How Legacy Cities Can Leverage Federal Funds for 'Transformative' Projects

Now is the time for cities to make strategic investments to scale up existing revitalization efforts.

October 21, 2021, 8:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction


Patricia Drury / Flickr

"For 'legacy cities,' decades of economic decline have generally meant an array of ambitious revitalization plans are queued up but languishing, due to lack of funding and/or political will." Now, write Lavea Brachman and Eli Byerly-Duke, these cities have a chance to reinvigorate stagnant projects through federal funding from the American Rescue Plan (ARP). "Now is the moment for these cities to dust off their wish lists, activate their strategic playbooks to maximize the ARP funds, and line up implementation partners."

It has become clear that "the private sector alone cannot rescue these legacy places," but "the prospect of extensive public sector funds deployed alongside private sector investments and acting as a springboard for legacy cities and their regions is tantalizing." In cities that were already experiencing redevelopment before the COVID-19 pandemic, "local leaders can build on existing projects and initiatives" to regain momentum.

Meanwhile, "the opportunity to address equity issues in these cities and regions has never been greater." Targeted investments in low-income areas "can reinforce place-based initiatives already underway, such as East Side Avenues in Buffalo and the Strategic Neighborhood Fund in Detroit, catalyzed with state and local public investments and scaled with philanthropic funding." The authors highlight other examples of successful programs and projects in legacy cities that have made a positive impact and could be scaled up with increased funding and resources. "With the pie suddenly dramatically expanded, leaders can build on these pre-COVID projects by coalescing around priority-setting and sequencing of dollars deployed."

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