Research Report Catalyzing Neighborhood Revitalization Through Strengthening Civic Infrastructure
Principles for Guiding Place-Based Initiatives
Aaron Shroyer, Joseph Schilling, Erika C. Poethig
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Place-based revitalization initiatives seek to make every neighborhood safe and healthy and to connect them to high-quality services. These initiatives share a few common characteristics. They concentrate resources in a specific geography; combine physical revitalization with the provision of services (e.g., health, education, and job training programs); leverage existing institutions, networks, and capital; and engage local leaders and residents. However, they have a mixed track record on whether and how much current residents benefit from such redevelopment. To address these and other limitations, more place-based initiatives are starting to marry physical revitalization with intentional efforts to build civic infrastructure. Civic infrastructure incorporates a broad view of community assets and therefore seeks to improve physical and civic assets as well as the processes, practices, and interactions those assets enable. By strengthening civic infrastructure, revitalizing physical assets can help create equitable outcomes for residents and increase community benefits.

The Chicago Prize, a 2019 philanthropic challenge of the Pritzker Traubert Foundation, presents an opportunity to demonstrate how physical revitalization projects that strengthen civic infrastructure can catalyze economic activity that improves outcomes for current residents. In this report, we articulate six principles, gleaned from years of place-based practice and research, to guide how applicants, judges, and others approach the Chicago Prize. Although few place-based initiatives have integrated all of these principles, these principles offer a comprehensive approach that strengthens civic infrastructure, catalyzes neighborhood economic activity, and ultimately improves economic and social outcomes for nearby residents. These principles include

  • applying an asset-based approach;
  • matching revitalization strategy to neighborhood conditions and context;
  • aligning policies, programs, and investments across sectors, levels, and systems;
  • leveraging or building on-the-ground capacity to deploy capital;
  • generating economic and social benefits for the community; and
  • promoting equity and inclusion.

Although these six principles are intended to inform those involved with the Chicago Prize, the Chicago Prize can also build knowledge for the philanthropic community and the broader economic and community development fields on how to design and implement place-based interventions that maximize community benefit. Because civic infrastructure uses place and pays attention to process to facilitate resident engagement and build community, the Chicago Prize provides an opportunity to learn about how catalytic investments in real estate can shape and change the relationship between place and people over time.

For more information on the Pritzker Traubert Foundation and the Chicago Prize, see  

Research Areas Nonprofits and philanthropy Neighborhoods, cities, and metros
Policy Centers Research to Action Lab