Jeremy Sigmon

The 2016 Resilient Cities Summit discussed strategies to enhance community resilience in U.S. cities.

This article was co-authored by Katharine Burgess, Director, Urban Resilience at the Urban Land Institute, and Cooper Martin, Program Director, Sustainable Cities Institute, National League of Cities.

The air was crisp in Santa Fe, New Mexico, earlier in December, with 20-degree temperatures. On behalf of Santa Fe Mayor Javier Gonzalez, Councilor Peter Ives welcomed a national group of city leaders and resilience experts to the capital city at 7,000 feet.

Co-hosted by Dawn Zimmer, mayor of Hoboken, New Jersey, and Mark Stodola, mayor of Little Rock, Arkansas, the 2016 Resilient Cities Summit included two days of discussion about the challenges facing American cities and their leaders to managing risk, harnessing opportunity and identifying resources to enhance community and city resilience. Elected officials and staff from 15 cities, as well as experts from more than 20 states, made up the intimate group of approximately 50 attendees. View the summit agenda.

Photo by Suzanna Finley. Pictured, left to right: Cleveland Councilman Matt Zone, chair of NLC; Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer, event co-chair; 100 Resilient Cities vice president Amy Armstrong, event facilitator; and Little Rock Mayor Mark Stodola, event co-chair.

“As mayors, we are using all the tools in the toolbox to make our cities stronger, healthier, more vibrant places to live, work, play and invest,” said Mayor Stodola. “Resilience presents an opportunity for re-imagining our built infrastructure, but it’s also a risk-management lens that we can’t afford to ignore.”

USGBC, the National League of Cities (NLC) and the Urban Land Institute (ULI) convened the summit as part of an ongoing effort to support cities in navigating resilience risks and opportunities and facilitate best-practice sharing. The Vice President of Knowledge and Impact at 100 Resilient Cities, Amy Armstrong, served as summit facilitator, and she offered insights on successful ideas and actions from the program’s global network of cities.

Although the partners took special care to prioritize many hours of time for interactive ideation and discussion, a series of short “lightning talks” also offered intermittent bursts of inspiration. In addition, three keynotes provided big-picture thinking and examples of resilience in action and at scale. The keynote addresses were from Katherine Hammack, Assistant Secretary of the Army for Installations, Energy and the Environment (see video); Danielle Arigoni, Director, Office of Economic Development for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development; and Scot Horst, Chief Product Officer at USGBC and newly named CEO of Arc.

Photo by Suzanna Finley. Summit attendees frequently broke into small groups for in-depth discussion.

“I was excited about the 2016 Resilient Cities Summit,” Mayor Zimmer said, “because, as mayors, we are all first responders. A smart resilience strategy can mitigate impacts and speed recovery time in the event that our buildings and infrastructure are compromised—making our cities safer for our residents and for long-term investment and growth.”

Last summer, USGBC and partners hosted 20 mayors and city leaders and many industry experts at the Aspen Institute for a powerful introductory dialogue on the challenges pertaining to resilience facing U.S. cities today. An initial look back at the 2015 summit and its provocative discussions was published on the Cities Speak blog. Read the 2015 Resilient Cities Summit report.

Building on that first event, the 2016 summit was designed to focus on a distinct challenge where the partners are particularly well-positioned to help: the nexus of planning, financing and constructing more resilient and sustainable buildings and neighborhoods.

NLC, ULI, and USGBC have begun work to develop a follow-up report, and look forward to continuing to support our business and government members in the urgent discovery of actionable strategies for enhanced resilience, as well as the tools and resources for effective execution.