Imagine international reaction, a decade or so ago, to this sentence:

The Wall Street Journal and Citi announced today that Medellín, Colombia, is the winner of the “City of the Year” competition, a global program developed in partnership with the Urban Land Institute to recognize the most innovative urban centers.

‘Drugs,’ ‘gangs’ and ‘violence’ would more likely have been words in the same sentence with Medellín, as the mayor acknowledged on receiving the award:

“Medellín stands today as an example for many cities around the world, because despite having lived very dark and difficult times 20 years ago, we have been undergoing a true metamorphosis,” said Mayor Aníbal Gaviria. “Going from pain and fear to hope, and now from hope to be a place filled with life, the city has known how to innovate in every step, both in social programs, urban developments, or the combination of both, and this has been key in the success of this process.

Price Tags was a little prescient – Best transportation project of 2011: the Medellin Escalator.  Goes to show the power of combining urban design and social innovation.

Full story here in Urban Land.