Before I was elected mayor in June, 2011 of the most populated city in the third-fastest growing region in the United States, I knew Dallas as a city of opportunity. I moved here with a couple hundred bucks in my pocket for a job as a television reporter thinking I would probably stay a few years and eventually move somewhere else. While I only lasted a couple years as a journalist, I stayed in Dallas to work at an advertising agency and later became CEO of that company.
Other jobs followed, but I continued to call Dallas home, not just for the career opportunities, but because the city constantly took steps forward to becoming one of the world's greatest cities.
Dallas has always been a transportation hub, and our international airport co-owned with Fort Worth is the world's fourth busiest. It is one of the signature accomplishments of our amazingly dynamic region, which also boasts the largest light rail system in the United States. Several of the nation's best public schools, including the best high school in the country (according to this week's U.S. News & World Report), are in the Dallas Independent School District. Dallas also has the nation's largest urban hardwood forest in the Trinity River, which we are redeveloping from an industrial business center to a human-focused corridor connecting our residents to inner-city public green space.
There's also a generosity of spirit that leveraged more than $1 billion in public funding to rally hundreds of donors to each give millions of dollars to build the largest contiguous urban cultural district in the nation. The walkable 20 square blocks of the Dallas Arts District now feature five museums and performance venues designed by winners of the highest honor in architecture, the Pritzker Prize. In addition to the function and beauty of these buildings, the entire neighborhood reminds our citizenry and the world that promoting culture is essential to the urban fabric if you want to attract and retain the best employers and talented employees.
We believe that technology, arts and culture will unite global citizens. Our Dallas Arts District is cultivating the skills essential for problem solving by helping visitors understand and appreciate history and international cultures, as well as innovation and creativity. That's why I am so excited to welcome hundreds of elected and appointed officials, corporate executives, scholars, entrepreneurs and journalists from dozens of countries to the New Cities Summit this June 17-19.
With the New Cities Foundation, Dallas is eagerly embracing our future opportunities to innovate. Chief among them is our newly formed Global Cultural Districts Network, headquartered in Dallas to continue the conversation among established cultural districts in Brooklyn, Berlin and Amsterdam with cultural districts under construction in Qatar and Hong Kong, among others, which represent $250 billion in projected investment over the next decade.
GCDN creates a lasting organization to foster the growth of these districts, sharing best practices throughout the world, which we are uniquely situated to lead as a destination city for top creative professionals. The Dutch conductor of our Dallas Symphony Orchestra, Jaap Van Zweden, is also the conductor of the Hong Kong Philharmonic in the under-construction West Kowloon Cultural District. The new Parisian music director of our Dallas Opera, Emmanuel Villaume, also conducts the Slovakian Philharmonic Orchestra in Bratislava. And we are also nurturing the next generation of performing artists at our public Dallas arts magnet high school, which will be sending five students to The Juilliard School this fall.
We know we still have challenges to overcome in order to be considered among the top international cities in the world. That's why we are eager to extend legendary Texas hospitality to the multinational innovators from whom we hope to learn this summer. Through the process, we hope to redefine Dallas' global reputation and help half the world's population now living in urban areas for the first time in history.