They are the pillars of city life, some celebrated, some less known: the museums, libraries, colleges and universities, arts centers, sports facilities, and medical centers that provide employment and services purchasing, and in many cases a strong sense of identity and civic pride, in the nation's cities.
These urban "anchors" - a handy new label for these institutions, which also include churches and local corporations - are increasingly working hand-in-hand with municipal officials to better leverage their advantages, accommodate mutual interests and grow in sync with residents in the neighborhoods where they are located.
"Partnerships like these require collaborative problem-solving and have multiple stakeholders," said Rosalind Greenstein, senior fellow and chair of the Department of Economic and Community Development at the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, which was a partner in a groundbreaking conference, "Urban Anchors in the 21st Century," at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia Oct. 8-9. "Our work is to understand how these institutions can work together with cities, and improve the collective capacity."
The Lincoln Institute's City, Land and the University project has focused on the role of universities in the urban context. The Chronicle of Higher Education recently noted a Lincoln working paper about real estate development by universities. Greenstein said further research will be done on higher education institutions in the metropolitan areas of Baltimore and Chicago. Planners and city officials will also gather next spring for "Eds, Meds, and Municipalities," a conference being organized with the Massachusetts Department Housing and Community Development to help engage "anchor" institutions in a range of cities and towns. Also in the works, Greenstein said, is a database on university real estate projects built on campus boundaries that will soon appear on the Lincoln Institute's web site, and a Policy Focus Report on the use of PILOTs or payments-in-lieu-of-taxes.
The "Urban Anchors" conference, hosted by the Penn Institute for Urban Research, included talks by Henry Cisneros, former secretary of Housing and Urban Development; Manuel Diaz, mayor of Miami; Mark Mallory, mayor of Cincinnati; and Judith Rodin, president of the Rockefeller Foundation, a co-sponsor, and author of the book "The University and Urban Revival." Other co-sponsors were the Bank of America, the Barbara and Edward Netter Center for Community Partnerships, the University of Pennsylvania, CEOs for Cities, Great Cities Institute, the University of Illinois at Chicago, the Knight Foundation, and The Annie E. Casey Foundation.
"Anchor institutions are economic engines, and cities and these institutions depend on each other," Greenstein said. "That relationship will benefit from more research and information."