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LBJ School of Public Affairs Launches Urban Lab Initiative

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AUSTIN, Texas — A new “do-tank” that will inform future urban policy and create strategy for cities in Texas and beyond has been established in the LBJ School of Public Affairs at The University of Texas at Austin. Called the LBJ Urban Lab, it will train the next generation of local leaders and will explore issues affecting urban communities: competitiveness and economic development, innovation, inclusive prosperity, affordability and resiliency.

“In 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson founded the Department of Housing and Urban Development as part of his Great Society vision, bringing cities to the forefront of his policy agenda,” said Angela Evans, dean of the LBJ School of Public Affairs. “As a center of discovery and exchange, the LBJ Urban Lab is a natural continuation of that vision where faculty, students and practitioners can come together to shape the public policies and strategies that will build more inclusive, prosperous communities in the future.”


Directed by newly appointed Professor of Practice Steven Pedigo and aided by an advisory board of faculty members, leading policymakers and civic-minded business leaders, the LBJ Urban Lab will be a hub for cities, urbanism and policymaking — seizing real-world issues and opportunities to look for solutions for cities. It will also host a series of public events, launch an Urban Fellows program, and offer a suite of professional development programs for city officials and practitioners.

“As a state, Texas is at the epicenter of growth and change in the U.S. and provides an ideal laboratory for identifying untapped potential in today’s cities,” Pedigo said. “By exploring the dynamism, innovation and diversity of Texas city policies, planning and economic and urban development, the Urban Lab will contribute significantly to the science, policies and best practices of sustainable city building.”

In its first semester, the LBJ Urban Lab has an active research and engagement agenda programmed. The lab and The Texas Tribune have partnered to bring special programming on timely city issues to the 2019 Texas Tribune Festival. Panels will feature an array of experts, including former New York City Deputy Mayor of Housing Alicia Glen, El Paso Mayor Dee Margo, New York Times columnist Allison Arieff, head of public affairs at Bird Scooters Ashwini Chhabra, Harris County Commissioner Rodney Ellis (MPAff ’77), Texas Department of Transportation Executive Director James Bass and many others.

In addition, the lab has been tapped by the IC2 Institute to develop economic development strategies to support innovation and entrepreneurship in rural Texas communities. The lab will also launch a series of data briefs and insights for Texas cities in spring 2020.