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Five Decisions That Remade Washington

From the Great Recession until very recently, Washington Post reporter Jonathan O’Connell covered all the decisions and plans that—over a decade’s time—reshaped the urban environment in Washington, DC, and will for years to come.

In this lecture, O’Connell, a 2019 Sarah Booth Conroy Prize winner, will reflect on his time covering the development of the city through the lens of some of the most difficult and consequential decisions made by political and business leaders during that time. None of these decisions were easy and many of them were roundly criticized when they were being made. In some cases that criticism continued for years after. But all these choices ended up being far more meaningful than anyone could have envisioned.


Presented by: Jonathan O’Connell

Jonathan O'Connell has been a staff reporter at The Washington Post since 2010. He has spent much of his time there covering urban and economic development, including redevelopment of urban waterfronts, dramatic population shifts to cities and the crunch in big city housing affordability.

His work has won awards from the Society for Professional Journalists and the National Association of Real Estate Editors, including the 2019 prize for best collection on commercial real estate. He is a two-time finalist for the Gerald Loeb Award for business journalism.

He is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin at Madison, where he majored in journalism and English. Previously he worked at the Washington Business Journal, the Hartford Business Journal, and the Washington bureau of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.


At the completion of this course, participants will be able to:

  • Explain how the urban environment of Washington, DC advanced from the Great Recession until today;
  • Discuss the importance of local decision-making in politics and business in shaping an urban area;
  • Identify local examples of inequality, as well as the causes and potential solutions to that issue; and
  • Illustrate examples in which planning and design had an effect on making accessible, inviting public spaces and mixed-use developments.