IDEO's Urban Pre-Planning
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The Kauffman Foundation, with $2 billion in assets, bills itself as “the foundation of entrepreneurship”; but 18th and Vine, right in its backyard, had for decades been struggling to reinvigorate its storied past as a center for both jazz and black-owned businesses. In the late 1990s the American Jazz Museum opened, but rather than revitalize the community it seemed to turn a living place into a museum. For nearly a decade the Jazz District Redevelopment Corporation (JDRC) had been struggling to attract commerce back to the neighborhood without much success. So over lunch with now former JDRC president David Whalen at Peach Tree, the Vine’s famous soul food restaurant, Williams offered to “bring some resources to bear” to help develop a vision for the neighborhood — essentially to create a marketing brochure to attract future development. “We want to see the neighborhood be successful,” he told Whalen, “not by dictating what it has to be but what it can be.” Eighteenth and Vine had already tried the if-you-build-it-they-will-come approach with the jazz museum. What Williams envisioned instead was a set of possibilities rooted in the history of the neighborhood: “A straw man — something to give the community a jumping-off point to really do something else.” He had an idea how to get it.
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