The Anne T. and Robert M. Bass Initiative on Innovation and Placemaking is a collaboration between the Brookings Institution and Project for Public Spaces to support a city-driven and place-led world. Using research, on-the-ground projects, and analytic and policy tools, the Initiative aims to catalyze a new form of city building that fosters cross-disciplinary approaches to urban growth and development.

For much of the 20th century, economic development and placemaking were largely separate and the resulting geography of innovation was dominated by isolated research parks. In contrast, cities today are recognizing the reinforcing benefits of inventive people working in quality places that reflect local culture and history and fuel the constant exchange of ideas. Many of these cities are experiencing a rise of vibrant mixed-use districts created by people and companies who want proximity to networks of investors, entrepreneurs, researchers, and skilled workers.

Brookings has previously identified innovation districts— dense, amenity-rich enclaves that are typically anchored by R&D institutions and facilitate new ideas and businesses—as a new geography of innovation that joins economic development and placemaking for quality growth. The Bass Initiative continues this research and extend its inquiry to additional types of emerging vibrant commercial and cultural districts. These entrepreneurial hubs are anchored by assets such as advanced research universities, medical campuses, historic warehouses, waterfronts, main streets, and public markets, and serve as destinations for their local communities.

Planned highlights of the Bass Initiative’s work include:

A guide to help cities audit their innovation ecosystems and the economic, physical, and networking assets that drive them.

Case studies and lessons learned from auditing and strategy-setting work in Oklahoma City, Philadelphia, and other cities.

Research briefs on new ideas and best-practices in placemaking and the development and financing of innovative urban economies.

A framing paper synthesizing the major principles of holistic, place-led urban innovation hubs, including governance, capital, finance, economic development, and placemaking.

A network of urban innovation hubs and local leaders who learn best practices from one another.

By channeling the inherent benefits of cities—including proximity, density, and authenticity—these growing hubs can strengthen cities’ innovation economies while bringing new life to their public spaces. This in turn makes communities more resilient and inclusive, by creating jobs for local residents, opportunities for local entrepreneurs, and tax revenue for local schools and public services.

The Brookings Institution is a nonprofit public policy organization based in Washington, DC. Founded in 1916, Brookings’s mission is to conduct high-quality, independent research and, based on that research, to provide innovative, practical recommendations that advance three broad goals: strengthening American democracy; fostering the economic and social welfare, security and opportunity of all Americans; and securing a more open, safe, prosperous and cooperative international system.

Project for Public Spaces (PPS) is a nonprofit planning, design and educational organization dedicated to helping people create and sustain public spaces that build stronger communities. Asthe central hub of the global Placemaking movement, PPS’s pioneering Placemaking approach helps citizens transform their public spaces into vital places that highlight local assets, spur rejuvenation and serve common needs.

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