When it comes to knowing what makes cities tick – and how to improve upon it – Colin Curzi has knowledge and experience beyond his years.
Curzi, a student in Johns Hopkins Carey Business School’s Global MBA class of 2019 (with a projected concentration in Real Estate and Infrastructure), has already started to amass an impressive background in urban planning and infrastructure, new technologies, and sustainability strategies – and how they can all work together to reimagine cities in the 21st century.
Prior to Carey, Curzi was selected for a “Smart Utilities” Fellowship for the City of Boston’s Planning and Development Agency – the city’s economic development and urban planning office. Boston was wrestling with the challenge of implementing smart city technology while addressing the risks climate change posed to existing infrastructure. The chance to find solutions to these problems led to Curzi’s leaving his career at Accenture to help determine how to shift infrastructure to better allow for these emerging technologies while making the city more resilient in the face of climate change.
Curzi, in a project management and strategy capacity, worked with a broad spectrum of city agencies, utility companies, engineering firms, consultancies, and the city’s real estate developers to craft a strategy for policy changes to how Boston used energy and water, managed traffic, and created more equitable data communications.
The result was a more functional policy that is in the process of implementation for all new development in the city. The Boston Globe cited that the policy for withstanding climate change “… appears to be the first of its kind in the nation.” Among the issues developers will need to address are providing power to residents in emergency situations; retaining rainfall to reduce runoff and potential flooding; consolidating fiber optics, cable, and other communication conduits; and installing smart traffic signals and street lights that promote improved traffic flow and reduce energy usage.
Indeed, the allure of putting these practices to work was a chief factor in what attracted Curzi to Carey.
“Baltimore was probably my biggest draw. It is a phenomenal landscape for implementing different social or government programs,” he said. “People here want to help you make things work.” After “just a couple of conversations” with the chief of staff of the city’s CIO, Curzi was working on digital strategies and smart city policies during his first year at Carey.
“Just the opportunity Carey has to position itself as the business advisor to the City of Baltimore is really appealing and I wanted to be a part of bringing that to fruition,” explained Curzi. “Carey students should be in City Hall,” he added. “Baltimore City is using government to create new markets for tech and sustainability and otherwise in ways that could benefit from leveraging Carey as an advisor.”
With Curzi’s participation, Baltimore recently published its first-ever digital strategic plan. The goal is to move city services to the IT cloud, while making them more customer-centric, and aligning them with every branch of city government to deal most effectively with citizens’ needs and concerns. Another goal is to lure additional technology companies to move to the city.
This summer, Curzi is putting his burgeoning experience to work for Google’s urban planning sibling company, Sidewalk Labs, in an internship designing a sustainable infrastructure development project for the city of Toronto.
Curzi credits his time already spent at Carey as instrumental in his continuing work.
“The class I’ve relied on the most is ‘Managerial Decision Behavior’,” he said. “[It informs] how to evaluate new information without getting overwhelmed by it, which is especially difficult within the sustainable urban development space where you’re talking about ideas that don’t exist at all, or if they do, they operate within one pilot zone and were never seen before or since. So, you really have to figure out a means of weighing this information, not getting too excited about it and not discounting what you see at the same time.”
“[It’s about] how to make a decision in a smart way.”