Place Governance in a Fragmented World

Nearly seven years ago, the Public Places Project and Brookings teamed up to pilot the Bass Initiative for Innovation and Placement, with generous funding from Bob and Ann Bass. For two years, our two organizations have worked together to explore the “how” and “why” behind the changing spatial geography of the innovation economy. We wanted to understand (and through our research and writings, support) innovation “hubs” or “districts” where advanced industries, institutions, and workers congregate and connect in dense, mostly urban spaces. Our work focuses on the economy of these areas, as well as the physical characteristics and conditions conducive to their development.

But as we began to interact with innovative innovation districts, it became increasingly clear that how and how well a district is organized is the key to shaping its growth and success. Was there an organization or ecosystem of organizations that had a clear vision for the district, an agreed set of outcomes they hoped for, and defined strategies that stakeholders could implement together? If not, how can such a governance structure be established? Who will be part of it? Whose voice does it represent? And where does the money come from to maintain it?

To answer these questions, we will discuss different types of organizational structures that in one way or another manage places, including private civic or commercial institutions (for example, a neighborhood association or chamber of commerce), non-profit organizations that are based in the community. , implement, we engaged. , and public and private institutions (such as business improvement districts). But we never went too far and published any work specifically on this topic. And from what we could tell at the time, several others had.

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Until now. Years after that early work together, we are pleased to announce Hyperlocal: Relocating governance in a fragmented world, which was published by Brookings Press. The book explores the role of place management in today’s increasingly fragmented and uneven economic landscape. In doing so, we hope to prompt new thinking about how, why, and for whom governance matters, and demonstrate practices and models for creating more connected, active, and inclusive communities.

Why we need “hyperlocal” solutions now

At the end of 2018, the Bass Initiative became the Bass Center for a change placement. The Brookings Metro Placement Initiative launched the Bass Center to explicitly address the fact that while many downtowns, waterfronts, and innovation districts have seen significant investment, stark disparities by income, wealth, geography, race and ethnicity still remain. too many places prevent meeting the needs of many people.

These inequalities are systemic and interconnected, and their elimination requires systemic and interconnected solutions. However, traditional units of government are less able than ever to understand and ultimately meet the unique needs of localities within the region. Our current systems and approaches—in economic development, community development, and land use planning—are too slow to meet the challenges of cohesion. And traditional deployment, while vital, is very limited in scale and scope.

To combat these harmful patterns, these areas must come together to grow more opportunity communities that provide access to employment, housing, green space, services and multimodal transportation.

The Bass Center was created for that purpose. Its work, done in partnership with the Public Space Project and numerous other organizations, focuses on a new form of integrated development and placemaking: what we call “transformational placemaking.” It aims to generate positive economic, physical and social outcomes at the hyperlocal scale, supported by strong civic structures that are locally organized and inclusive – in other words, site management.

Indeed, at every step in the initial work of the Center for Learning and Community Engagement, it became clear how important place management is to give stakeholders a structure through which to share ideas, express concerns, advocate for coordinated investments, and improve collaborative projects. community strategies.

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But we were also reminded that as a field, place management is not really even recognized. Innumerable place management organizations operate in communities around the world – in some places homogeneous, in others barely existent – ​​and serve good and bad purposes. However, there are very few studies or systematic documents that cover the alphabet soup of such organizations: BIDs, CDCs, EDCs, URAs, etc. Why and how were these organizations created? What are their different structures? How do they relate to each other and their policy environment in the governance ecosystem?

Enter Hyperlocal. Through eight chapters, the book explores the tensions, challenges, and opportunities associated with place management, as well as recommendations for establishing, reforming, and sustaining place management structures that benefit people and places.

Chapter 1, by Tracy Hadden Loh and Jennifer S. Wei introduces the book—setting the context, defining key terms, and exploring the existing literature on place and place.

Chapter 2, by Alexander van Hoffmann, explores the history and evolution of American place management as an act of both elites and everyday citizens, using stories from the past to inform the present.

Chapter 3, by Sheila Foster, sets out four specific models of place management with different mixes of private, public and community leadership and involvement, and highlights how tensions and trade-offs are discussed in each.

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Chapter 4, by Juliette Mousseau, looks at Los Angeles to examine three types of place governance structures—business improvement districts, neighborhood councils, and community land trusts—and explains how each has different dimensions of power. how and for whose benefit they manage. places under their control.

Chapter 5, by Jill Simon Gross, expands on one of the most common forms of place governance—business improvement districts, or BIDs—to ask who benefits from such governance, who is responsible for overseeing it, and why some BIDs “community” become builders” and others become “breakers” or “line breakers”.

Chapter 6, by Elena Madison and Joy Moses, examines the complex issue of homelessness in the public sphere, including promising practices from the field to better meet the needs of people and places experiencing homelessness.

Chapter 7, by Nancy Kwak, goes beyond US borders for a comparative study of governance efforts in Seoul, Rotterdam, Porto Alegre, Berlin, and other global cities to provide critical insights into how organizations manage equitable and inclusive development at the local level. they do

Finally, Chapter 8, by Tracy Hadden Loh and Nate Storring, summarizes the book’s main themes and outlines best practices for bringing place management to more people and places through new funding, organization, and ownership.

Hyperlocal motivates and provokes, and it certainly won’t please everyone at every turn of the page. But we hope it will spark an interesting conversation among practitioners, scholars, site managers, urban planners, historians, nonprofit leaders, data geeks, and more, and ultimately be used both in the classroom and in the community.


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