UPD Lecture: Geeta Pradhan, “The Privileged City: Cambridge and the pursuit of equity”

The Privileged City: Cambridge and the pursuit of equity

Cambridge is at an interesting crossroads. 

With its long and celebrated history, Cambridge today is the epicenter of the region’s innovation economy, a center of educational excellence, and an engine for economic vitality with global significance. Prized as well for its quality of life, Cambridge constantly draws new residents from around the world – over 104 languages are spoken here — from Albanian to Vietnamese.  A key player in the region’s prosperity — Cambridge generously contributes to economic growth but is isolated when it comes to dealing with the consequences of that growth. The high cost of housing is resulting in a rapid erosion of Cambridge’s middle class and fully 17 percent of Cambridge children live in poverty. Growing income inequality threatens to hollow out the city itself.

Cambridge is fast becoming a tale of two cities.  One provides opportunity, the other puts up barriers.  What must one do in a privileged city such as this? How might we learn from cities such as San Francisco that have lost the diversity, the quirkiness, the grittiness that made it a hotbed for innovation? What must be done to foster shared prosperity in Cambridge?

Geeta Pradhan is the President of the Cambridge Community Foundation

UPD Lecture. Harvard University Graduate School of Design Department of Urban Planning and Design

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