In 1961, urbanist and community activist Jane Jacobs observed that cities are like ecosystems—dense, diverse, and dynamic spaces, invigorated by activities that bring people together. This understanding of how people experience and use space is central to placemaking today. Beyond promoting better urban design, placemaking aims to improve cities and neighborhoods by creating spaces where people can thrive, build social connections, and feel like they belong.

City and county leaders play a critical role in both developing spaces and fostering community. Historically, however, government investment in civic infrastructure has been unequal, resulting in the spatial and economic marginalization of people of color and lower-income residents. To address these inequities, local governments can engage affected communities, understand their priorities, and invest in placemaking projects that bridge gaps in access without displacing residents. Sustaining these efforts will require identifying and securing adequate funding.

Here are four funding strategies local governments can use to advance equitable placemaking in their communities.

  1. Identify federal funding that can be used flexibly.
  2. Leverage urban development financing to fund place-based initiatives.
  3. Partner with charitable foundations to sustain projects in the long term.
  4. Mix and match different funding sources.

Like securing funding, community input is a crucial component of any placemaking project. To ensure funding is put toward projects that narrow—rather than widen—disparities in the community, local governments should work to include community members in each step of the placemaking process.

Read the full article about equitable placemaking by Kimberly Burrowes at Urban Institute.