Land Matters Podcast

Episode 11: Helping Cities Through COVID-19
By Anthony Flint, April 30, 2020


The coronavirus pandemic has utterly changed virtually all aspects of urban life, both now and for the foreseeable future. Cities like Detroit—before the crisis, arguably on the brink of a rebound—now must make a wide range of adjustments in programs and initiatives in their quest for equitable regeneration.

The long recovery ahead will move from near-term responses to a more holistic reimagining of how communities function, according to the cofounder of the Lincoln Institute’s Center for Community Investment and a member of their second class of Fulcrum Fellows. The center has published a triage tool to help manage the staggering disruptions already being seen in community development.

Yet the real work lies in not only picking up where cities left off before the outbreak, but more broadly repairing the socioeconomic fissures that the pandemic has revealed, says center cofounder Marian Urquilla, principal at Strategy Lift, a national consulting practice focused on coaching, strategy development, and large-scale community change.

“We’re beginning to see a disturbing picture of the future,” Urquilla says in Episode 11 of the Land Matters podcast, now available for listening. “It’s unprecedented. We needed to be thinking beyond the emergency . . . to get to this place of what will the future look like, how do we get to recovery.”

So many strategies and policies, from economic development to land-banking to the promotion of affordable housing, must be rebooted to confront the new realities, adds Sarida Scott, program officer and leader of the Detroit team for the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. In the redevelopment of downtowns, for example, the focus will likely shift to supporting existing small businesses operating under social-distancing guidelines, rather than encouraging new openings, at least for the immediate future.

Longer term, she adds: “We are hoping this is a moment we can lean into.”

The work of the Center for Community Investment is one of many initiatives at the Lincoln Institute adjusting to the new realities brought on by the pandemic. We’re convening networks of urban planners, economic development officials, and other policy makers online, and demonstrating how exploratory scenario planning and the framework of megaregions can help guide responses and recovery. Additional efforts aim to help communities improve municipal fiscal health, finance infrastructure, and build climate resilience.

You can listen to the show and subscribe to Land Matters on Apple PodcastsGoogle PlaySpotifyStitcher, or wherever you listen to podcasts.

Further reading:

The Lincoln Institute and COVID-19
Reimagining Strategy in Context of the COVID-19 Crisis: A Triage Tool
COVID-19: The Pandemic Makes the Case for Megaregions



Anthony Flint is senior fellow in the Office of the President at the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy.

Photograph Credit: Getty Images/duha127.