June 01, 2016

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Reaching for the Future: Creative Finance for Smaller Communities

Report: April 2016, Urban Land Institute (ULI)

Community revitalization: What’s the big deal?

Whether you live in a large city or small town, there are people working to ensure that plans are in place for the near-term and long-term economic future of your community. In many cases, steps to revitalize neighborhoods serve as part of a broader effort to maintain the economic vitality of a community and the personal well-being of its residents.

In addition, the interaction of public-sector institutions with private businesses and nonprofit organizations is a critical facet of the revitalization process. So in reality, community revitalization is not just a big deal, it’s big business as well.

In this thought-provoking report, the Urban Land Institute presents six examples of revitalization efforts from across the United States; providing a glimpse into the complex process of community development project management and financing.

The ULI report looks at each project with a critical eye on key factors for project success:
• Catalysts - People and activities that served to drive project vision and move initiatives beyond the concept phase;
• Leadership - Robust public, business and social sector support and participation;
• Financing Mechanisms - The funding of revitalization efforts using a combination of public and private sources; and
• Return on Investment - The social and economic benefit the project has had locally and regionally.

The report also lays out some crucial components needed for community transformation initiatives to succeed, including:
• A clear understanding of a community’s competitive advantages;
• A strategic vision;
• An entrepreneurial spirit;
• A public-private partnership culture;
• Knowledge of public financing tools;
• A commitment to design excellence; and
• Organizational and staff capacity.

Community revitalization projects analyzed in the report are:

East Liberty, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania - Driven by strong public-private cooperation and capitalizing on East Liberty’s location, revitalization efforts helped restore community vitality, increase home ownership and improved retail and residential options within the community.

City Center, Greenville, South Carolina - With strong leadership from municipal government and by utilizing primarily public financing, the city was able to transform a struggling and antiquated business district into a thriving new urban center with first-class amenities.

Allentown, Pennsylvania - Innovative state funding tools were used to bankroll new downtown construction of offices, a hotel, retail shops, and an arena. The initiative ultimately resulted in 4,000 new jobs and one billion dollars of new real estate development.

Orland Park, Illinois - After the national recession threatened to derail a major redevelopment project, village leaders took control and utilized local resources to help finance and back the initiative.

Over-the-Rhine, Cincinnati, Ohio - When major corporations step up with leadership and resources, some great achievements can occur. This Cincinnati neighborhood was transformed as direct investment from companies funded community development activities in close cooperation with nonprofits and government officials.

Sugar Land, Texas - With an emphasis on preserving history and local culture, this Houston suburb saw the redevelopment of an obsolete manufacturing and processing facility into a new mixed-use development with an urban flare.

Report URL:


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