Living Cities Aims to Stretch Philanthropic Dollars

Charitable groups to gift five cities with $80 million

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Later today, a philanthropic collaborative called Living Cities will announce $80 million in grants, loans and investments that it will split among five cities: Baltimore, Cleveland, Detroit, Newark, and Minneapolis-St. Paul. Considering the size of major American city budgets, an average of $15 million isn't actually a ton of money, considering some of the systemic problems facing each of those cities. Living Cities hopes to use the cash as seed money, aiming to to stimulate self-sustaining urban renewal projects that will help each area for years to come.  

So has Living Cities found a way to get the most ameliorative bang for their philanthropic buck?

From the changing philosophies of urban renewal from planning legend Robert Moses through the Reagan administration, historian Thomas Sugrue, of the University of Pennsylvania, has spent his career studying the successes and failures of urban renewal.

We also speak to two people who will see this money as it begins to show up in their cities. India Pierce-Lee, program director for Neighborhoods Housing and Community Development for the Cleveland Foundation, and Joe McNeely, executive director of the Central Baltimore Partnership.


Joe McNeely, India Pierce-Lee and Thomas Sugrue

Comments [1]

Joe McNeely from baltimore

John and Celeste, I think you’ve got the question wrong whn you ask “what would you do if someone gave your city a big old grant?” That is sort of the old urban renewal thinking your show said was passé—although at a smaller scale. The Living Cities money is 80% loans that have to be repaid and have to earn money for the investors, not a big old grant. SO the better question is: “how would you invest a couple of million in your city in a way that would attract 10 times that amount of private investment and lead to more private investment down the road?” It's all about leverage, private capital and a long term view.

Oct. 28 2010 08:04 AM

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