9/18/12: Why Behave Like an Anchor? Part 1: Internal Pressure. Guest Speaker: Mary Jeka

Discussion of Readings (see reading list below):

Comment: much of what was in readings seemed obvious. Definite trends that were tried and true; seems like from planning side there is lots of literature about what has been done re. community benefits of bringing in a large employer. Looking at many cases can help in professional context to consider broad “menu” of possibilities in terms of actions and solutions.

Anchor institutions must have proper incentives and opportunity to leverage and promote private sector development. Ex: Northeastern U task force in Mission Hill, after years of inaction have made great strides. Many readings refer to unmet needs/problems, but focus on period of development/active collaboration. There is less focus on earlier stage, which is often very conflicted. Key question: what does it take to help anchors and community reach that new stage of collaboration? How to spur anchor institution to consider self-interest in new way?

Inner cities piece had quite shocking numbers re. land and impoverished people. Where do people find work? Where do they settle? Since major industries have moved out of cities, often what’s left is AI as sole or largest employer. Important for AI to realize the position this puts them in.

Earlier articles referenced University of Pennsylvania’s program—mortgage support program for employees for buying in the area. Amanda Wittman talked about improvements at “cellular level.” Programs like this can promote a culture throughout in community. At UPenn, program initially not entirely well-received. Program only benefited people earning at a certain level. Concerns from community re. housing cost increases.

Keep alert to places where lit provides framework for professional practice as well as further inquiry. Inner cities piece—where does Tufts fit in to different types of participation? Uchicago piece: Chart showing framework of “roots and strategies.” Broad, diverse set of activities—no way to present comprehensive set of examples.

Guest Speaker Mary Jeka, Senior Vice President of Community Relations, Tufts University

Community Relations Partnership Agreements with Medford and Somerville pledged a set amount of money from the University to the communities over 10 years. In difficult economic times, some money was expedited in first several years of agreement. Since Tufts uses community resources (e.g. police and fire services), and doesn’t pay taxes, Tufts responsible for giving money to local governments.

PILOT-payment in lieu of taxes. Always done in Boston and other big cities with many schools, but not so common in other places. Tufts reached out to Somerville and Medford to put in place such a plan, change from former model of contact on an “as-needed” basis. Negotiated a figure, wanted to avoid a formula based on campus acreage or number of students. Idea of buying something (e.g. a new fire truck) for the community every year also rejected, due to lack of visibility for the University and lack of flexibility for community.

Non-monetary considerations: being responsive to neighbor complaints, extra financial aid to community high schoolers, allowing community members to audit classes for a nominal fee. Importance of respect and of keeping communications and relations strong. Community Day picnic and other activities free. Allowing community non-profit foundations to use Tufts space free of charge.

Why do so many activities seem to be directed toward Somerville rather than Medford? Somerville has a rapidly changing demographic, is more diverse, and has more unmet need. There are many non-profits in Somerville, many working closely with Tufts. More artists in Somerville. 

How does Tufts Medical School reach out to surrounding Chinatown community? This is often difficult because of language barriers. In a very densely populated area, very different from Medford/Somerville. Example: Newly built laboratory building, biosafety level 3. In reaching out to community, Tufts had to find exactly the right people to talk to, which required hiring interpreters. 

What are goals in next community partnership agreement (which begins in 2013)? Better defined partnerships and more types of partnerships–e.g. extending to concerns relating to Green Line Extension. Keep money moderate, while being equally fair to Medford/Somerville, Grafton, and Boston campuses.

Have other universities taken such a broad, long-term approach? Tufts initially looked to Trinity (Hartford, CT), but surrounding area had much more extreme needs, especially re. capital improvements. Activities of colleges in Worcester, MA more comparable. Schools partnered with community but did not provide direct renovation or city purchases.

Are there many tensions between Tufts’ growth and surrounding community? Tufts has enough development space and opportunity to buy surrounding houses that the tension is not as great as at many other institutions. Small actions go a long way–e.g. building a new driveway for neighbor who had to move driveway because of construction of new Tufts gym.

What are major challenges and pitfalls? Negative political attention stemming from high tuition. Continuing poor economy leading to financial struggles. New mayors or city officials in Somerville/Medford could pose a challenge.

2 fundamental principles: respecttake concerns of neighbors seriously. Communication–used to be a major problem, and has improved greatly.

Readings:

Initiative for a Competitive Inner City. (2011). “Anchor Institutions and Urban Economic
Development: From Community Benefit to Shared Value. Inner City Insight. Vol 1,
Issue 2, Pp. 1-10.

CEOs for Cities with Living Cities. (2010); “How to Behave Like an Anchor,” Pp. 1-29.

Webber, H.S. and M. Karlstrom. (2009) “Why Community Investment Is Good for Nonprofit Anchor Institutions: Understanding Costs, Benefits, and the Range of Strategic Options.” University of Chicago: Chapin Hall, Pp. 3-48.

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