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ATLANTA-Digital technology is creating digital places, says Thomas Horan, executive director of the Claremont Information and Technology Institute at Claremont Graduate University in Claremont, CA. Horan spoke at the Urban Land Institute’s Partners for Smart Growth Conference in Atlanta this week.

At the home, community and regional levels, the impact of technology is making itself felt. It is challenging individuals, businesses, institutions local municipalities and entire regions to design and redesign space and distance for flexibility and multiplicity. “The push is on to remake communities,” notes Horan.

He maintains the effort to make communities wired and livable involves three key elements: redevelopment; greenfield development; and linking the best of a place with the infrastructure for the future.

At the community level, development and redevelopment must integrate the community of place with the community of interest. He cites, as an example, a cluster of former bank buildings’ (single use) adaptation to a block containing loft offices and living space, a telecom hotel and a cultural center. Another facet of such a project is the change from a single-function use to multiple-use settings.

Other examples include the 24/7 school used by elementary or high school students during the day and in the evening for senior activities and education; the hospitals, which certainly need bricks, but which are also setting up electronic networks to deliver healthcare information; and the community centers and libraries that provide electronic access along with standard services.

On the regional level, Horan notes the rise of first- and second-tier cities, which are developing cores of technology companies. Those cities that lead the way are 24-hour, vibrant centers, wired to carry the growing electronic loads. These digital places attract companies and people, he adds, because of a critical mass of talent/workforce; a proximity to a core business and customers; availability of capital–venture and otherwise; and good educational institutions.

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