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The Little Italy neighborhood generates almost $1 million per year, $800,000 of it through property and business assessments. The balance of funds is derived from its entrepreneurial activities.

The Little Italy Association is 10-years old and oversees the revitalization of one of the remaining Italian neighborhoods in the US today. The budget is controlled by a 33-member board of directors through its public benefit corporation. The district is managed by New City America staff and represents a great model of what a well-funded assessment district with a visionary board and highly qualified management team can do.

The Little Italy Association operates in a 48-square block community that has more than 400 businesses, 1,200 property owners and approximately 3,000 to 5,000 residents. Its maintenance crew empties 250 trash cans per day, maintains almost 50 dog bag stations, trims and maintains over 800 trees and oversees the maintenance of nearly 250 street light poles. In addition, the Association has built a public piazza, sponsors very popular annual special events, maintains public spaces and is involved in long range planning and development issues.

In Conclusion

The structure of city governments will have to change, and change quickly. For the first time since the late 1800s, (outside of New York City and Chicago), market-rate residential developments are filling up parking lots that were the “missing teeth” of our downtowns’ market rate, vertical housing is one that will not reverse itself. Our cities are being reinvented with mixed use and vertical residential developments before our eyes.

History, finances, and politics are demanding a more streamlined, results-oriented and technologically responsive local government. American city leaders strive to learn from the best-run cities throughout the world. It is time that those same American city leaders take the next step and realize that regions rise or fall by the political and economic health of their cities and the way cities operate must now change.

Think about it — the common challenges confronting cities described in this article are not being discussed openly today. American city leaders must be prepared to enter into that debate now and begin to test new models that will make our small and large cities alike, the envy of the world in the 21st century.

— MARCO LI MANDRI

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