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Urban Institute Report: Civic Assets for More Equitable Cities

Earlier this week, Reimagining the Civic Commons – the national learning network the Minneapolis Parks Foundation joined in May – released a new report from the Urban Institute called Civic Assets for More Equitable Cities.

Piloted in five communities around the United States and expanded to five more this spring – including Minneapolis, Reimagining puts into practice a collection of approaches to investing in public space to create: civic engagement, socioeconomic mixing, environmental sustainability, and value creation.

Here, the Minneapolis Parks Foundation and our partners are focusing that work on the Upper Riverfront, by implementing strategies to restore a relationship between North Minneapolis and the Mississippi River.

We’re looking forward to sharing more about our Reimagining of the Upper Riverfront this fall. In the meantime, the Civic Assets for More Equitable Cities report puts forward “a promising solution for a fragmented society,” including these key takeaways:

1. By focusing on a collection of civic assets—rather than a single public space—and on achieving key social, economic, and environmental outcomes, cities can fundamentally shift how they revitalize shared public places. This approach leads to cross-silo, collaborative leadership, more strategic operations, and greater innovation.

2. There is no one-size-fits all approach to this work; instead, cities can elevate the value of public places and their role in a community by rethinking and prototyping different models of public space operations and co-creating the design, programming, and revitalization of public spaces with everyone from frontline staff to neighborhood residents, learning as they go. 

3. Cities that want to invest in public spaces for social, economic, and environmental reasons—and ensure that their investment has a long-lasting impact and sparks systemic change—can adopt several strategies to achieve their goals, including:

  • Expand from placemaking to “place-keeping”—that is, the long-term management of public spaces—to include neighborhood job opportunities, workforce development, and wealth-building support that will sustain investments in the civic commons.
  • Revamp community and economic development funding to include financing the revitalization and programming of civic assets.
  • Advocate for policy change to support investment in public spaces in collaboration with community organizers, which can help elevate understanding of the social and economic benefits of revitalized public spaces and encourage more resources to help sustain projects and programs.
  • Collect and share data and stories with policymakers, so they have evidence of the returns on investment in civic assets.
  • Institutionalize the reimagining of civic commons through annual budgets, program requirements, regulations, and ordinances so the approach extends beyond one or two mayoral administrations.

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