Creative Communities

Civic Infrastructure

A Model for Civic Asset Reinvestment
Over the next six years, The City of Philadelphia’s Rebuilding Community Infrastructure Initiative (Rebuild) will remake its civic assets with a $500 million of reinvestment in the city’s libraries, recreation centers, and parks. The goal of this research is to help contextualize Rebuild by reconceptualizing the challenges and opportunities of such large-scale reinvestments, and by presenting lessons from other North American cities, including New York, Seattle, Detroit, Minneapolis, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Montréal.
Reinvesting in civic assets requires adequate funds and good design, but the challenge is not simply a matter of design and finance. Our research shows that building a robust network of civic assets requires deeper, longer-term, more abiding changes in four areas of common practice: community engagement; institutional makeup and leadership; maintenance and programming; and measurement. Improving a city’s public spaces—including how they are defined, made, connected, sustained, and shared—requires innovation in all four areas. It also requires thinking more fully about the value of creative placemaking and about the standard operating procedures for civic assets.
This paper raises questions about, and provokes a longer-term conversation on, public space and civic culture. It precedes a series of more in-depth papers forthcoming over the next year, on specific areas of practice that researchers have not sufficiently studied.


Published: June 2017
Elizabeth Greenspan, Randall Mason
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