Penn IUR undertakes projects and research initiatives, develops partnerships, and hosts conferences that aim to develop and expand knowledge of the urban landscape. Our initiatives focus on three critical topic areas: building the sustainable and inclusive 21st-century city; innovative urban development strategies; and the role of anchor institutions in urban places.

Center for Globalization Studies in an Urban World (GUW)

The Center for Globalization Studies in an Urban World is a center founded within Penn IUR that supports research and teaching on globalization—at Penn and beyond.

Consortium for Building Energy Innovation (CBEI) Research Digest

In 2012-2013, Penn IUR launched the Research Digest to cover the findings, success stories, and case studies coming out of the Consortium for Building Energy Innovation (formerly the Energy Efficient Buildings Hub), one of the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) three innovation clusters, based at the Philadelphia Navy Yard.

Disaster in Urban Landscapes: Preparedness, Response and Recovery

The topic of disaster in urban landscapes—preparedness, response and recovery—has gained increasing visibility in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Sandy. Penn IUR aims to promote and further understanding of this critical issue through its publications and conferences.

Energy Smart Communities Initiative (ESCI) of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC)

In partnership with the Taiwan Institute for Economic Research (TIER), Penn IUR is working to develop and maintain a knowledge-sharing platform (KSP) for the Energy Smart Communities Initiative (ESCI) of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Energy Working Group (EWG).

Food Security in a Rapidly Urbanizing World

Penn IUR promotes dialogue and fosters multidisciplinary collaboration among scholars in addressing food security, a critical issue in today’s rapidly urbanizing world. In March 2013, with support from the Rockefeller Foundation and Penn’s Office of the Vice Provost for Global Initiatives., and in partnership with the Penn School of Veterinary Medicine and a Faculty Steering Committee representing nine schools and six centers at the University of Pennsylvania, Penn IUR convened the “Feeding Cities: Food Security in a Rapidly Urbanizing World” conference.

Global Urban Commons

The Global Urban Commons (the Commons), is a publicly-accessible, global directory of university-based urban research centers.The Commons, which includes more than 200 urban-research focused organizations from around the world, is a platform to build awareness about the breadth and depth of global urban research. The site is unique in that it reaches across disciplines, supports common research agendas, and fosters opportunities for collaboration between urbanists based at research centers around the world.

Housing, Affordability and Financing Systems

Penn IUR seeks to promote scholarship and discussion related to the housing market, including affordability and financing systems, through its events and publications.

HUD Sustainability Indicators Project

Penn IUR, with funding from the Ford Foundation, worked with a team of Penn’s city planning doctoral students to develop the Sustainable Communities Indicator Catalog (SCIC) a web-based tool that enables communities to benchmark and track their progress toward sustainability. Penn IUR consulted extensively with experts and stakeholders to inform the development of this tool.

Land Use and Policy Studies

The City of Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority, along with other city agencies, is planning for new strategies to address vacant land issues in Philadelphia. As part of this effort, RDA engaged the Econsult Corporation and the Penn Institute for Urban Research to estimate the costs of vacant land to the City, and to assess the feasibility of urban agriculture on vacant land owned by the RDA.

Metrolab Network

Penn IUR has joined other universities across the nation to create a “Metro Lab Network” of university and city government partnerships committed to collaboration focused on 21st century solutions to the challenges confronting infrastructure, city services, and civic engagement. The Metro Lab Network will bring together university researchers with city decision makers to research, develop, and deploy (“RD&D”) technology‐ and analytically‐based solutions to the problems facing the systems and infrastructure on which our citizens, cities, and regional economies depend.

National Anchor Institution Task Force

Penn IUR’s Co-Directors Genie Birch and Susan Wachter, along with Penn IUR Faculty Fellow Ira Harkavy, Director of Penn’s Netter Center for Community Partnerships, are among the co-founders of the National Anchor Institution Task Force.

Penn IUR Case Studies on Anchor Institutions

Anchor institutions are economic engines for cities and regions, acting as real estate developers, employers, purchasers of goods, magnets for complementary businesses, community-builders, and developers of human capital.

Penn IUR Roundtable on Anchor Institutions

Penn IUR Roundtable on Anchor Institutions (PRAI) is a leadership “think tank” that convenes leaders from anchor institutions, their respective civic collaborators (academic, government, and foundation partners), and technical experts for an intense full day of roundtable discussions. These Anchor Teams work with Penn IUR to develop a case study that outlines a compelling local challenge.

PJM Electricity Price Ticker and Energy Literacy Education Campaign

As part of the Energy Efficient Building Hub (EEB Hub) project (now the Consortium for Building Energy Innovation), and in partnership with PJM Interconnection LLC Penn IUR developed an electricity price ticker, a web-based and desktop app which allows people to track the wholesale price of electricity.

Rapid Urbanization

With support from the Rockefeller Foundation, Penn IUR explores the topic of rapid urbanization— both understanding how cities create and transfer knowledge=, and identifying policy interventions to support rapidly urbanizing cities.

Reinventing Older Communities

Through an ongoing partnership with the Philadelphia Federal Reserve Bank, Penn IUR fosters research and collaboration related to the growth and revitalization of older cities.

The Rise of the City in China

Susan Wachter, Co-Director of Penn IUR was awarded a three year funding opportunity for her work on "The Rise of the City in China". This initiative, in sponsorship with Peking University and the Wharton School, will look at various aspects of development in China and will result in an annual conference each year.

UN-HABITAT World Urban Campaign

Penn IUR is a partner with UN-HABITAT, the United Nations agency for human settlements. The goal of UN-HABITAT is to help the urban poor by bridging the urban divides and transforming cities to cleaner, greener, safer, smarter and more equitable places with better opportunities where everyone can live in dignity.

Urban Ecosystem Services and Decision-Making

Penn IUR partners with the Wharton GIS Lab on a research collaborative, the Spatial Integration Laboratory for Urban Systems (SILUS), to study ecological, environmental, and socioeconomic issues involved in urban and regional development.

Urban Education and Workforce Opportunity

Through expert roundtables, lectures, conferences, and publications, Penn IUR seeks to promote discussion and highlight important research and discussion related to urban education and workforce opportunity.

Owning or Renting in the US: Shifting Dynamics of the Housing Market

Susan Wachter and Arthur Acolin

The current persistent and large decline in the number of owner households is almost unprecedented. Why has this occurred? What is driving the economy of renting?

Penn IUR Brief: Owning or Renting in the US: Shifting Dynamics of the Housing Market

Susan M. Wachter and Arthur Acolin

Susan Wachter and Arthur Acolin synthesize the research from their recent publications regarding the decline of home ownership in the United States.

Educating Commercial Real Estate Brokers on Green Leasing / Energy Efficiency

This project was sponsored by the Consortium for Building Energy Innovation (CBEI), a program of the Department of Energy. CBEI was a five-year program tasked with bridging the technology, market dynamics, policy, and human behavior in order to reduce energy used by the commercial buildings sector.

Slums: How Informal Real Estate Markets Work

Eugenie L. Birch, Shahana Chattaraj, and Susan M. Wachter

Large numbers of people in urbanizing regions in the developing world live and work in unplanned settlements that grow through incremental processes of squatting and self-building.

Rehousing Mumbai: Formalizing Slum Land Markets Through Redevelopment

Vinit Mukhija

Planners and economists usually consider land encumbered by slums to be less efficient, with inadequate physical infrastructure services, and fragmented land ownership.

Lessons Learned from PRAI

Cara Griffin, Eugenie Birch, and Laura Barron

Innovation on university campuses impacts plays a critical role in community development, but the development of innovation also depends on the university's approach.

Urban Universities and Innovation

Laurie Actman and Eugenie Birch

In this issue of Urban Link, we explore the relationship between urban anchor institutions—in particular higher education institutions— and innovation.

Shared Prosperity in America’s Communities

Susan M. Wachter and Lei Ding

Shared Prosperity in America's Communities, in the City in the 21st Century Book Series, authored by Susan M. Wachter and Lei Ding, examines this place-based disparity of opportunity and suggests what can be done to ensure that the benefits of economic growth are widely shared.

Urban and Suburban Poverty: The Changing Geography of Disadvantage

Elizabeth Kneebone

Elizabeth Kneebone writes about the changing geography of disadvantage and the suburbanization of poverty.

Public Pensions and City Solvency

Susan M. Wachter

Underfunded pension liabilities threaten the fiscal stability of many cities. While Detroit's bankruptcy has dominated the headlines, the problem is widespread.

Expert Voices 2016: Urban Policy and the Presidential Election

Penn IUR Faculty Fellows and Scholars

With all eyes focused on the presidential race, now is the time to discuss the great challenges that our nation faces. The candidates have a unique opportunity to address the issues that affect the lives of their fellow Americans, but what are those issues and how should they think about them? What major urban policy issues should the candidates address? We posed this question to our Penn IUR Faculty Fellows and Scholars. In the following eleven essays, they explore the urban policies that deserve the candidates' attention.

Penn IUR Research Digest: Housing Finance Reform

Susan Wachter and Joseph Tracy, Editors

Abstracts were adapted from chapters of an upcoming book edited by Susan Wachter and Joseph Tracy, "Housing Finance Reform:
Principles of Stability."

Philadelphia’s Triumphs, Challenges and Opportunities

Ethan Conner-Ross, Richard Voith, and Susan Wachter

Ethan Conner-Ross, Richard Voith, and Susan Wachter describe the evolution of Philadelphia over the past few decades, including its triumphs, challenges and current opportunities.

Philadelphia’s Triumphs, Challenges and Opportunities

Ethan Conner-Ross, Richard Voith and Susan Wachter

The second half of the 20th century was largely characterized by an exodus out of the great cities of the industrial age, and the consequent growth of the suburbs.

U.S.-Japan Grassroots Exchange Program, 2015

Penn IUR

Penn IUR reports on natural disaster recovery and the role of community-based planning.

Tracking and Explaining Neighborhood Socio-Economic Change in U.S. Metropolitan Areas, 1990 - 2010

John D. Landis

John D. Landis writes that in understanding neighborhood change urban planners should be worried about neighborhood decline, not gentrification.

The Reality of Neighborhood Change: Planners Should Worry About Decline

John D. Landis

Penn IUR Faculty Fellow John D. Landis writes that city living is back and planners should be more concerned about urban decline than about gentrification.

Penn IUR 2014-15 Annual Report: Building on a Decade of Growth

Penn IUR

Penn IUR celebrates 10 years in this year's annual report.

My Testimony to Congress: How We Can Improve College Access and Completion For Low-Income Students

Laura W. Perna

Laura W. Perna writes about improving college access and success for low-income and first-generation students.

Urban Greening: A Solution to Blight and Toxic Stress?

Eugenia South

Penn IUR Emerging Scholar Eugenia South writes about the how urban blight is making residents sick through increased vacancy, sanitation, and safety.

Low Carbon Model Towns in the APEC Region

Eugenie Birch, Alon Abramson, Albert Han, Joseph Yu Su, and Chen Chen Tongji

Penn IUR looks at the growth of low-carbon and energy smart communities in the APEC region and attempts to assess their success.

Interventions for Urban Youth: Can Summer Jobs and Mentorship Really Affect Violent Crime Rates?

Sara Heller

Penn IUR Faculty Fellow Sara Heller writes about the role that targeted policy interventions can play in improving the lives of urban minority youth.

From Science Parks to Innovation Districts

Eugenie Birch

Penn IUR Co-Director Genie Birch writes about the growth of innovation across university campuses.

How Real Estate Developers Think

Peter Hendee Brown

Penn IUR Scholar Peter Hendee Brown writes about real estate development business in Chicago, Miami, Portland (Oregon), and the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul.

Geospatial Technologies for a Healthier, More Sustainable, and Increasingly Urban Earth

Eugenie Birch and Susan Wachter

Penn IUR Co-Directors Genie Birch and Susan Wachter reflect how Earth can survive, and even thrive, as the global population nears nine billion/

Happy Earth Day Everyone!

Richard J. Weller

Penn IUR Faculty Fellow Richard Weller reflects on the first Earth Day in 1970.

Feeding Urban Communities: A Look at Disparities in Food Access and Nutritional Consumption

Jessie Handbury

Penn IUR Emerging Scholar Jesse Handbury writes about how large nutritional disparities exist across different socioeconomic groups in the United States.

The World’s Largest Urban Demolition

Stefan Al

Stefan Al writes about Dachong, in China, where in 2011 bulldozers destroyed over 10 million square feet of village housing and evicted more than 70,000 residents.

Penn IUR Newsletter, Spring 2015

Penn IUR

Penn IUR Newsletter, Spring 2015 offers a recap of the fall semester's activities and looks forward to upcoming events in Spring 2015.

Expert Voices 2015: Will the Battle for Sustainability be Won or Lost in Cities?

Penn IUR Faculty Fellows and Scholars

While 54 percent of the world’s population lives in urban areas today, that number is projected to jump to 66 percent by 2050. How can our cities keep pace?

Race, Poverty, and Change in America: The Persistent Dilemmas of Equity and Equality

Vivian L. Gadsden

Penn IUR Faculty Fellow Vivian L. Gadsden writes about the themes of race, poverty and change in America are as relevant as ever, as our nation grapples with the recent tragedies in Ferguson, Missouri and Staten Island, New York.

Some Reflections on Urban Public Art Today

Ken Lum

Ken Lum reflects on how though art in the broader sense has always possessed a public dimension due to its requirement of an audience, public art was not formalized as a category of discourse until the mid-nineteenth century.

Visualizing Philadelphia’s Neighborhood Change Process

Ken Steif

The same investors who once abandoned Philadelphia are now clamoring to get back in – and although new investment marks a reversal of fortunes for the City, it appears only a handful of neighborhoods have attracted this newfound attention.

Sustainable Development Goals Should Aim to Make Cities Inclusive, Resilient, Safe and Livable

Eugenie L. Birch

Will the UN recognize the transformative power of cities as they construct the 2016 SDGs?

Penn IUR Newsletter, Fall 2014

Penn IUR

Penn IUR's Fall 2014 Newsletter summarizes our work over the past semester and gives a preview of upcoming events and programs.

Penn IUR 2013-14 Annual Report: Building Shared Prosperity

Penn IUR

Penn IUR's 2013-14 Annual Report is titled "Building Shared Prosperity." It reflects Penn IUR's programming, research and publications over the previous year.

Teacher Evaluation Reform: Building Research to Inform Policy

Matthew P. Steinberg

Penn IUR Faculty Fellow Matthew Steinberg writes about teacher evaluation reform and the importance of building research to inform policy.

The Return of America’s Cities: Economic Rebound and the Future of America’s Urban Centers

Richard Voith and Susan Wachter

Cities are back. For the first time in decades and for three consecutive years, cities in the United States are growing faster than their surrounding suburbs.

The Power of Eds & Meds: Urban Universities Investing in Neighborhood Revitalization and Innovation

Meagan M. Ehlenz and Eugénie L. Birch with Brian Agness

Explore six universities investing in revitalization and innovation beyond their campus boundaries.

Feeding Cities: Food Security in a Rapidly Urbanizing World

Eugenie Birch and Alexander Keating

This report stems from the Feeding Cities: Food Security in a Rapidly Urbanizing World conference held at the University of Pennsylvania March 13–15, 2013.

Sustainable Urbanization: Place Matters

Penn IUR

This report addresses the "Sustainable Urbanization: Place Matters" summit hosted by Penn IUR in March 2014.

Urban Ecosystem Services and Decision Making: A Green Philadelphia

Dianna M. Hogan, Carl D. Shapiro, Susan M. Wachter and David N. Karp

This report summarizes the discussions and findings of a a one-day symposium titled Urban Ecosystem Services and Decision-Making: A Green Philadelphia, held on May 23, 2013.

Improving Opportunities for Social Mobility in the United States

Raj Chetty

The United States is often hailed as the “land of opportunity,” but opportunities for upward income mobility in the U.S. are actually lower than in other countries.

Miami Transformed: Rebuilding America One Neighborhood, One City at a Time

Manny Diaz

Manny Diaz, former Miami mayor, writes about the need to restore pragmatism in politics through a renewed investment in our cities.

The Economist: “Transforming Cities” Edition

The Economist & Penn IUR

This special edition of "The Economist" magazine was prepared for the "Transforming Cities" meeting at the Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Center.


Saskia Sassen

Historical Vitality of Cities

Edward Glaeser

Cities are, fundamentally, the people within them. It is people who envision and implement change. Thus, the route to urban vitality lies in adopting policies that help people to thrive and to innovate;

Expert Voices 2014: Penn IUR Celebrates 10 Years

Penn IUR Faculty Fellows and Scholars

What is the role of the city in sustainable growth in the twenty-first century? 

Immigration as Urban Revitalization

Michael B. Katz

Most of the abundant new literature on recent immigration concentrates on the traditional immigrant ports-of-entry and on new and emerging immigrant gateways.

Civic Arbitrage: Unlocking the Value of Urban Assets

Mark Alan Hughes

In 1950, Philadelphia reached its maximum population of just over 2 million residents. In the decades before 1950, Philadelphia invested heavily in an infrastructure needed to support a city that would continue to grow.

Benchmarking: Using Data to Make Buildings More Energy Efficient

David Hsu

Buildings—particularly large commercial buildings and multi-family residential buildings—are a significant source of energy use and greenhouse gas emissions in the United States.

Safe and Healthy Places Are Made, Not Born

Charles Branas

Charles Branas writes that interest in health and safety programs that focus on improving the places people live, work, and play has grown over the past decade.

How Philanthropy Responds to Critical Issues of Food Security in a Rapidly Urbanizing World

Heather Grady

In 2013, the Rockefeller Foundation’s one-hundredth year, we have been deeply analyzing the issues and strengths that defined our first century.

Transforming Cities: Visions of a Better Future

Penn IUR, Rockefeller Foundation

Arts and Culture Institutions as Urban Anchors: Livingston Case Studies in Urban Development

Eugénie L. Birch, Cara Griffin, Amanda Johnson, Jonathon Stover

Urbanization and Veterinary Medicine

Joan Hendricks and Gilbert S. Kahn

As cities grow and urban populations expand, people are becoming increasingly disconnected from their sources of food.

Addressing the Education-Workforce Mismatch: Preparing Students for Success in Today’s Economy

Laura Perna

All too often, young people in our country enter the job market without the skills and knowledge they need to succeed in today’s workforce.

Opinion Leaders Weigh in on 2013’s Biggest Urban Issues and Innovations

Penn IUR Faculty Fellows and Scholars

In 2013, as cities around the world expand, and as urban populations grow, we will face new challenges.

Revitalizing American Cities

Susan M. Wachter and Kimberly A. Zeuli

Small and mid-sized cities played a key role in the Industrial Revolution in the United States as hubs for the shipping, warehousing, and distribution of manufactured products.

Policy, Planning, and People Promoting Justice in Urban Development

Naomi Carmon and Susan S. Fainstein

The contributors of Policy, Planning, and People argue for the promotion of social equity and quality of life by designing and evaluating urban policies and plans.

Locked In, Locked Out: Gated Communities in a Puerto Rican City

Zaire Zenit Dinzey-Flores

In November 1993, the largest public housing project in the Puerto Rican city of Ponce—the second largest public housing authority in the U.S. federal system—became a gated community.

Ed Bacon: Planning, Politics and the Building of Modern Philadelphia

Gregory L. Heller

As Americans abandoned city centers to pursue visions of suburbia, architect and urban planner Edmund Bacon turned his sights on shaping urban America.

Design After Decline: How America Rebuilds Shrinking Cities

Brent D. Ryan

Almost fifty years ago, America's industrial cities—Detroit, Philadelphia, Cleveland, Baltimore, and others—began shedding people and jobs.

The Barnes Foundation and the Future of Benjamin Franklin Parkway

David Brownlee and Greg Scruggs

When the Barnes opened on May 19, 2012, art lovers rejoiced that one of the world’s foremost collections of modern works was back on display.

Learning from Hurricane Sandy

Eugenie L. Birch and Susan M. Wachter

A mere six years ago, when a major metropolitan area was devastated by Hurricane Katrina, the nation witnessed and was embarrassed by the pictures of dysfunction that ensued.

An Assessment of How Cities Create and Transfer Knowledge: A Landscape Study

Eugenie L. Birch, Susan M. Wachter, Alexander M. Keating

Preparing Today’s Students for Tomorrow’s Jobs in Metropolitan America

Laura W. Perna

Education, long the key to opportunity in the United States, has become simply essential to earning a decent living.

The City After Abandonment

Margaret Dewar and June Manning Thomas

A number of U.S. cities, former manufacturing centers of the Northeast and Midwest, have suffered such dramatic losses in population and employment.

Miami Transformed

Manny Diaz

Six-year-old Manuel Diaz and his mother first arrived at Miami's airport in 1961 with little more than a dime for a phone call to their relatives in the Little Havana neighborhood.

The Disaster Experts Mastering Risk in Modern America

Scott Gabriel Knowles

In the wake of 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina, many are asking what, if anything, can be done to prevent large-scale disasters.

Making New York Dominican

Christian Krohn-Hansen

Large-scale emigration from the Dominican Republic began in the early 1960s, with most Dominicans settling in New York City. Since then the growth of the city's Dominican population has been staggering, now accounting for around 7 percent of the total populace.

Global Downtowns

Marina Peterson and Gary McDonogh

Global Downtowns reconsiders one of the defining features of urban life—the energy and exuberance that characterize downtown areas—within a framework of contemporary globalization and change.

Measuring U.S. Sustainable Urban Development

Amy L. Lynch, Stuart Andreason, Theodore Eisenman, John Robinson, Kenneth Steif, and Eugenie L. Birch

Sustainable Urban Development Indicators for the United States

Amy L. Lynch, Stuart Andreason, Theodore Eisenman, John Robinson, Kenneth Steif, and Eugenie L. Birch

Rebuilding Urban Places After Disaster Lessons from Hurricane Katrina

Eugenie L. Birch and Susan M. Wachter

This volume examines the rebuilding of cities and their environs after a disaster and focuses on four major issues.

Growing Greener Cities Urban Sustainability in the Twenty-First Century

Eugenie L. Birch and Susan M. Wachter

Over the years, the significance of green in civic life has grown.

Global Urbanization

Eugenie L. Birch and Susan M. Wachter

For the first time in history, the majority of the world's population lives in urban areas.

Neighborhood and Life Chances How Place Matters in Modern America

Harriet B. Newburger, Eugenie L. Birch, Susan M. Wachter

Does the place where you lived as a child affect your health as an adult?

The American Mortgage System Crisis and Reform

Susan M. Wachter and Marvin M. Smith

Successful home ownership requires the availability of appropriate mortgage products.

Why Don’t American Cities Burn?

Michael B. Katz

At 1:27 on the morning of August 4, 2005, Herbert Manes fatally stabbed Robert Monroe, known as Shorty, in a dispute over five dollars.

My Storm: Managing the Recovery of New Orleans in the Wake of Katrina

Edward J. Blakely

Edward J. Blakely has been called upon to help rebuild after some of the worst disasters in recent American history.

Urban Tomographies

Martin H. Krieger

Tomography is a method of exploring a phenomenon through a large number of examples or perspectives.

Women’s Health and the World’s Cities

Afaf Ibrahim Meleis, Eugenie L. Birch, Susan M. Wachter

Growing urbanization affects women and men in fundamentally different ways, but the relationship between gender and city environments has been ignored or misunderstood.

Redevelopment Authority of the City of Philadelphia: Land Use and Policy Study

Susan Wachter, Gregory Scruggs, Richard Voith and Lee Huang

Beat Cop to Top Cop: A Tale of Three Cities

John F. Timoney. Foreword by Tom Wolfe

Born in a rough-and-tumble neighborhood of Dublin, John F. Timoney moved to New York with his family in 1961.

Sound, Space, and the City Civic Performance in Downtown Los Angeles

Marina Peterson

On summer nights on downtown Los Angeles's Bunker Hill, Grand Performances presents free public concerts for the people of the city.

Divided Cities Belfast, Beirut, Jerusalem, Mostar, and Nicosia

Jon Calame and Esther Charlesworth. Foreword by Lebbeus Woods

In Jerusalem, Israeli and Jordanian militias patrolled a fortified, impassable Green Line from 1948 until 1967.

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