Interesting how they first had to break/bridge perceptions before they could engage in the second phase of redesigning the city. Goes to show how important it is to get people to buy in before you undertake a large project.
I think your idea has a lot of potential. I think generating economic growth through start-ups is key to create some form of sustainable growth.
I wonder if you could partner with local non-profits interested in revitalizing the city as well as local business professionals to provide guidance and mentorship. I'd be great if you could provide business skill training to locals who would want to start-up their own businesses. I think they'd be a good target market to look at since they are personally + emotionally invested in the community. Often times when a company undergoes a big transformation (Ex: Xerox), it has a higher success rate if you hire a new CEO internally as opposed to externally. I think this can be applied to this case. You want to find local aspiring entrepreneurs as opposed to entrepreneurs who want to relocate.
On another note, I wonder what the tipping point would be for this kind of venture?
I think you girls are on to something. This reminds me of communities that are rallied around one industry. You see examples of this in Italy where you have a cluster of fashion companies or in China where you have towns all focused on manufacturing one good. I know large cities tend to be much more diverse, but this could be a starting point that could spark the revitalization of a city. You can have multiple businesses start-up all focusing on producing a specific good/service that intertwines with the other good/services others are producing. It'd be great if this were a self-sustaining, green industry.