Partners for Places Funds Sustainability Projects in Five Cities


Florida-based Partners for Places, a non-profit devoted to urban sustainability projects has announced funding for eight cities following a competitive grant application process. Each city will receive different grants totaling a combined $1 million for an individual project focused on environmental improvements in neighborhoods that are low-income.

Partners for Places, led by the Funders’ Network for Smart Growth and Livable Communities in partnership with the Urban Sustainability Directors Network, will provide $514,000 in funding, which will be matched by local funders to make a total of $1 million in available funding. The program is supported by six investor foundations: Bloomberg Philanthropies, The JPB Foundation, The Kendeda Fund, The New York Community Trust, Summit Foundation, and Surdna Foundation.

“The projects for this funding round were very time sensitive and compelling,” Ann Fowler Wallace, Director of Programs at the Funders Network tells CivSource. “Each project focused on some aspect of environmental sustainability that is critically important in their locality.”

In Chatanooga, Tennessee one of the award cities, officials will expand a successful program that helps low-income neighborhoods increase their energy efficiency. Low-income homes use 43 percent more energy per square foot during the winter than the city’s average home. Residents will be encouraged to create their own locally-based solutions.

In Detroit, another grant city, officials will create an action plan that helps the city scale sustainable approaches across all initiatives – from transit oriented development to building demolition, energy efficiency in older buildings, vacant land reuse, green jobs and more. These design approaches can save money and resources while better positioning the city for the future.

In Portland, Oregon the city is working with the Cully neighborhood to develop a resident-led Community Energy Plan. “This neighborhood is particularly active,” explains Michael Armstrong, Senior Sustainability Manager for the City of Portland in an interview. “They came to us and said we want to develop a plan that will help reduce the carbon footprint, so we applied to this program. The great thing about Partners for Places is that it brings together community stakeholders that may not have come together otherwise.”

This is the second time Portland has been successful in its application for a grant to fund a project. According to Armstrong, the focus on sustainability and the inclusion of local funders gets people talking within the city such that new ideas for projects come up regularly.

In addition to action plans, some awardees are creating new roles in city government. Hartford, Connecticut will create a sustainability director position for the city and a climate action plan that comprehensively addresses energy, land use, transportation, waste and water usage. The plan will look at the root cause of climate change, including ways to improve air quality and reduce flooding, to improve the health and well-being of all residents. In Seattle, city officials will use the funding to support community participation in a new Environmental Justice Committee and support pilot projects with communities of color that demonstrate environmental justice in action.

Other projects are more hands-on – in Miami, the city will use grant funding to put shade around transit stops making it cooler for residents who may have a long wait time for public transportation.

Minneapolis will use its award to strengthen the local food system by helping Minneapolis’ 35 farmers markets work together, collect metrics on their impact and conduct a joint “Minneapolis Buy Local” marketing campaign. In addition, the program will expand an innovative program at the West Broadway Farmers Market’s that incentivizes low-income residents to purchase healthy foods by having doctors give patients food prescriptions.

Finally, Tuscon will be using its new status as a UNESCO City of Gastronomy to train citizen folklorists to assess local needs in the mostly Latino La Doce neighborhood in order to help them strengthen their food-based economy.