The 21st century has brought a big change to urban planning, including the rise of the innovation district. Defined by The Brookings Institution as “geographic areas where leading-edge anchor institutions and companies cluster and connect with start-ups, business incubators, and accelerators,” innovation districts have seized the minds of community leaders around the world with districts already in Barcelona, Cambridge, London, Philadelphia, Raleigh-Durham, Seoul, and St. Louis, to name a few.
The Brookings Institution’s three district models include:
- Anchor plus—an innovation district where large-scale mixed-use development is centered around major “anchor institutions” and a rich base of related firms, entrepreneurs, and spin-off companies involved in the commercialization of innovation.
- Re-imagined urban areas—an innovation district rooted in proper transit access, a historic building stock, proximity to downtown areas, and a rooted anchor company.
- Urbanized science parks—an innovation district intentionally developed out of suburban office parks grounded in the work done there.
All three models have been tested in today’s burgeoning Greater Boston area, with the city’s most effective and recognized success story being Cambridge.