Penn IUR Publishes New Report on Universities as Anchor Institutions

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Media Contact:Deborah Lang | | 215-573-8386August 20, 2014

Penn IUR has just released a new report that examines the power of universities as anchor institutions. The Power of Eds & Meds: Urban Universities Investing in Neighborhood Revitalization and Innovation Districts explores the motivations and strategies behind six universities investing in revitalization and innovation beyond their campus boundaries.

The report grew out of materials and discussions at Penn IUR’s Roundtable on Anchor Institutions (PRAI)—a convening of anchor institution leaders to discuss common issues and innovative best practices. The event, titled The Power of Eds and Meds, was held on October 31st through November 1st, 2013, and was the third PRAI event in a series that previously considered arts and cultural institutions (2010) and ballparks (2011).

The case studies presented in this publication originated with materials and discussions from the university anchor institution roundtable. The report includes case studies of: the University of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia, PA); the University of Chicago (Chicago, IL); Harvard University (Boston, MA); Columbia University (New York, NY); Cornell NYC Tech (New York, NY); and Johns Hopkins University (Baltimore, MD).

The report finds that the case study universities pursued revitalization in a number of ways, including: taking a leadership role to address deterioration in the surrounding neighborhoods; responding to city solicitations for revitalization and partnering with other institutions to transform a neighborhood; and engaging with political and neighborhood representatives to address both university and community needs.

Several key lessons emerged from the case studies. The report finds that successful revitalization efforts require universities to align their neighborhood strategies with their institutional missions, as well as the needs of the broader community. In addition, Communication between the university and neighborhood stakeholders—including residents, businesses, politicians, or other neighborhood organizations—is critical. Finally, the report finds that neighborhood revitalization strategies are not static and should be tailored to the needs, resources, and roles of the university and community.

The report's authors are Penn IUR Co-director Eugenie L. Birch and Penn IUR research assistants Meagan M. Ehlenz and Brian Agness. Ehlenz is also a Penn IUR Ph.D. candidate. Birch spearheads Penn IUR’s anchor institutions research, she along with Penn IUR Co-director Susan Wachter convened PRAI, and Birch moderated the discussions during the convening and directed research of the case studies. Ehlenz, researched and wrote the case studies, in addition to coordinating The Power of Eds and Meds roundtable and Agness assisted in the production of the case studies.

Click here to read the original release and download a copy of the report.