A home for Bloomberg's "Center for Cities" at Harvard

In keeping with Bloomberg traditions, the new space for the Bloomberg Center for Cities at Harvard University has open-plan seating. Photo courtesy of Bloomberg Philanthropies

The Bloomberg Center for Cities at Harvard University is getting its own 12,000-square-foot office space at the Harvard Kennedy School, lending new heft to an important educational locus for mayors and public servants.

Why it matters: Cities are on the front lines of problems as diverse as gun violence, homelessness and climate change, and the two-year-old Bloomberg Center is one of the few places that's training mayors and their teams to address such problems.

Driving the news: At a ceremony today, Harvard University President Lawrence Bacow and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg will cut a ribbon for the center's new workspace — which, in keeping with Bloomberg traditions, has an open-seating floor plan.

  • New academic initiatives will include executive education programs for city officials who work in human resources and economic development.
  • Another new program will teach best practices in civic engagement to city officials who work with the public.
  • There'll also be a new conference series called CityAmbition and a doubling of the Bloomberg Harvard City Hall Fellows program, which places Harvard graduates in public service jobs in city governments.

Zoom in: The current crop of City Hall Fellows are working on issues such as flood mitigation in Charleston, South Carolina; police oversight in Grand Rapids, Michigan; and sustainable transportation in Knoxville, Tennessee.

The big picture: Michael Bloomberg, the former three-term mayor of New York City — who founded Bloomberg LP and Bloomberg Philanthropies — has made a priority of uplifting city life and boosting mayors' skill sets.

  • 465 mayors have attended the Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative, founded in 2017 with a $32 million gift from Bloomberg Philanthropies.
  • Another training center for public servants, the Bloomberg Center for Public Innovation at Johns Hopkins University — Mr. Bloomberg's alma mater — was established with $43 million in 2021.
  • Bloomberg Philanthropies operates a nonprofit consulting arm to help cities figure out problems and sponsors competitions for cities to earn grant money.

What they're saying: The Harvard Center for Cities "draws on resources across all of the university's colleges," says Jim Anderson, who leads government innovation programs at the organization.

  • "Last week when I was there, the former mayor of Oakland, Libby Schaaf, suddenly tapped me on the shoulder," he said. "She was speaking about her experiences in a classroom that afternoon."

Of note: 33% of America's cities are led by a participant in the Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative.

  • Alumni include Pete Buttigieg, the secretary of transportation; Eric Adams, the mayor of New York; Keisha Lance Bottoms, the former mayor of Atlanta; and Muriel Bowser, the mayor of Washington, D.C.

The bottom line: "We're at a moment when ambitions for cities are so significant — every problem rolls downhill toward city leaders," Anderson said.

  • "Our expectations of city halls are very high, but we know that the capacity to deliver is not always there."

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