A Walsall-based regeneration expert will today cross the Atlantic to find out how lessons learned from major revitalisation projects in Boston and New York can benefit the town.
Will Evans, development director of Walsall Regeneration Company, is joining a ten-strong team from across the country for the five-day study trip.
His visit to the US eastern seaboard will enable him to see how successful regeneration schemes have worked in partnership with private and public sectors and to meet some of the key people involved in delivering them. Boston and New York have schemes that are internationally recognised as examples of best practice.
The visitors' busy itinerary will take in the Boston Redevelopment Authority, for example, a look at how the city's Seaport District has been transformed and the Big Dig multi-billion dollar road infrastructure project.
In New York the delegates will learn how and why Brooklyn's Metrotech BID (Business Improvement District) has worked and will see the transformation of Manhattan's Bryant Park from a haunt for drug dealers to a popular year-round community amenity. In Jersey City the team will meet the director of planning and tour redevelopment areas.
Mr Evans said: "It is a real opportunity to see first hand how and why certain projects work from an American perspective. We can learn valuable lessons from both small and large-scale schemes and apply similar solutions to issues that we face in the UK.
"It is all about recognising and adopting good practice in terms of innovative and proven business models that deliver the streets and open spaces that will complement private development while benefiting the whole community.
"It will be interesting to learn, too, from on the ground experiences of Business Improvement Districts, which are relatively new to the UK, but which have been operating in the States for some time.
"There may well be some initiatives which will not travel well, for a variety of reasons, however there is much more we can learn from the US to benefit our regeneration programmes.
"We will also be looking closely at strategies adopted by districts sitting within large metropolitan areas, similar to Walsall within the West Midlands, that guide how they interact positively with one another whilst maintaining their individuality and maximising their strengths."
The trip has been organised by IDOX, which manages a network for the leaders of organisations charged with delivering sustainable communities in England.
Specialists in regeneration joining the study tour include the chief executive of the English Cities Fund and the director of renewal for North Staffordshire.
WRC is private sector-led and driven and backed by a powerful partnership comprising regional development agency Advantage West Midlands, English Partnerships and Walsall Council.
It has identified eight major transformational projects, some already well under way, which will regenerate Walsall, creating 5,500 new jobs, more than 1,600 new homes and revitalising 175 acres of land.