San Diego: Innovation Capital of the World?

April 18th, 2012

Written by Roger Showley, San Diego Union-Tribune

Mary Lydon, executive director of the Urban Land Institute’s San Diego-Tijuana district council, has a new title: “Global product manager for innovation economies.”

What the title may mean for San Diego is we might come to be seen as the innovation capital of world.

That’s because Lydon intends to use San Diego as a laboratory for rethinking local land-use arrangements to suit the burgeoning of the much-touted “knowledge-based economy.”

That means upending traditional zoning and building standards and finding ways to make city attractive to high-tech companies, research firms, designers and others thinking great thoughts in the 21st century.

“I think cities are grappling with what’s next, what’s the next economic strategy,” Lydon said.

“The economic development strategies will be different, city to city. What are your city’s attributes? What’s your geography? How do connect to the global marketplace? We’re all going global — every city is. You have to figure out how to connect to it — what’s going to be your calling card to the world?”

The vision is a city where people live, work and play within walking distance of one another so they cross-pollinate ideas and product concepts and make the proverbial whole greater than the sum of its parts.

Lydon got the nod from ULI’s Washington, D.C., headquarters as she was gearing up for an innovation economy conference in San Diego this September, cosponsored by the Aspen Institute. She organized a similar forum last year and is working on ULI’s spring 2013 meeting in San Diego, where city innovation promises to be a major focus.

ULI, a 76-year-old think-tank with nearly 30,000 members in 95 countries, brings together all aspects of real estate planning, design, finance and development. San Diego’s district council is one of 52 — mostly in the U.S. — that tackle land-use issues at the local level.

“We want to identify a number of items district councils can use to bring to their cities,” Lydon said. “It’s something fun for me. I’m very passionate about it.”

Lydon, 51, majored in nutritional sciences at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, moved to San Diego 1988 and got involved in real estate development and downtown planning. She became the ULI local director in 2007 and lives in South Park.

With increasing attention paid to the obesity epidemic, her nutrition background is becoming relevant in development circles: “My overall theme is building communities for well being,” she says.

Normally, major initiatives get announced by mayors, governors and presidents. They appoint commissions and task forces and publish lengthy reports — which often gather dust on shelves for lack of follow through.

No more, says Lydon.

“We informed the electeds what we want and they implement — that’s what I see happening,” she said. “What’s starting to happen is a new vision, new ways of doing things, new ways of living, and that’s coming from the ground up.”

As for “products” that will come out of the innovation initiative, Lydon said examples include conferences, reports, research, visioning exercises. For example, at the September innovation conference, speakers from other California cities, Austin, Texas, and Europe will present case studies that attendees can chew over.

“Having it in San Diego means I’m going to bring those resources here first because I’m here and I will use models emerging here,” Lydon said. “I will be talking to people here doing interesting things in San Diego and all over the world. This will be my laboratory, because I’m here.”

Article Courtesy of Roger Showley: [email protected]; (619) 293-1286; Twitter: rmshowley; Facebook: SDUTshowley

The Latest Headlines

Crown Bay San Diego Market Updates

Crown Bay – Market Updates The secret is out, Crown Bay offers the most competitive Homeowners Association fees in the Downtown San Diego Marina District. This downtown property offers plenty of amenities,......

read more

Investing in a Downtown San Diego Condo

Condo properties must surely be the investment of the future. Downtown San Diego Condo living is like having your own place but without the maintenance. It’s like swimming in the pool without......

read more

Downtown San Diego May 2013 Events

May 4th San Diego SPCA Walk for Animals Walk with (or without) your dog to promote the humane treatment of animals. The event takes place from 7 a.m. until noon at Liberty......

read more

Aloft San Diego Market Updates

Aloft – Market Updates Aloft condos are perched high atop Cortez Hill on Date Street between 9th and 10th Avenues. The development is comprised of 168 loft units and is located just......

read more

Questions to Ask when Financing your Downtown San Diego Condo

“Home finance has blossomed into an incredibly diverse and complicated industry. This is good and bad. There are at least a hundred ways to borrow the money for your Condo now. There......

read more

Park Place San Diego Market Updates

Park Place – Market Updates Park Place is a 178-unit, 30-story luxury condominium project located at the northwest corner of Harbor Drive and Kettner Boulevard. Completed in 2003 by Bosa Development Corporation,......

read more

Downtown San Diego August 2013 Events

Female Pro Surfing Competition – Ford Supergirl Pro     Aug. 2 Come out and see the very best that female surfing has to offer at the Oceanside Pier! The Ford Supergirl Pro presented......

read more

Harbor Club Market Update

San Diego is a city rich with a romantic and exciting historical development dating back to the late 1700’s. The Marina district is an iconic neighborhood housing some of the most well-known......

read more

Pinnacle San Diego Market Updates

Pinnacle – Market Updates The Pinnacle Museum Tower is an 182-unit, 35-story luxury condominium development located at 550 Front Street in the Marina District. Floor plans are available in one-bedrooms with 669......

read more

Aria San Diego Market Updates

Aria – Market Updates Located in the highest point of Downtown San Diego in Cortez Hill, Aria was completed in 2008 with 137 units and offers a wonderful location away from the......

read more

Get Listings and Articles Delivered Straight to your inbox

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.