Architects of the City's Future
University of Denver Chancellor Rebecca Chopp’s promise that the night’s discussion would be powerful, set the tone for the Sept. 19 Voices of Experience (VOE) event, which was all about the power of technology.
The first VOE in the Daniels College of Business’ annual speaker series for the 2016-2017 academic year brought Denver Mayor Michael Hancock and Jim Doyle, president of Panasonic Enterprise Solutions, to campus for a discussion about the smart city initiative being planned for the area surrounding Denver International Airport. The city has partnered with Panasonic to create a 400-acre, sustainable, mixed-use, transit oriented development area on Peña Boulevard in Denver’s “Aerotropolis,” to be called “Peña Station Next.”
Daniels Dean Brent Chrite introduced Doyle and Hancock—who he later described as “the architects of the city’s future”—and led a panel discussion following their presentations.
Calling it “One of the most exciting, if not the most exciting endeavor our company has embarked upon,” Doyle provided context for Panasonic’s partnership with Denver. The company has smart city initiatives all over the globe, including the successful development of a community in Fujisawa, Japan, eight years in the making that houses 400 families. As Panasonic sought to expand its efforts to North America, Denver stood out as the logical location for the country’s first smart city.
“Having such a powerful, global transportation hub of this magnitude is extremely important,” said Doyle against a backdrop photo of Denver International Airport. “For us, having that rail—the A Line—was absolutely critical to the decision for starting the Smart City initiative in the U.S. in Denver.”
“Our greatest port is our airport. We don’t have water. So we have to maximize our airport,” echoed Hancock, who emphasized the concept of working “smarter not harder” throughout his presentation.
We won’t be here to finish this deal. It’ll be our children and our children’s children who see the finish line.
The creation of Peña Station Next will require 20-30 years of planning, design and development, and an estimated $5.6 billion investment. The vision for the area includes retail and residential spaces and a micro-grid that uses a mix of battery storage and solar panels to power the entire 400-acre area. Additionally, the site would include community WI-FI with virtually unlimited bandwidth, smart lighting, smart parking, interactive digital signage, wayfinding, security and a move toward autonomous vehicles.
While technology is a key to the initiative, both Doyle and Hancock emphasized the human element of equation.
“At the end of the day, smart cities are about people. You have to start with community, mobility, energy, security and safety,” said Doyle, who indicated that Peña Station Next would center around a lifestyle where cars aren’t needed.
“It’s about making our residents lives better, simpler, more comfortable and more connected,” agreed Hancock, who went on to address the dire need for innovative solutions to accommodate Denver’s dramatic population increase. “Tonight you and I are in one of the fastest-growing cities in America. There are 4,500 new residents moving to the region every month, and 1,000 new residents moving to Denver every month.”
Population shifts, aging infrastructure, climate change and limited resources all account for growing global interest in the development of smart cities, which, according to Doyle, are no longer novelties but necessities. “Smart Cities can fundamentally change how we live, how we play, how we work, and they’re fundamentally required for us to exist on this planet, going forward.”
Acknowledging its groundbreaking nature, Chrite asked the speakers to account for the success of the partnership between Denver and Panasonic. Both cited an alignment of visions and values, strong leadership, open-mindedness and collaboration. Perhaps most important, however, is the willingness to invest in the future.
“We won’t be here to finish this deal,” said Hancock. “It’ll be our children and our children’s children who see the finish line.”
Learn more about Voices of Experience including the upcoming session, “Healthcare Disrupted,” on October 4.