Webinar on “Community Land Trusts: Affordable Housing Strategies for Economic and Racial Justice” – March 12, 2024

Webinar on “Community Land Trusts: Affordable Housing Strategies for Economic and Racial Justice” – March 12, 2024

The March 12 webinar, titled “Community Land Trusts: Affordable Housing Strategies for Racial and Economic Justice,” offered an exceptional platform to highlight how shared equity models can foster upward socio-economic mobility. While the concepts of Trusts, Land Trusts, and Community Land Trusts are not novel, CLTs have surged in popularity over the past decade, offering a means for community members to collectively assert agency over their housing and broader living environments.Viewing CLTs through the lens of Co-City methodology underscores the empowerment they offer communities in enhancing neighborhood affordability and sustainability. Moreover, localized and participatory decision-making fosters greater self-determination over land use at the local level. As CLTs nationwide diversify their portfolios, the Plank Road CLBT stands poised as a trailblazer in this movement, boasting properties for residential (both ownership and rental), commercial, recreational, and environmental purposes.The speakers—Kristin Ring-Reis, Adam Maloon, and Reed Asselbaye as moderator—offered fresh and compelling insights into this topic, drawing from legal, urban planning, and management perspectives. Their contributions, alongside those of others in the field, represent remarkable efforts globally and extend a warm welcome to all seeking deeper understanding. I extend my gratitude to Professor Sheila Foster, Reed Asselbaye, and the CLT community for providing this invaluable opportunity for education and engagement.

 

Webinar on “Community Land Trusts: Affordable Housing Strategies for Economic and Racial Justice” – March 12, 2024 – Save the Date

Webinar on “Community Land Trusts: Affordable Housing Strategies for Economic and Racial Justice” – March 12, 2024 – Save the Date

 

Manohar Patole, Co-City fellow and project manager at Co-City Baton Rouge, will be the guest speaker for the webinar titled “Community Land Trusts: Affordable Housing Strategies for Economic and Racial Justice,” scheduled for March 12. He will present the ongoing work and projects in progress in Baton Rouge.

At a moment during which no state has an adequate supply of extremely low-income rental housing, innovative solutions in shared equity housing are helping to cultivate meaningful, lasting social change. As active practitioners in the world of Community Land Trusts, our three guest speakers’ unique experiences—derived from legal, administrative, and urban planning perspectives—are invaluable in guiding the work of housing attorneys, planners, and lay advocates alike. This webinar will cover tangible strategies for shared equity housing implementation, tools for effective participatory governance frameworks, and potential institutional or systemic barriers.

Stay tuned…

 

Co-Creating Urban Affordability: The Plank Road Community Land Bank and Trust

Co-Creating Urban Affordability: The Plank Road Community Land Bank and Trust

Manny Patole, LLM, MUP

Co-City Fellow and Project Manager, Co-City Baton Rouge

 

Urban affordability is an issue cities all over the world grapple with. Emerging from first the foreclosure crisis in 2008 and now COVID-19, many cities are facing an ongoing and more severe problem: the lack of quality affordable housing. Compounded by unemployment, structural inequity and inequality, and evictions, many political and community leaders are looking toward alternative approaches to housing in urban areas. In response, the concepts around varios community ownership models have emerged as a transformative strategy to advance an equitable recovery. The Plank Road Community Land Bank and Trust is a novel institution developed by Professors Sheila Foster & Clayton Gillette, along with Project Manager Manny Patole that focuses on co-creation and co-governance of local community assets to facilitate community-driven economic development. The growing work around alternative equity models for affordable housing provide cities a new opportunity.

 

Context

 

LabGov Georgetown (LabGov) and the Marron Institute of Urban Management at NYU (Marron) have partnered with Build Baton Rouge (BBR), the redevelopment authority of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to pilot a multistakeholder approach to economic revitalization in the Plank Road corridor of Baton Rouge in 2018. The project proposes a novel approach to address economically distressed neighborhoods and cities using the “Co-City Protocol” (the “Protocol”).  The Protocol has been tested most extensively  in cities outside of the U.S. After conducting a Rockefeller-sponsored workshop in Bellagio that focused on American cities, LabGov partnered with Marron and BBR to introduce the Protocol in the U.S.  The Baton Rouge project, titled Co-City Baton Rouge (CCBR), will implement, test, and evaluate neighborhood scale governance innovation. LabGov and Marron anticipate that we will subsequently adapt the Protocol as appropriate to reflect our experience with Baton Rouge and undertake similar projects in other economically distressed U.S. cities.

 

Plank Road is one of the most blighted corridors in Baton Rouge yet remains a significant anchor for the neighborhoods of North Baton Rouge.  The heart of Plank Road runs through the 70805 zip code where many of Baton Rouge’s social and economic challenges are concentrated. The neighborhoods around Plank Road are predominately black and poor, a reflection of Baton Rouge’s deeply entrenched racial and spatial stratification. 70805 is 93% black and reflects the consequences of historical patterns of racial segregation and racialized poverty. The area underperforms state averages in many categories. The area has the City-Parish’s highest concentration of zero-car households and, accordingly, its second highest transit ridership. The purpose behind this small area master plan is to restore a vibrant and active area that has been structurally disinvested.

 

CCBR started off as a collaborative partner with BBR on the Imagine Plank Road master planning project starting in Spring 2019. As part of the planning team, we helped lead in-depth community and stakeholder consultation which provided the guiding values for the development of Plank Road and shaped the benchmarks for the plan as well as specific catalytic development projects. The planning team informed and engaged residents, businesses and other key stakeholders during the process and learned about their lived experience and aspirations for the community through surveys, in-person experiential events, including a food truck roundup and street festival, a community roundtable, and collaboration with trained community ambassadors. The work was presented in November 2019 at a community town hall held at Southern University with hundreds in attendance and many more watching from home. Although 2020 marked the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic it also provided good news for the project: In October 2020 Build Baton Rouge was selected to receive a $5 million JPMorgan Chase 2020 AdvancingCities grant to implement the Plank Road masterplan. Build Baton Rouge partnered with TruFund Financial, Metromorphosis, and the Co-City Baton Rouge Project to implement the Plank Road masterplan through programs that will eliminate blight, grow small businesses, and preserve housing affordability in North Baton Rouge.

 

Background

The application of the Co-City protocol in Baton Rouge required some work in understanding a few main concepts: co-creation, value capture, and shared equity.

 

Co-creation and co-governance are collaborative approaches to urban development and governance that emphasize inclusive and participatory decision-making processes involving various stakeholders, including residents, local businesses, community organizations, and governmental bodies. Co-creation entails the joint development and design of urban assets and services, integrating diverse perspectives and ideas to address the specific needs and aspirations of communities. On the other hand, co-governance emphasizes the shared management and stewardship of these assets, promoting transparent and equitable decision-making among stakeholders. These concepts complement each other by fostering a culture of active engagement, mutual responsibility, and collective action within communities, leading to more effective and sustainable urban development outcomes that reflect the shared values and aspirations of the local population. Co-creation encourages diverse inputs in the planning and design stages, while co-governance ensures that the management and implementation of projects reflect the collaborative efforts of all stakeholders, ultimately fostering a sense of ownership and shared responsibility in the development of urban environments.

 

Value capture refers to a range of public financing strategies and mechanisms that allow governments and communities to capture a portion of the increased land and property values resulting from public investments, infrastructure improvements, or other development activities. This concept involves harnessing the economic gains generated by public interventions and using them to finance the costs of infrastructure, public services, or community projects. Value capture mechanisms can include taxes, impact fees, development charges, land value taxation, special assessments, and the creation of development districts. By capturing a portion of the increased land value, governments can reinvest these funds back into the community, thus ensuring that public investments contribute to sustainable and equitable urban development, infrastructure provision, and the enhancement of public services.

 

The shared equity model is a housing approach that aims to increase access to affordable homeownership by allowing multiple stakeholders, such as individuals, nonprofit organizations, and government entities, to collectively invest in and share the equity of a property. This model typically involves a partnership between a homebuyer and a housing provider, where the home buyer purchases a portion of the equity in a home while the housing provider retains ownership of the remaining portion. As the property appreciates in value, the homebuyer and the housing provider share the equity gains proportionally based on their initial investment percentages. Shared equity models often incorporate mechanisms to ensure long-term affordability, such as resale restrictions or buyback options, thereby preserving the affordability of the property for future buyers and promoting sustainable homeownership opportunities for individuals with lower incomes.

 

The efficacy of these terms is not looking at them in silos rather how to use Co-creation, co-governance, value capture, and shared equity as interconnected concepts that, when implemented collectively, can enhance local economic development:

 

  1. Co-creation encourages active participation and collaboration among stakeholders in the design and development of urban projects. When applied to economic development initiatives, it ensures that the local community’s needs and aspirations are considered, leading to more relevant and sustainable projects. Co-creation can lead to the creation of businesses, services, and infrastructure that are tailored to the specific demands of the community, thereby fostering economic growth.
  2. Co-governance promotes transparency, accountability, and shared decision-making among stakeholders, including local government, businesses, and community members. This inclusive governance model ensures that economic development strategies are developed and executed with broad community input, reducing the risk of favoring specific interest groups or neglecting the needs of marginalized populations.
  3. Value capture mechanisms can provide a sustainable funding source for economic development initiatives. By capturing a portion of the increased land and property values resulting from these projects, local governments can reinvest these funds into further economic development activities, infrastructure improvements, or public services, thereby amplifying the impact of their investments.
  4. Shared equity in housing and local businesses can increase economic inclusivity and create more stable and resilient local economies. By providing access to affordable homeownership and supporting small businesses through shared equity models, individuals with lower incomes have a greater opportunity to build wealth and contribute to the local economy. These models help address economic disparities and ensure a more equitable distribution of economic benefits within the community.

 

The co-creation and co-governance facilitate community-driven economic development, while value capture ensures sustainable funding, and shared equity models promote economic inclusivity and stability. When these approaches are integrated into a comprehensive strategy, they can lead to more robust and equitable local economic development.

 

Project

 

Building on the work of Center for Community Progress and Grounded Solutions and many organizations globally, CCBR wanted to provide a unique approach to the message echoed throughout the master planning process: we need affordable space and place. Many wanted affordable housing but it didn’t stop there… they wanted a more comprehensive solution that would provide additional assets that make a house part of a community. Things like parks, sidewalks, small businesses, better infrastructure, and overall agency on what that looks like. CCBR set forth on creating something new and something different that would encapsulate these ideas. That became the Plank Road Community Land Bank and Trust. To understand the PR CLBT first you should understand what is a land bank, a land trust, and how this is a first of its kind.

A land bank and a community land trust are both mechanisms used in real estate and urban development to address community needs, but they serve different purposes and operate under different structures.

Courtesy of Center for Community Progress

 

Land Bank:

  • A land bank is a governmental or nonprofit entity that acquires, manages, and repurposes vacant, abandoned, or tax-delinquent properties for future development or community revitalization. Land banks typically focus on acquiring and holding properties for strategic purposes, such as eliminating blight, promoting affordable housing, or supporting economic development initiatives.
  • Land banks often work closely with local governments and community stakeholders to identify and prioritize properties for acquisition, redevelopment, or reuse. They may also collaborate with developers, nonprofits, and community organizations to implement revitalization projects that align with the community’s long-term goals and vision for the area.

 

Courtesy of Center for Community Progress

 

Community Land Trust (CLT):

  • A community land trust is a nonprofit organization that acquires and holds land in a trust for the benefit of the community. The primary goal of a community land trust is to ensure long-term affordable housing and community development by separating the ownership of land from the ownership of the structures built on the land.
  • In a community land trust, residents or tenants typically own the structures (such as houses or buildings) on the land, while the trust retains ownership of the land itself. This model allows for the creation and preservation of permanently affordable housing, as the trust can control the resale and leasing of the land to maintain affordability for future residents.

 

Land banks and CLTs are often perceived as antithetical tools that may not work or compliment each other. Ironically, these two entities are sometimes conflated as one and the same. Neither perception, however, reflects reality. After the 2008 foreclosure crisis, the Center for Community Progress (US convening authority on land banks) and Grounded Solutions Network (US convening authority on CLTs) saw an opportunity to educate the public on the differences between the two as well as how these entities can coordinate to optimize equitable development outcomes. (For additional information, see the National Land Bank and CLT Map)

 

Courtesy of Center for Community Progress

 

Taking it a step further beyond the two entities having institutional agreements, a community land bank and trust is a hybrid approach that combines elements of both a land bank and a community land trust. This model integrates the strategies of acquiring, holding, and managing land, as well as promoting long-term affordability and community development. It aims to address a range of community needs, including affordable housing, sustainable development, and the revitalization of distressed or underutilized properties within a locality.

Generally speaking, this approach incorporates the community land trust approach by separating the ownership of land from the ownership of structures built on the land, ensuring long-term affordability and community control. Through the community land trust component, the organization can facilitate the development and management of affordable housing units while maintaining the land’s community ownership and preserving its affordability for future generations.

In the case of the Plank Road CLBT it operates as a nonprofit organization that collaborates with local governments, community stakeholders, and residents to acquire and manage land for various community purposes. It may acquire vacant, abandoned, or tax-delinquent properties with the aim of repurposing them for affordable housing, community gardens, parks, or other public amenities.

 

The development of the institutional design, articles of incorporation, bylaws, operating documents, model land leases and budgeting is multi pronged approach of Legal scholarship, Interviews, Desk Research to understand industry best practices and challenges in key areas:

  • Institutional Design, Processes and Procedures
  • Board of Director composition
  • Role and Composition of Community Advisory Boards
  • Organizational purposes
  • Overall Innovations

 

The process yielded great information that aided the development of the PR CLBT:

  • Examples researched have limited formalized relationships between CLT’s and LB’s
  • Clear roles, responsibilities, and institutional governance very important
  • PR CLBT Board composition should be well thought out and discussed before codified
  • Community Advisory Board participation a valuable connection with the community at large
  • Property transfer process between institutional entities needs to be clear
  • PR CLBT would be the first of its kind institution in the USA and perhaps globally.
  • PR CLBT would be multi-use, not just focused on housing but many other community needs
  • Part of the model is community capacity-building, as has been done elsewhere

 

The PR CLBT (working) mission is to  Contribute to the revitalization of the Plank Road community by putting vacant properties, vacant land, and tax-delinquent properties …back into productive use in a manner that promotes neighborhood stabilization and anti-displacement of existing residents. As of October 2023 the PR CLBT is a fully incorporated 501(c)(3) with an interim board, established articles of incorporation and bylaws. As it moves forward, the PR CLBT is researching innovative financing options and processes that will attract real estate developers to this work and researching land leases that incorporate the values and innovative design of the PR CLBT.

The PR CLBT should be seen as a new tool in the toolbox of cities experiencing similar issues to Baton Rouge: to serve as a comprehensive mechanism for promoting community-driven development, fostering affordable housing initiatives, and addressing various social and economic challenges within a specific locality. By combining the strengths of both land banks and community land trusts, this model aims to create sustainable and inclusive communities while ensuring the responsible management and use of land resources for the benefit of the residents.

 

We owe a great deal of gratitude to our research assistants from LSU School of Law (Demetrius Causer), NYU Wagner School of Public Service (Faisah Barlas, Maya Portillo, & Naquita Goldston), NYU School of Law (Krystle Okafor), the numerous land banks and CLTs who shared their expertise, the subject matter experts from Center for Community Progress and Grounded Solutions, the institutional support fromBuild Baton Rouge, The Huey and Angelina Wilson FoundationNYU Marron Institute of Urban Management,, and the shared lived experience of the local communities we worked with in Plank Road. Without their guidance, knowledge, and spirit, the project would not be where it is today.

Co-City Baton Rouge Case Study – Plank Road EcoPark

Co-City Baton Rouge Case Study – Plank Road EcoPark

JP Morgan Advancing Cities White Paper#1

Co-City Baton Rouge Case Study – Plank Road EcoPark

Manny Patole, Co-City Fellow January 21, 2022

 

Summary

The Plank Road “EcoPark” (PREP) project is part of a larger collaborative of Co-City Baton Rouge (CCBR)- an effort between Build Baton Rouge (BBR) and Co-City (an applied research partnership developed by the Marron Institute of Urban Management at New York University and LabGov at Georgetown University) to co-create economic revitalization and urban regeneration projects along the Plank Road Corridor in North Baton Rouge. The PREP concept addresses two needs: community green space and climate mitigation. The park will incorporate community-based designs to mitigate flooding, increase access to green spaces, and improve community health outcomes. The project has faced some challenges since June 2019 that have served as learning moments for future reference. The Plank Road EcoPark site is one of the first BBR properties to be developed as part of the partnership with CCBR and is an implementation project of the Imagine Plank Road Plan for Equitable Development.

 

Background

Urban resilience, both environmental and socio-economic, requires looking at a city holistically and realistically to determine the capacity of its individuals, neighborhoods, institutions and businesses to survive, adapt and grow in the face of chronic stresses and acute shocks. In places like North Baton Rouge, the stratification of wealth and vulnerability to flooding impose costs on neighborhoods like Plank Road.

 

Many cities similar to Baton Rouge are exploring innovative ways through which urban parks can help achieve their goals of wellness, conservation, resilience and social equity. New public works projects incorporate measures to address multiple needs such as resilience and sense of place.

 

Major cities like Chicago, New York City and Portland have implemented green infrastructure programs that convert vacant traffic islands and road medians into green spaces filled with trees, shrubs and groundcover in an effort to capture stormwater and other resiliency gains. Failure to invest in urban resilience can have significantly adverse impacts on the urban poor. Implementing natural and traditional stormwater management solutions such as Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems (SUDS), Water Sensitive Urban Designs (WSUD) and Low Impact Developments (LID) provide opportunities for increased amenity/community value and placemaking, reduce flood risk, and mitigate surface water run-off volume and velocity. Flooding disasters and the effects of climate change reverse development gains and have the ability to force large numbers of urban residents back into poverty in the course of one catastrophic event.

 

Community gardens, pocket parks and other innovative green spaces help to grow a sense of place and pride among neighboring residents. For example, Washington D.C. is planning a Bridge Park, based on an equitable development model to “bridge” the divide between the neighborhoods of Navy Yard and Capitol Hill on the west side of the Anacostia River and Anacostia and Congress Heights on the east side of the Anacostia River. The model prioritizes meeting the needs of underserved communities through a combination of policies, community programs and placemaking – all values shared by Co-City and Build Baton Rouge.

 

Project Concept 

Flooding is a concern in the Plank Road neighborhood, posing both ecological and socioeconomic risks to the community. Additionally, residential access to green space is limited and few opportunities exist for recreation and activity across diverse age groups. The creation of public spaces and ecological infrastructure along the Plank Road corridor will be crucial in improving community health outcomes. The Plank Road “EcoPark” (PREP) project seeks to provide resilient infrastructure that is economically and socially inclusive.

 

The availability of vacant land in this corridor makes it a good location for implementing low-tech solutions that utilize natural urban features to provide the community with environmental benefits. The PREP concept will address community green space and climate mitigation needs, thus benefiting the community in several ways. The benefits of an Eco-Park include but are not limited to:

 

  • Improved Public Realm and Sense of Place
  • Climate Change Mitigation
  • Increased Biodiversity
  • Stormwater Management
  • Urban Heat Island Effect Mitigation
  • Improved Health Outcomes
  • Reduced cost to public and private sectors: costs of water treatment, flood damage

 

Climate mitigation and adaptation efforts are more effective when achieved through a proactive and holistic planning approach, in partnership with residents and communities. CCBR was designed to create an environment that pools the resources and expertise of multiple stakeholders and supports residents as the central actors in neighborhood revitalization, thereby empowering them as long-term stewards of their own community.

 

CCBR established a Steering Committee to guide the design phase of the PREP project (PREPSC).

 

Looking ahead, PREP will serve as a model for community engagement and project development of pocket parks in neighborhoods with limited access to green space in Baton Rouge. These projects aim to activate vacant, abandoned, or deteriorated properties within the BBR Land Bank (and in the future, the BBR Community Land Bank and Trust) for public use, led by local community leaders. Local stakeholders will provide financial resources and subject matter expertise to plan, design, and construct future parks.

 

Project Timeline and Challenges

PREP leveraged the Co-City Protocol in the project implementation process. The iterative design of the protocol was instrumental in keeping the project moving forward in the face of various challenges, from the traditional to the extraordinary.

Image 1: Initial artistic rendering of the first project site at Myrtlelawn St and Plank Rd

 

Cheap Talking and Mapping

The “cheap talk” phase helps re-engage the community, rebuild trust, and re-orient redevelopment, contrary to what the term and process has historically meant for communities like this. It is built on the idea that one has to lay the groundwork, or rather rebuild the groundwork, for true collaboration to occur. This is particularly challenging, but crucial, in communities that are chronically under-served and under-represented in traditional local government and planning processes, and even more so in communities with deep distrust of those processes and those suffering from planning fatigue.

 

Next, in the “mapping” phase, it is important to involve different communities or sectors in the process as a way to deeply engage the five primary actors—public authorities, businesses, civil society organizations (NGOs), local social innovators, and academic/knowledge institutions—in the co-creation project. Given the imbalance of resources, voices, knowledge and capacity among these actors, it is important that the community of residents, the unorganized public, emerges as a strong presence before the practicing and prototyping phases begin.

 

“Cheap talking” began informally in April 2019 at the BBR Food Truck Round-Up, the second community event for the Imagine Plank Road planning process. CCBR was a part of many informal conversations with various members of the community who all expressed the need for more accessible green space. Subsequent conversations at various BBR events were had until November 2019 with many community members and other stakeholders that reiterated this need, each with their own required amenities.

 

In June 2019, the CCBR Project Manager and BBR Community Engagement Specialist sat down to discuss two options for the composition of the PREPSC: 1. a group of local residents from a specific community within, or 2. a group of community members from various communities across the Plank Road corridor. The latter option was ultimately chosen because it was unclear at the time where PREP would be constructed, to be more inclusive of the different communities in the PRC and to develop the capacity in different communities to replicate the process in the development and implementation of similar projects in their communities.

 

CCBR, in collaboration with BBR’s Community Engagement Specialist, selected key community advocates in July 2019 and established the PREPSC. The PREPSC established the norms, values and mission of the pilot project, along with the amenities that the community around the project site(s) would want in their green spaces. Once level setting and priorities were determined with the PREPSC, CCBR and BBR convened a meeting in August 2019 with local stakeholders such as ExxonMobil, BREC, LSU’s Landscape Architecture (BLA) Program and Coastal Sustainability Studio (CSS), BR Audubon Society, Baton Rouge Green, and Southern university’s Urban Forestry Program in conjunction with one of the planning process activities. The convening was a “project kickoff” to develop the vision created by the Steering Committee to provide adaptable greenspace and climate mitigation amenities.

 

Image 2: LSU student finalist renderings of the first project site at Myrtlelawn St and Plank Rd

 

Although this phase officially started in July 2019 and ended in December 2020, it never really ends. The PREPSC were the only members of the community that have remained involved. As the project moves between phases, various constituents in and around the Plank Road Corridor have been and will continue to be engaged, such as members of the community associated with other projects related to the Advancing Cities collaborative or the Imagine Plank Road plan.

 

Practicing and Prototyping

Practicing is designed to identify and create possible synergies and alignment between projects and relevant actors. In Prototyping, participants and policymakers (local officials) reflect on the mapping and practicing phases and begin to extract the specific characteristics and needs of the community that will be served. The project is currently (Spring 2022) in this phase and has been since November 2019, when the Imagine Plank Road Master Plan was presented at Southern University. The PREPSC, BBR and CCBR engaged with many stakeholders as part of the process, as described below.

 

The Practicing and Prototyping phases, although distinct, work in tandem to move concepts from ideation towards implementation. For example, Southern University’s Urban Forestry Program, led by the late Professor Kamran Abdollahi, provided soil, hydrologic and storm water data for the Plank Road Corridor. In addition, Baton Rouge Green provided a list of native species for pollinator gardens and stormwater mitigation for project sites. The LSU School of Architecture, Coastal Sustainability Studio and Inland from the Coast projects were integral in conceptualizing the community needs into tangible amenities for the project site.

Image 3: Selection of Myrtlelawn Ecopark Community Webinar Flyer

 

CCBR saw an opportunity to collaborate with LSU SLA, which had a prior working relationship with BBR to develop PREP into a robust community endeavor. Starting in Fall 2019 an informal student cohort would work alongside CCBR and PREPSC to adapt the vision of the community into visual plans for the park. The students gained valuable community engagement experience working with the PREPSC on understanding and developing the required design amenities for PREP. In addition, BREC (a project partner since the initial convening) provided subject matter expertise for both PREPSC and the student cohort on managing a park project that grounded our work and made it a more robust project. This all culminated in December 2020 with the Myrtlelawn Ecopark Community Webinar, a virtual presentation of the final four designs created by the students for PREP for the greater Plank Road community to see the fruits of their labor. The experiential learning environment established proved to be both collaborative and mutually beneficial for all parties involved. Furthermore, it was a successful example of the Co-City protocol creating local ownership and establishing co-governance of a community asset.

 

The practicing and prototyping phases of the project have been prolonged due to a few ongoing challenges that impacted progress. Those challenges are discussed below.

 

 

Testing and Modeling

The Testing phase occurs when the prototype from the previous phase is tested and evaluated through implementation, monitoring, and assessment. The Modeling phase focuses on adapting and tailoring the prototype and nesting it within the legal and institutional framework of the city or local government. CCBR envisions the PREP to begin the Testing phase as part year three of this collaborative endeavor. The project timeline experienced a few challenges since March 2020 that impacted progress towards this phase. These have delayed the project timeline a bit and will be incorporated in these phases as we look at both qualitative and quantitative metrics employed to assess PREP and the Co-City protocol in the process. However, with some ingenuity of project partners and a few strategic opportunities, the project is closer to being on schedule.

 

The Challenges

During the first project convening in August 2019, CCBR envisioned groundbreaking by December of 2019 and construction to be completed by Summer of 2020. The initial timeline was ambitious and aggressive but overall feasible.

 

Covid-19 became a far-reaching problem in early 2020. The team had to adapt the community engagement, communication and project management strategies to a virtual environment. This would be difficult under normal circumstances, but it was even more difficult considering the digital divide impact in the PRC. Working from home, virtual classrooms, childcare, recurring pandemic surges and related issues became ongoing considerations for anything related to the project. The pandemic posed challenges across the board but it wasn’t the only one faced during the process.

 

Like many development projects, there are a number of variables at play that take time to resolve. In September 2020, we discovered that the site could no longer accommodate the project vision as developed. In March 2021, CCBR communicated the issue to our stakeholders with the PREPSC and many others in the community expressing their frustration. The major concern could be summed up in the following statement, “ We’re not okay with wasting funds earmarked for projects that are just talk.” Out of respect for that vision, we set out to identify an alternative site that would allow it to be fully realized. The next several months were spent on identifying and working to acquire a new site for the project. It was important for CCBR and BBR to communicate to the community their commitment to remaining good stewards- that no funds were “wasted” during the process and that the funds earmarked for this project remain available. A new site was selected in June 2021 and work on adapting the new site to align with the overall project commenced in July 2021. Furthermore, the work done by the collaborative partners of BBR, CCBR, BREC and the LSU student cohort was adapted to the new project site.

 

Image 4: Renderings of PREP at Erie St and Plank Rd Site. Courtesy of BREC

 

Additionally, in the Summer of 2021, BBR experienced pandemic-related staff turnover, and the loss of institutional knowledge related to the project. As new BBR staff onboarded, Hurricane Ida hit the region, and attention and resources were shifted to rebuilding efforts and essential public services. The PREP project budgeting included contingencies,however, rising construction costs related to the pandemic and supply chain issues continue to be an issue.

Lastly, the delayed remittance of deliverables from sub-contracted parties continues to delay project progress. In spite of all the aforementioned challenges, CCBR and BBR are committed to moving PREP forward.

 

Next Steps 

The PREP project, including the process and challenges discussed, illustrates the perseverance of the Plank Road community and the dedication of the collaborative project partners. The work performed on the Myrtlelawn site was not lost and will be used on the new site. The new project site, located on the corner of Erie St and Plank Road, is in closer proximity to other Imagine Plank Road catalytic project locations and will share in the positive externalities generated by them. In addition, the research, design and planning work done for the previous project site is adaptable to the new site with some modifications. Looking forward, project groundbreaking is envisioned for Q22022 with completion in Q4 2022. BBR, CCBR and BREC have divided PREP into construction phases to reflect community needs and available budgets to manage current expectations and future growth. In parallel, BBR and BREC are entering into a Cooperative Endeavor Agreement for the future management and operations of PREP and for future park projects. We look forward to continued momentum, collaborations and progress in 2022 and the opportunities that lie ahead.

BBR wins $5 million in JPMorgan Chase’s AdvancingCities Challenge

BBR wins $5 million in JPMorgan Chase’s AdvancingCities Challenge

One Year After Announcing the Imagine Plank Road Plan for Equitable Development, Build Baton Rouge Secures Project Funding from JPMorgan Chase.

For decades, Baton Rouge has been dubbed “a tale of two cities.” Pervasive blight and high crime rates in North Baton Rouge are often contrasted with the upscale retail and commercial development in South Baton Rouge. North Baton Rouge is predominately black and significantly impoverished. South Baton Rouge is predominately white and affluent. The quality of life differences between the North and South can be traced to systemic disinvestment, the city’s decades-long fight over school desegregation, and racial segregation. When Mayor-President Sharon Weston-Broome took office in January of 2017, she vowed to address the lack of development in North Baton Rouge through a well-resourced and coordinated approach. Part of that commitment meant increasing funding for comprehensive redevelopment.

In early 2018 Build Baton Rouge (new window) turned its focus to Plank Road, Baton Rouge’s most blighted and disinvested commercial corridor. The agency convened a diverse array of partners to begin planning for transit-oriented, equitable development. Co-City was approached to help with these efforts and engage the community to understand, develop, plan and implement complimentary projects that will contribute to the overall plan. The result was the Imagine Plank Road Plan for Equitable Development, released in
November 2019. The Plan articulated a community-led vision for equitable development built around various projects, including a bus rapid transit route (BRT) connecting North and South Baton Rouge. Because of these planning efforts, in November of 2019 Baton Rouge was awarded a $15 million federal grant for Louisiana’s first bus transit line which will run along the Plank Road corridor. In heralding the path-breaking BRT funding award,
Mayor-President Sharon Weston-Broom said, “This major federal investment in Baton Rouge transit is the result of deliberate and thoughtful transit planning, our community’s strong desire for vital transportation linkages between our neighborhoods and a demonstration of our willingness to maximize federal funds to implement a transformational transportation project.”

Almost one year to the date of the Plan’s unveiling, Build Baton Rouge announces its receipt of a $5 million philanthropic investment from the JPMorgan Chase AdvancingCities Challenge. The AdvancingCities award celebrates Build Baton Rouge’s collaborative approach to executing the Plan outcomes with local stakeholders such as Metromorphosis as well as national partners like TruFund Financial and Co-City Baton Rouge. The partners make up the Baton Rouge Collaborative and aim to:
● Develop a grocery-anchored mixed use development with over 40 affordable housing units on the new bus rapid transit line;
● Renovate a 3,500 sq. ft historic building into a Food Incubator that will provide commercial kitchen space, deliver fresh food and offer job training;
● Provide financial and technical support to 15 new and existing minority-owned businesses;
● Upgrade 15 building facades along the Corridor;
● Transform a 4,000 sq. ft vacant lot into a community pocket park; and
● Preserve housing affordability through the formation of a innovative Community Land Trust/Bank hybrid institution.

As part of this collaborative, Co-City Baton Rouge brings its approach to community-led, multistakeholder produced assets for Plank Road that develops and places the residents as stewards over these assets. We will work with these and other local partners to develop and implement a community governance structure that will ensure local ownership of these institutions for years to come. The CLT/B will be the hub of Co-City’s work in Baton Rouge, with the Myrtlelawn Ecopark (aka Community Pocket Park), Community Capacity and Leadership Development Program and Food Security Project being spokes. Over the next few weeks I will profile the work that has been done since the onset of the global pandemic, highlighting milestones and partnerships that will make our dreams a reality.

Christopher Tyson, Build Baton Rouge President and CEO, believes that the JPMorgan Chase partnership will help shift the tide of disinvestment and demonstrate that real, lasting progress is possible for North Baton Rouge. “Being one of the 2020 AdvancingCities grantees will not only bring national recognition to Baton Rouge, but this multi-year investment will catalyze significant economic activity along the Plank Road corridor that will benefit generations to come,” Tyson says. Build Baton Rouge is among eight recipients of this year’s award, chosen from 150 applications spanning 78 communities.

Meet The Collaborative
Build Baton Rouge is proud to partner with TruFund Financial, Metromorphosis, and Co-City Baton Rouge to implement the Plank Road masterplan through programs that will eliminate blight, grow small businesses, and preserve housing affordability in North Baton Rouge.

About JPMorgan Chase AdvancingCities

AdvancingCities is a $500 million initiative that combines JPMorgan Chase’s lending capital, philanthropic capital, and expertise to make investments in cities. The program consists of two key features, the AdvancingCities Challenge and large-scale investments in cities.

The 2020 AdvancingCities Challenge leveraged lessons learned from six years of hosting the PRO Neighborhoods competition and the first year of the AdvancingCities Challenge, continuing to emphasize the importance of collaboration, strong leadership, and bold and innovative approaches to help ensure that access to capital and opportunity is more widely shared by diverse communities. This year’s combined challenge sourced solutions that embodied three key factors:

  • A powerful vision for the future shaped by deep community engagement and a shared understanding of goals and priorities to ensure alignment across partners;
  • Strong leadership and collaboration among a diverse set of actors with unique authority and resources to drive sustainable change; and
  • Innovative approaches that are data-driven and evidence-based and that move beyond “business as usual” to change the trajectory of communities that are currently being left behind.

The winning AdvancingCities Challenge initiatives will have access to a wide array of JPMorgan Chase resources, including data and research, employee expertise, and a global network.

To learn more about AdvancingCities visit www.jpmorganchase.com/advancingcities (new window).

Perspectives: The Co-City Capstone Team

Perspectives: The Co-City Capstone Team

In September 2019 the Marron Institute partnered with the NYU Wagner Graduate School of Public Service to work with a group of Capstone students on the Co-City Baton Rouge project. The team is charged with conducting a global environmental scan on the institutions, governance, and innovative financing mechanisms for the proposed Community Land Bank, a hybrid of community land trust and land bank models, and Neighborhood Improvement Districts in the project area. The Co-City project is planning to adapt these institutional frameworks to local circumstances. The goal is to create institutions that enable community members and other stakeholders to be long-term stewards of the development and regeneration of the Plank Road Corridor. To do that will require accounting for the socioeconomic profile in this neighborhood, existing social capital and other internal community resources.  Based on their findings, the team will recommend innovative financing mechanisms as well as institutional and governance structures for these institutions in Plank Road and other similar areas.

The Capstone team includes Faizah Barlas, Naquita Goldston, and Maya Portillo.

Faizah Barlas

Naquita Goldston

Maya Portillo

Faizah Barlas is a current Master of Public Administration (MPA) student at the NYU Wagner Graduate School of Public Service specializing in public policy analysis and management. She has worked as a civil rights community organizer, a housing rights advocate for disabled tenants, and a court advocate for youth and adults involved in the judicial process. Faizah is passionate about environmental and criminal justice, and learning about how to mindfully incorporate principles of equity within her community and the institutions she is a part of. 

Naquita Goldston is a native of Brooklyn, NY, but has been fortunate to live and work in other places throughout the years.  After earning her Bachelor of Science in Hotel, Restaurant, and Institutional Management from The Pennsylvania State University, Naquita worked in hotel management at a downtown New Orleans hotel.  It was during her time there that she witnessed the devastating effects of Hurricane Katrina, which are still being felt nearly fifteen years after the storm hit. This inspired her to pursue a career in local government.  Naquita then returned home to complete a year of service with AmeriCorps VISTA. After VISTA, she began her career with the City of New York, where she has worked on a portfolio of projects to address income inequality and support low-income New Yorkers.  Naquita will earn her Master of Public Administration from New York University in 2020, and will continue her career in municipal government serving the most vulnerable in her community.

Maya Portillo is currently pursuing her Masters in Public and Non-Profit Management with a specialization in Public Policy Analysis at NYU Wagner Graduate School of Public Service. Maya currently works as a research analyst at an early childhood education lab within NYU Steinhardt working on projects pertaining to community literacy interventions for young children in everyday spaces within marginalized communities. Previously, Maya worked with Upward Bound and currently is a volunteer for iMentor and SEO Scholars. Maya is from Northwest Indiana and graduated from Cornell University with a B.S. in Industrial Labor Relations and minors in Education and Inequality Studies.

Maya and Faizah weeding a vacant lot during MLK Fest in Baton Rouge

The team was able to join me during my last trip to Baton Rouge in January 2020 and had the opportunity to meet with the community whom their work will impact. They had the opportunity to reflect on their experience and share their thoughts with us..

On one of the first days that we were in Baton Rouge, two members of our team had the opportunity to volunteer with members of the Walls Project cleaning up a vacant neighborhood lot off Plank Road on Chippewa Street. We spent the day getting to know members of the community while picking up trash and clearing branches. While working, we had the opportunity to talk with other volunteers. We met a young 13-year old named Jonathan. He spoke about his dreams for after highschool, telling us about his goal of entering the Naval Academy. We also spoke with a friendly woman who lived a few blocks from where we were stationed. She told us what it was like to have grown up in the neighborhood in comparison to what it is like now. What seemed to be the common connection among these individuals was their unwavering commitment to this community and to Plank Road. When the lot was nearly cleared, we all gathered to reflect. We spoke with Casey Philips and Helena Williams from the Walls Project and had the opportunity to ask them about the work they were doing in the community to better inform our work. Needless to say, the day was filled with beauty in big and small ways and our team was thankful to be there. 

Faizah(c) Professor Nick Serrano (r, LSU CSS) and residents mark landmarks on Plank Road Map during MLK Fest Block Party

The following day, we had the opportunity to attend the annual MLK Fest organized by the Walls Project. This festival brought together different community organizations, religious groups, and food vendors for the community in Plank Road. Community members checked out the different stalls, listened and danced to music, and participated in performances. LSU Professors Tori Birch and Kim Mosby, and Co-City Fellow Manny Patole, had two different tasks for us and other LSU students who were volunteering. One group of students set up a station with a map of the Plank Road Corridor to ask community members what parts of the neighborhood would flood when it rained. It was an initiative to obtain on the ground information of areas that needed flood protection and development. Our team was tasked with engaging in conversations with community members around what their neighborhood is called, what they love about their neighborhood, and what changes they would like to see. Both activities were highly impactful in grounding the research our team has been doing for Marron and BBR. It was a very tangible example of the power of involving the local community and investing time in genuinely understanding their needs and desires prior to starting a development project.  

Manny (L) and Geno (R) with Maya, Faizah, and Naquita (C)

On our last day in Baton Rouge we were granted the opportunity to meet with staff from Build Baton Rouge. We are grateful that President and CEO Christopher Tyson, Community Engagement Specialist Geno McLaughlin, and Staff Attorney Matthew Johnson made time to speak with us and answer our questions. We gained new perspectives and insights by hearing from those in charge of executing much of the work we’re researching. We now have a better understanding of what is happening on the ground in Baton Rouge and what Build Baton Rouge would like to implement in the near future. These conversations contextualized our research and will help us better tailor our recommendations. 

Overall, our trip was an immersive and well-rounded experience that gave us both a birds-eye and worms-eye view of Plank Road. We are thankful to NYU Marron Institute, Build Baton Rouge, the Plank Road community, and greater Baton Rouge for welcoming and teaching us so much.

The visit was a success and provided valuable content and context for the team’s research. I thank Faizah, Naquita and Maya for making the time to visit in January and we look forward to their results in June 2019.