Photo of a crowd of protesters in New Rochelle, with person in foreground holding up a Black Lives Matter sign
Photo of a crowd of protesters in New Rochelle, with person in foreground holding up a Black Lives Matter sign
A participant shared this photo of their proudest moment as an activist: helping to organize the largest march for racial justice in the history of New Rochelle

“Are you in it for the long haul?” This is the question organizers ask of each other, themselves, and their allies. As an incredible rise of energy and activism swelled across our country’s communities this summer we heard activists share both their desire for cross-generational collaboration and a concern if newcomers were going to be in it for the long journey ahead.

This was especially top of mind for Blaze Lightfoot Jones-Yellin — strategist, activist, urbanist, and Openbox studio member — who saw new activist groups form and established organizations invigorated in his hometown community of New Rochelle, just north…


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Marquise Stillwell. Photograph by Paper Monday.

These past weeks, I’ve been debating with myself: do I say something or do I stay silent? Behind the scenes, I was speaking plenty, with fellow business owners, founders, CEOs. They wanted to know what statements of their own they should put out. They asked me to look over their statements, to give them feedback. I didn’t have time to write a statement of my own. And I didn’t feel I should have to: there is nothing new happening here.

Racism is not new; racism is not rare. So it’s not my job to take the blinders off your eyes…


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Downtown Cincinnati where a waterfront design master plan has transformed the area over the last 20 years

We’re coming to the end of year one of the cityEQ initiative and we’ve just wrapped up week nine of our current project on urban development and community engagement. As part of our initial phase of research, we traveled from our home in New York City to Louisville and Cincinnati to get to know the cities, begin to build our network, and recruit research participants. We spoke to city government, real estate developers, architecture and design firms, urban planners, community engagement specialists, and community representatives.

There’s more research to be done in the new year, but in the meantime we…


Our team spoke to more experts on urban development, continued research planning, and spent time evolving our design process.

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We wonder what resident pup Lenny thinks about Amazon HQ2 choosing to locate in New York City

By the numbers

2 experts interviewed 👩‍💼👨‍💼
1 webinar on equitable development 👨‍🏫
1 urban development project fundraiser🍸

On our minds this week

Blaze
The news of Amazon’s potential NYC office has been rumbling through the city like a passing train. With billions of taxpayer dollars offered to the deal, I’m looking forward to fruitful conversations around community benefits — specifically infrastructure, housing and affordability.

Matt As a designer it’s easy to rely on the tools and techniques that are familiar and comfortable, but if we want to design…


The team began synthesizing what we learned from our trip last week and interviewed additional experts on real estate development.

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Election week at the studio

By the numbers

Interviewed 2 experts in development 👩‍💼👨‍💼
18 interviews downloaded ⬇️⬇️⬇️⬇️⬇️⬇️⬇️⬇️⬇️⬇️⬇️⬇️⬇️⬇️⬇️⬇️⬇️⬇️
5 votes cast for a more equitable city 🗳️🗳️🗳️🗳️🗳️🇺🇸

On our minds this week

Matt It’s becoming increasingly clear that real estate can be many different things for many different people. Some see a market to be invested in, others see a path to a better future. But for all of the things it is, there’s also a key thing that it’s not — optional. Whether they rent, own, or lease, the majority of people…


The team traveled to Louisville and Cincinnati to conduct preliminary field research.

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View of downtown Louisville

By the numbers

Interviewed 7 people who work in development 👷👷👷👷👷👷👷
6 people who work with communities 👩‍💼👩‍⚕️🤱👩‍🌾👨‍🍳👨‍🏭
3 policy + planning experts 👩‍💻👩‍💻👩‍💻
1 district community meeting attended 🏘️
1451 miles traveled ✈️🚗 (between NYC, Louisville and Cincinnati)
1 birthday celebrated on the road 🎂

On our minds this week

Blaze We heard from real estate service professionals, including community engagement consultants and master planners, that a compelling business case exists for front-loading community-centered research at the start of capital-intensive urban development projects. Failure by developers to understand historical context and present conditions can increase…


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Openbox is launching a new initiative, cityEQ, to understand how new urban developments might help address the intersectional needs of today’s communities.

The goal of cityEQ is to design a practical resource for developers and communities to use together for mutual benefits. We believe that tensions between developers and communities are not inherent, and that a new collaborative process for urban place-making is possible — and necessary.

In order for this resource to be valuable it has to work for different users and conditions. Next week we go to Louisville and Cincinnati to learn from developers and community advocates in…

Openbox

Design for people, communities, and cities: opnbx.com

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