We gathered Friday to celebrate the life and memory of our Drexel colleague and friend Jeremy Nowak, who was a distinguished visiting fellow at Drexel’s Lindy Institute for Urban Innovation. Jeremy’s sudden passing last month left a void in so many ways, but, at least at Drexel, we hope to carry on his important work.

At the Lindy Institute, Jeremy was on the verge of launching a new lab to explore ways of financing what he called the inclusive city — in other words, a metropolitan area that works for all its residents. By organizing private and civic capital, unlocking public wealth and attracting voter support for an array of transformative investments, the Metro Finance Lab will be a game-changer. It’s also going to have a new name: the Nowak Metro Finance Lab.

I’m pleased to announce that the lab’s founding director will be Bruce Katz, Jeremy’s friend, co-author of their recent book, The New Localism: How Cities Can Thrive in the Age of Populism, and a renowned urban expert who brings more than 30 years’ experience and expertise in urban governance and finance with the Brookings Institution, the U.S. Senate and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Nowak Metro Finance Lab in Depth

Here’s more on the Metro Finance Lab from Harris M. Steinberg, the Lindy’s executive director:

The rise of cities is the defining and unifying dynamic of a new global order.  Given cities’ agglomeration and concentration of key assets, they have emerged as the engines of national economies and centers of global trade and investment.  Yet, demographic transformation, economic restructuring, widening income inequality and urgent environmental demands are creating enormous disparities both within and across cities, both here and abroad.  The goal of the inclusive city — a city that expands educational and employment opportunities, creates wealth, shares prosperity, and engages residents — is becoming more and more elusive.

The path to the inclusive city lies through sustained investment in innovation, infrastructure, affordable housing, quality places, and the schooling and training of children and young adults.

With national and state politics polarized and governments at all levels under enormous fiscal pressure, however, cities and metropolitan areas must pool and combine resources in many forms and from a variety of sectors.  In their recent book, The New Localism: How Cities Can Thrive in the Age of Populism,  Jeremy Nowak and fellow urban expert Bruce Katz chronicled the emergence of a new field of metro finance, which is inventing ways of financing the inclusive city by organizing private and civic capital, unlocking public wealth and attracting voter support for an array of transformative investments.

To help capture, deepen and accelerate this burgeoning field, Drexel proposes to establish the Metro Finance Lab.  The Lab will be named after Jeremy, who founded the Reinvestment Fund in Philadelphia and built it into one of the most respected community development finance institutions in the nation. The Lab’s founding director will be Bruce Katz, who brings more than 30 years’ experience and expertise in urban governance and finance with the Brookings Institution, the U.S. Senate and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Working within a broad network of cities, practitioners, financial institutions and research partners, the Nowak Metro Finance Lab will 1) set the broad context for the inclusive financing challenges and opportunities facing U.S. and European cities in the coming decade; 2) identify innovative ways in which local, city, state, national and international actors are responding to these challenges and opportunities; and 3) explore ways in which innovative governance practices and finance mechanisms can become the market norm through the development of seasoned data and analytics and new instruments, intermediaries and institutions.  In 2019, the lab aims to publish a major edited volume on Financing the Inclusive City with contributions from leading political, business and civic leaders and academic researchers.