%
Large Metros0%
Arts & Cultural Establishments per 100,000 People

University Cities0%

University Cities are also

Business starts per 100,000
UCs are 12% above the national average
Have low violent crime…
Violent crimes per 100k
UCs are 28% below the national average
And have a low cost of living.
Fair market rent for a 2 bedroom apartment
UCs are 15% below the national average.


Conference Introduction - Mayor Jim Gray

Ed Glaeser PhD - Harvard University

Mayor Wade Troxell - Fort Collins, CO

Mayor Jim Gray - Lexington, KY

Eli Capilouto - University of Kentucky

Scott Shapiro - Lexington, KY

Scott Shapiro - Lexington, KY

Knight Foundation

For professors, graduate students and undergraduates, the Knight Foundation has generously offered $10,000 in grants for those who wish to explore a topic related to the idea of University Cities. 

To apply, submit a 300-word description of your research idea to by Dec. 1.

While everywhere else suffered in the recession, this new urban species somehow kept unemployment, costs of living, and crime rates down. What we can learn from ‘University Cities.’

Post-industrial City. Metropolis. Border Town. Tourist Mecca. We like to classify our cities, giving them labels that signal what makes them tick, why they’re special.

Now, data suggest there’s another urban typology to add to the list: The University City. Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan once said, “If you want to build a great city, create a great university and wait 200 years.”


Walk around Videon’s headquarters, and it’s easy to forget that you’re in a short, squat building in the back of an office park. Dogs run around the open workspace, filled with standing desks, funky stone tables and huge computer monitors. They’re an audiovisual technology company, so it make sense that they would want to show off their equipment.

This group, which he calls “university cities,” have distinct characteristics that make them different from smaller college towns or major cities with big research universities. And those characteristics translate into big economic development opportunities in the 21st century’s knowledge-based economy.