Comprehensive Neighborhood Revitalization: Community Economic Development Through Corporate Investment

Initial curator: Steve Dubb, Democracy Collaborative

Introduction

The topic of universities and neighborhood revitalization has been widely studied. For example, in 2014 the Penn Institute for Urban Research published a study titled: The Power of Eds and Meds: Urban Universities Investing in Neighborhood Revitalization and Innovation Districts. A year later, the Urban Institute touched on a similar theme in Striking a (Local) Grand Bargain.

The economic potential for universities to support comprehensive neighborhood revitalization is obvious. The National Association of College and University Business Officers report that total university endowments stood at $529 billion as of 2015. A portion of this investment capital could serve—and, occasionally does serve—to invest in neighborhood development. Similarly, the National Center for Education Statistics reports that universities expenditures in 2013-2014 totaled $323.9 billion for public universities and $172.5 billion for private nonprofits, an amount equivalent to about 2.75% of U.S. gross domestic product. Most of these dollars are spent on either personnel or procurement. Targeting some of that local hiring and procurement locally provides a means to leverage existing expenditures to improve neighborhood outcomes.

Universities also possess significant real property assets. A 2015 study from the Coalition of Urban Serving Universities found that the average urban university among its membership owned “502 acres of real estate in urban areas, valued at $700 million per institution.” In short, through the targeted use of real estate development, hiring, procurement, and investment—particularly when linked to core university functions of education and research—universities can have significant positive impact on surrounding neighborhoods.

A key challenge, besides building the political will on campus, is to develop the necessary partnerships with neighborhoods is to do this work well.  In his foreword to The Road Half Traveled: University Engagement at a Crossroads, Charles Rutheiser, who leads the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s anchor institution work, noted that relationships of campuses and their communities in many cases are marked “by decades of conflict, tension and mutual distrust.”  In that book, authors Rita Axleroth Hodges and Steve Dubb identified some leading best practices, including creating a high-level administration position that can oversee efforts and report on them to the president’s cabinet; a conscious linking of university hiring, real estate, purchasing, and investment strategies to community partnership goals; active engagement with community residents and groups in mutually beneficial and respectful partnerships (community advisory boards being one potential structure); and building networks across institutions.

Universities can support local neighborhood revitalization in many ways. In addition to the hiring, procurement, investment and real estate paths indicated above, this might also include support for local schools and local business development.  Below are some resource, organization and local best practice examples to guide your campus in developing your strategy.

Key resources

A) RESOURCE SITES

  • Anchor Institutions Toolkit
    Published by the University of Pennsylvania’s Netter Center for Community Partnerships in 2009, this toolkit provides an overview of Penn’s trajectory up through 2007. Full of worksheets and questionnaires, this is a useful road-map for the type of questions your institution might want to ask in designing a neighborhood revitalization initiative that is appropriate to your community’s assets and needs.
  • Hospitals Aligned for Healthier Communities: Inclusive Local Hiring
    This site, organized by The Democracy Collaborative in partnership with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, provides a detailed toolkit for engaging in workforce development and local hiring strategies.  While focused on health care, many of the practices described within could also be employed by universities in their local hiring efforts.
  • Hospitals Aligned for Healthier Communities: Inclusive Local Sourcing
    This site, organized by The Democracy Collaborative in partnership with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, provides a comprehensive toolkit for engaging in local purchasing strategies. While focused on hospitals and health systems, many of the practices could also be employed by university campuses.
  • Hospitals Aligned for Healthier Communities: Place-Based Investing
    This site, organized by The Democracy Collaborative in partnership with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, provides a detailed toolkit regarding how to employ community investment strategies to employ capital in ways that effectively support local neighborhood investment. Although focused on health systems, many of the practices could also be used by universities.
  • Initiative for a Competitive Inner City
    This site, organized by the nonprofit Initiative for a Competitive Inner City, contains a set of case study articles on urban revitalization efforts, with the focus of many of the entries being on the role played by universities in supporting neighborhood-based economic development.
  • Living Cities, Integration Initiative
    This site, organized by the Living Cities funders’ consortium, provides resources on what Living Cities calls their Integration Initiative, an attempt to support comprehensive neighborhood revitalization in ten cities. Through this initiative, Living Cities supported place-based strategies in urban areas with a combination of grant dollars, low-interest loans and market-rate lending, with universities being significant partners in many, if not, most of the partner cities.
  • Policy Brief, Investing Institutional Endowment Dollars
    This Democracy Collaborative policy brief provides a 2-page outline with high-level strategy tips and examples of how to leverage university endowments to invest in local community wealth building, including two prominent examples from Ohio State University and the University of Cincinnati.
  • Policy Brief, Local Hiring
    This Democracy Collaborative policy brief provides a 2-page outline with high-level strategy tips and examples of how to incorporate local hiring into neighborhood revitalization efforts.
  • Policy Brief, Local Purchasing
    This Democracy Collaborative policy brief provides a 2-page outline with high-level strategy tips of how to incorporate local purchasing into neighborhood revitalization efforts, including brief examples from both the University of Pennsylvania, a nonprofit private university, and the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, a public institution.
  • Policy Brief, Local School Partnerships
    This Democracy Collaborative policy brief provides a 2-page outline with high-level strategy tips and examples of how to incorporate partnerships with local public schools into neighborhood revitalization efforts.
  • Policy Brief, Real Estate Development
    This Democracy Collaborative policy brief provides a 2-page outline with high-level strategy tips and examples of how to leverage university real estate assets to support neighborhood revitalization efforts.
  • Policy Brief, Supporting Local Business
    This Democracy Collaborative policy brief provides a 2-page outline with high-level strategy tips and examples of how to incorporate technical assistance programs that support local business development into neighborhood revitalization efforts.

Organizations

  • Aspen Workforce Strategies Institute
    The Aspen Institute’s Workforce Strategies Initiative works to identify, evaluate, and promote promising and successful practices and policies that improve access to quality training and employment for low-income adults. 
  • Coalition for Community Schools
    The Coalition for Community Schools, housed at the Institute for Educational Leadership, is an alliance of national, state and local organizations that support local community school initiatives that integrated with supportive services to promote youth and community development while improving student learning.
  • Democracy Collaborative, anchor institutions program
    The Democracy Collaborative’s anchor institution program seeks to work with a range of institutions, including universities, hospitals, local governments, and community foundations, to help align resources in ways that benefit both the institutions and their community partners.
  • National Minority Supplier Development Council
    The National Minority Supplier Development Council seeks to advance business opportunities for certified Asian, Black, Hispanic and Native American business enterprises and connecting them to purchases of goods and services, such as universities.
  • Next Street
    This consultancy works with universities to strategically leverages institutional investments in operations, real estate, and infrastructure to catalyze growth in jobs and opportunities for local businesses and residents, including procurement, local hiring, and infrastructure strategies.
  • U3 Advisors, Place-Based Development
    U3 Advisors leverages has assisted universities develop a number of neighborhood revitalization strategies including institutional housing incentive programs, local procurement strategies, and efforts to enhance and strengthen community development organizations.

Models and Exemplars

  • Campus Partners
    Based in Columbus, Ohio and organized as an independent nonprofit in 1995 with the support of The Ohio State University, Campus Partners has focused on the South Gateway area and the adjacent Weinland Park neighborhood. Ohio State has provided annual operating support, as well as investing $24.6 million from its endowment in the late 1990s (lent out at 5-percent interest; the endowment fund will also gain ownership of the land at the end of a 40-year period). In addition to supporting retail development, Campus Partners has partnered with Weinland Park community groups, helping improve neighborhood conditions while preserving affordability.
  • Dornsife Center
    Established in 2012, with the help of a $10 million gift by philanthropists Dana and David Dornsife, Drexel University’s Dornsife Center is located on a 1.3-acre site and is designed to serve as an “urban extension” center at the border of the Mantua and Powelton Village neighborhoods in West Philadelphia. Since its launch, the Center has launched a range of community-based programs, including programs in health and wellness, arts and culture, and workforce development efforts that aim to train and employ neighborhood residents.
  • Impact Linda Vista Initiative
    Launched in the fall of 2013 by the University of San Diego (USD), a Jesuit institution, the initiative seeks to strengthen the neighboring Linda Vista community through co-development of social initiatives by USD students and Linda Vista residents. Focus areas have included programs in supporting financial services for residents, small business development, health and education, with a focus on partnership with local school and nonprofits.
  • LeMoyne-Owen College Community Development Corporation
    Founded in 1989 by LeMoyne-Owen College, aa mall Memphis-based historically black college, the community development corporation has helped the support neighborhood revitalization. The CDC’s Towne Center at Soulsville USA project, which opened in 2010 across the street from the Stax Museum of American Soul Music provides 101,000 square feet of s retail, restaurants, health services, and a business incubator. The CDC also operates a business development “boot camp” which has helped spawn 75 new businesses and generate more than 180 jobs.
  • Near West Side Initiative
    Based in Syracuse, New York, the Near West Side Initiative brings together community groups, institutions, and businesses in an 11-block area known as the Syracuse Arts Life and Technology or “SALT” district, a reference to the city’s history as a salt production center. Formed in 2006 with the support of Syracuse University, the Gifford Foundation, and neighborhood residents, the group has helped generate $74 million in investment, as well as 308 long-term jobs.
  • University City District
    Founded in 1997, the University City District (UCD) is a partnership of area universities, health systems, small businesses and residents of West Philadelphia, focused on the “University City” area immediately west of the University of Pennsylvania and Drexel University, who are among the organization’s lead funders. UCD’s West Philadelphia Skills Initiative, launched in 2011, now helps provide workforce skills training for over 120 residents a year. In 2016, 90 percent of program graduates found employment, with an average starting wage of $13.37 an hour.

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