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RELEASE: 5 Finalists in Urban Transformation Announced for WRI Ross Prize for Cities

Projects from Colombia, India, South Africa, Tanzania and Turkey were chosen for their economic, environmental and social impact

WASHINGTON, DC (December 12, 2018)—From an extensive field of nearly 200 applications from around the world, WRI Ross Center announced the finalists for the first WRI Ross Prize for Cities today. Five projects from Colombia, India, South Africa, Tanzania and Turkey were chosen for their transformative impact on cities in multiple ways, including economic, environmental and social change.

The finalists will now be evaluated by the distinguished WRI Ross Prize Jury. One winner will receive the $250,000 inaugural prize at an awards dinner in April 2019.

“We know cities need to change. We also know that people are finding new ways to build thriving, healthier, greener neighborhoods every day,” said Ani Dasgupta, Global Director of WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities. “We hope these projects, each of which has had an outsized impact on their cities, help people understand what’s possible.”

Cities change every day, but it’s not always a linear and simple path to progress – too often, they suffer from pollution, congestion, inefficiency and inequality. To achieve global development and climate goals, cities need dramatic change. The WRI Ross Prize for Cities is aimed at highlighting and celebrating projects that have ignited positive urban transformation.

“The goal is to elevate these innovative initiatives and inspire others. We want to show how big changes emerge from small changes and how urban development done in the right way can transform not just a block or a neighborhood but a whole city,” said business leader and philanthropist Stephen M. Ross, sponsor of the prize and Chairman of Related Companies. “These finalists do exactly that.”

The five finalists are:

  • Eskisehir Urban Development Project in Eskisehir, Turkey: The city government created a network of natural infrastructure projects that has restored a highly polluted river and enhanced public green spaces on a grand scale, while integrating seamlessly with a new electric tram network. “We wanted to make the city more livable, clean and modern while maintaining a sense of tradition and ancient values,” said Yilmaz Buyukersen, Mayor of Eskisehir. “Eskisehir has become an attraction not only in Anatolia, but in all of Turkey, with domestic and international tourists coming to see the new modern city.”

  • Metrocable in Medellín, Colombia: Aerial trams that link marginalized hillside neighborhoods directly with the city’s public transport system have reduced travel times, expanded economic opportunity and contributed to a steep drop in violent crime. “Change reached the heights of Medellín, giving back a lost citizenship to these people; their rights were recognized but they were also committed to their obligations,” said Tomas Elejalde, General Manager of Metro de Medellín.

  • SARSAI in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania: The non-profit Amend is helping to simply but effectively improve safety for children walking to school. The program, which focuses on roadside infrastructure interventions and behavior change, has spread to cities in nearly a dozen countries across sub-Saharan Africa. “We are using proven solutions to save the lives of children, today, at schools with the highest rates of road traffic incidents, in the most at-risk cities, in the most at-risk countries in the world, while working with governments to help keep children safe over the long term too,” said Jeffrey Witte, Executive Director of Amend.

  • SWaCH Pune Seva Sahakari Sanstha in Pune, India: India's first worker-owned waste-pickers cooperative is not only helping to expand door-to-door waste collection to all residents but showing cities how to incorporate informal workers into a modern hybrid economy at the same time. “The SWaCH story is one of transforming lives and of transforming the conscience of a city – a transformation that has been led by an organization of the most marginalized and excluded for the greater public good,” said Lakshmi Narayan, Co-Founder of SWaCH Pune Seva Sahakari Sanstha.

  • Warwick Junction in Durban, South Africa: The non-profit Asiye eTafuleni is working alongside municipal officials and informal vendors to resist inappropriate redevelopment and cooperatively transform the city’s most vibrant market area. “This urban evolution is notable in that it has sustained and stabilized thousands of informal livelihoods for over 22 years, whilst simultaneously embedding more equitable and participative city-making processes that are engaging informal workers and municipal officials in progressive and innovative ways,” said Richard Dobson, Co-Founder and Project Leader for Asiye eTafuleni.

The finalists reflect the creativity and ingenuity spurred by a global move to cities. As urban policymakers face growing demand for services, infrastructure and equitable growth, efforts like these show the potential for solutions that work for people and the planet.

“What impressed us most about these projects is the innovative ways they are solving common problems that cities face all over the world,” said Jessica Seddon, Director of Integrated Urban Strategy at WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities. “From ways to integrate informal workers to improving safety, expanding green space and protecting children on their way to school, these projects have had a real impact on the people and environment of their cities.”

Learn more at WRIRossPrize.org.

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