Renderings: PORT Urbanism
All cities have vacant or underutilized properties formerly functioning as meaningful and influential parts of civic life. Our civic assets were once the pride of our communities. Libraries, parks, community centers, and schoolyards served rich and poor alike as neutral ground where common purpose was nurtured. But as communities became segmented, technology advanced and needs changed, broad-based use and support for civic assets declined. Those who can afford to purchase private services have turned to shopping for books online instead of libraries, gym memberships instead of recreation centers and country clubs instead of public pools. Americans spend less time together in social settings, trust each other less and interact less with people whose life experiences are different. Abandonment of the places once widely shared has contributed to widening social, economic and political divisions.
Reimagining the Civic Commons is a $40MM national initiative that seeks to reverse the trends of economic and social fragmentation across the U.S. by supporting innovative, place-based efforts to catalyze lasting change through the connection and reinvention of civic assets. The City of Chicago is one of five cities in this initiative seeking to be a comprehensive demonstration of how a connected set of civic assets – a civic commons – can connect people of all backgrounds and yield increased and more equitably shared prosperity for cities and neighborhoods.
Efforts to stabilize or re-energize neighborhoods have addressed singular activation–a library, school, park, warehouse or plaza. Solitary structures then bare the burden of reviving an economy or area. The Chicago Arts + Industry Commons, Chicago's collection of sleepy civic assets soon to be reimagined, focuses on a network of properties instead of isolated development. The strategy of connectivity realizes the potential of harmonized investment, synchronized programming, coordinated training, and education and sustainability.