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Media Coverage | The Rise of DIY Investment Playbooks

Mar 11, 2022

By: Bruce Katz and Avanti Krovi | March 11, 2022 | Read the full article

Following the passage of the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan a year ago almost to the day, the Nowak Lab and New Localism Associates created an “Investment Playbook” tool to help cities maximize the fragmented flow of federal funds by strategically selecting geographies of opportunity and identifying and costing out concrete rescue and recovery projects within those geographies. This tool follows the simple maxim that failing to plan is planning to fail”; federal investments may now be ample but only localities can design specific projects that are fit to place and geared for success.

The Investment Playbook approach allows cities to organize assets, build stakeholder consensus, and align investment. We have previously spotlighted the development of an Investment Playbook in Buffalo as one of the more ambitious community transformations we’ve seen in the United States. The co-investing strategy, organized through the Playbook, is already bringing together multiple sources of capital to implement a transformative vision for the East Side neighborhood. In addition to Buffalo, we worked with economic development leaders in El Paso to create an Investment Playbook for a major health corridor. This Playbook was part of our efforts with ACCELERATE El Paso, an Aspen Institute Latinos & Society Program (AILAS) initiative intended to spur an inclusive recovery for Latino businesses.

The Investment Playbook is now beginning to take hold as a common tool to use to ensure that the dizzying array of federal investments are placed in the service of local priorities. Beyond Buffalo and El Paso, for example, Erie, Pennsylvania and Greensboro, North Carolina have also prepared Playbooks in collaboration with New Localism Associates.

Significantly, a growing number of local leaders are seizing this moment and developing “Do It Yourself” (DIY) Investment Playbooks that build both on their existing work and the early models we’ve highlighted. We’ve observed at least three different communities that have further refined and elevated the Playbook concept: the Dayton Arcade Districtthe 52nd Street Corridor Initiative in West Philadelphia, and numerous projects spanning across city neighborhoods in Pittsburgh. As might be expected, these places have used the passage of time to provide more clarity on how to channel infrastructure projects for federal funding, curate more precise capital stacks, and respond to the disruptive dynamics that remain two years into the pandemic.


The Pittsburgh Playbook
The Equitable Recovery Playbook was conceived by the Neighborhood Allies, a community development intermediary dedicated to “improving the social and physical infrastructures of Pittsburgh’s under-resourced and under-served communities.” This Playbook scales up the initial model, applying it to different areas in Pittsburgh, with project locations ranging from the Hill District, to Homewood and other neighborhoods. The other investable opportunities mentioned stand to benefit the entire region if they come to fruition. The investments represent around $34 million in total cost and are categorized into neighborhood development, economic opportunity, and community development. Within these categories, Neighborhood Allies has carefully thought about the types of capital and stages that might apply to different categories. For example, “last dollar in” projects include those that are nearly-complete and need grant funding to close the final gap, while “catalytic capital” projects need early-stage equity to unlock access to more resources. Another category of projects, “emergent models”, directly responds to the challenges brought on by the pandemic, such as overcoming the digital divide. The community development investments in the Playbook focus largely on “aligning capital with strategy”, by establishing the Affordable Housing Revolving Loan Fund and the Equitable Growth Guarantee Fund.

While the physical scale of this Playbook is larger than the other two examples, the projects themselves strategically target smaller geographies that create transformative and holistic impact for their neighborhoods. For example, key investments that will preserve homes and local businesses focus on the Hill District, a historically African American neighborhood that can be poised to bring investment back into Black and Brown communities.

Source: Equitable Recovery Playbook from the Neighborhood Allies

Next Moves for Investment Playbooks

The Investment Playbook tool is a work in progress. As this newsletter shows, the DIY Playbooks from Dayton, West Philly, and Pittsburgh both build on the initial template and take it further, given, in particular, the enactment of the bipartisan infrastructure bill.

We have three ideas on where the Investment Playbook tool might head next.

First, Investment Playbooks could be created around place-based investment at the regional rather than the district or corridor scale. The tool, for example, emerged as the Build Back Better Regional Challenge (BBBRC) was playing out around the country. The Challenge has provided new wind into the formation of smart spending for transformative investment that’s rooted in advanced industry clusters that are naturally distributed across urban, metropolitan and regional geographies. Unlocking the full potential of these regional clusters require an array of investments in an array of projects: research centers of excellence, commercialization efforts, innovation districts, logistics improvements, brownfield remediation, historic building acquisition and renovation, just to name a few. These separate projects naturally build on each other, even though they are often located in disparate parts of a city, metropolitan area or region. Identifying and displaying the projects through the Investment Playbook tool could help unveil the authentic geography of the cluster and reveal the ways in which investments in different places align with and reinforce each other.

Bruce Katz is the Founding Director of the Nowak Metro Finance Lab at Drexel University. Avanti Krovi is a Senior Research Fellow at the Nowak Lab.

Top Header Image Photo Credit: Prototyping Larimer Stories by artist John Peña, photo by OPA