2018 Medellin, Colombia

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Medellin, Colombia. Nominated as a Knowledge City-Region.
Medellín’s improbable transformation from a crime-ridden haven for drug cartels into a bold urban innovator has earned it one of the world’s most prestigious urbanism awards. The Lee Kuan Yew World City Prize announced that Colombia’s second largest city is its 2016 prize laureate.
Making the accomplishment even more remarkable is the fact that the evolution occurred over just two decades, the award jury noted. Among the city’s most creative initiatives are the world’s first cable-car mass transit system and outdoor escalators. Both are designed to improve mobility in hilly neighborhoods.
Medellín also is notable because it offers lessons for other metropolises in Latin America, Africa and Asia struggling with violence and unchecked urban sprawl, the prize committee explains.
Medellín joins an exclusive club of visionaries — Suzhou, China; New York City; and Bilbao, Spain — that took the top honors for the biennial prize, which debuted in 2010. Lee Kuan Yew was the first prime minister of Singapore, an Asian city-state heralded as a design and planning trailblazer.
For more on Medellín’s revival, see Citiscope’s four-part series:

  1. Fast growth in a verdant valley
  2. Reclaiming the city from violence
  3. Reforms hand Colombia mayors and cities more power
  4. The road to most innovative city

Full story

Lee Kuan Yew World City Prize


Few cities have transformed the way that Medellín, Colombia’s second largest city, has in the past 20 years. Medellín’s homicide rate has plunged, nearly 80% from 1991 to 2010. The city built public libraries, parks, and schools in poor hillside neighborhoods and constructed a series of transportation links from there to its commercial and industrial centers. The links include a metro cable car system and escalators up steep hills, reducing commutation times, spurring private investment, and promoting social equity as well as environmental sustainability. In 2012, the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy recognized Medellín’s efforts with the Sustainable Transportation Award.
But a change in the institutional fabric of the city may be as important as the tangible infrastructure projects. The local government, along with businesses, community organizations, and universities worked together to fight violence and to modernize Medellín. Transportation projects are financed through public-private partnerships; engineering firms have designed public buildings for free; and in 2006, nine of the city’s largest firms funded a science museum. In addition, Medellín is one of the largest cities to successfully implement participatory budgeting, which allows citizens to define priorities and allocate a portion of the municipal budget. Community organizations, health centers, and youth groups have formed, empowering citizens to declare ownership of their neighborhoods.
Medellín’s challenges are still many, particularly in housing. However, through innovation and leadership, Medellín has sowed the seeds of transformation, leading to its recognition as a city with potential for long-lasting success. (http://online.wsj.com/ad/cityoftheyear)
See also: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gz7VE5W3syU
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