Neighborhood Commons: Reimagining Public Realm Management


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Certification Maintenance


CM | 0.75


Learning Outcomes

  • Assess existing regulatory frameworks and identify key gaps and barriers that constrain uses of the public realm.
  • Map users' experiences with city permitting processes to improve customer service and encourage localized public-realm management.
  • Design financial incentives, educational and training resources, and policies that empower local stakeholders and small business to activate and use the public realm frequently and permanently.

More Course Details

Groups that wan to participate in public life by showcasing art and culture or offering goods and services are often hindered by a complex set of permits and regulations from various government agencies. While they may address public safety, public health, sanitation, and public order, many regulatory frameworks indirectly exclude local stakeholders from playing key roles in their communities. Frequently excluded are minority groups with limited political power, elderly and disabled people, and immigrant-owned businesses whose proprietors have a limited command of English.

The COVID-19 pandemic forced many municipalities to change regulatory frameworks to facilitate quick and easy processing. Planners imagining the public realm for a "new normal" must pioneer new financial and regulatory tools, technical assistance and training programs, and digital processes that support participation by local businesses and communities.

Presenters use pandemic-era lessons to explore strategies that prioritize how users experience regulatory processes, build community expertise in public programming and events, and support stakeholders' ongoing participation in the public realm.

They encourage planners to, first, acknowledge how existing regulatory frameworks indirectly affect who can shape, manage, and participate; and, second, design new policies, programs, tools, and resources that return power to local stakeholders.