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The Cities This Week: Edition 12




The old Indian Museum, left, stands near Maracana soccer stadium, right, in Rio de Janeiro, on March 19, 2012 (AP Photo/Victor R. Caivano)

The old Indian Museum, left, stands near Maracana soccer stadium, right, in Rio de Janeiro, on March 19, 2012 (AP Photo/Victor R. Caivano)

AUSTIN

Google Inc. picked tech-savvy Austin on Tuesday as the next city where the search giant will wire homes with ultra-fast Internet connections, but did not say how much customers will pay or when the fiber-optic experiment might expand elsewhere in the U.S. Austin and Kansas City are the only places to get Google Fiber — a broadband service 100 times faster than the competition and an alternative to cable or satellite TV providers.

RIO DE JANEIRO 

As Brazil prepares to host the 2014 World Cup, massive construction and reconstruction is taking place, and residents living near stadium sites have faced a series of evictions and relocations. In Rio de Janeiro, a group of indigenous people have been squatting in abandoned structure near the famous Maracana Stadium since about 2006. The building, formerly an Indian museum, is now slated for demolition, making way for a planned 10,000-car parking lot, part of the $500 million renovation of Maracana Stadium.

WASHINGTON D.C.

Strengthening its dedication to environmental sustainability, Union Station in Washington, D.C., has signed a three-year contract for 100 percent WGES CleanSteps WindPower from Herndon-based Washington Gas Energy Services (WGES). One of the nation’s premier, historic transportation hubs, Union Station previously used 50 percent WGES CleanSteps® WindPower for its electricity needs. Union Station will transition to 100 percent wind power for its electricity load of 18,943,964 kilowatt hours annually. This is equivalent to avoiding the consumption of more than 1,400,000 gallons of gasoline or taking more than 2,700 cars off the road for one year.

NAIROBI 

High-end rental prices in Nairobi have edged up the highest for the second year in a row, Knight Frank’s latest index that tracked 16 cities shows. The firm’s Prime Global Rental Index for the fourth quarter shows rents in this segment – which makes up about five per cent of the mainstream housing market – jumped by 17.9 per cent in Nairobi in 2012, the highest price change worldwide. Multinationals such as HSBC, Nestle, Coca-Cola and Colgate Palmolive are among the many companies that have opened offices in Kenya recently, taking up copious amounts of office space. This has subsequently induced demand for high-end rental homes.

LOS ANGELES

Just before officials at the Port of Los Angeles unanimously approved a plan for a vast new railyard last month, the mayor of Long Beach was incensed. How dare they, he angrily asked at a public meeting, value the lives of residents on Los Angeles’s side of the border more than those who live in his city. It was a provocative statement from the mayor of this city of nearly half a million people, where the port, one of the busiest in the nation, has long driven the economy. For years, Mayor Bob Foster said, he has favored development projects in the region, looking for ways for the port to bring in more business. But the $500 million project by the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway would increase traffic and pollution and have a devastating effect on residents in adjacent working-class neighborhoods, he said.

PARIS 

Paris is on the verge of a massive transportation upgrade, largely for the benefit of its long-neglected suburbs. The Boulevard Périphérique is currently a physical and psychological border between two unequal worlds. The 2.2 million residents of Parisintra-muros rarely set foot in the banlieue, home to a primarily lower-income and more ethnically diverse population of 9.5 million. Reaching education and employment centers is extremely difficult for many suburban residents. They often face longer commute times to the center than those from provincial cities linked by high-speed rail.

SHANGHAI

Five more cases of H7N9 bird flu — three in Shanghai and two in Jiangsu Province — were reported on Thursday, bringing the total number of people infected in China to 38, including 10 that have died. Three more people had tested positive for the H7N9 avian influenza virus in Shanghai, including one patient who died, as of 5 p.m. Thursday, local health authorities said. The new confirmed cases brought the infection count in the city to 18. So far, six of the 18 cases have resulted in death, according to a statement from the Shanghai Municipal Health and Family Planning Commission.

LAGOS

The Nigeria Computer Society has acquired land in the capital and plans to begin construction in the next two years, pending funding and government support. The intention is to pool the IT resources of the city, which is already the hub of IT business in Nigeria. NCS hopes to create an area of technological innovation similar to Silicon Valley in California. According to Demola Aladekomo, president of the NCS, “Once you know there is a central place you need to go to get a particular type of service, everyone will just go to that area. There is a synergy, which is going to be created not just within the industry but within the society because you know that if you need a particular service, there is a place you are sure of getting it.”

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Melissa Meyer

Future Cape Town London-based correspondent

Urbanist-in-training from Cape Town, currently working in London. MSc City Design & Social Science.

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