Eugenie Birch is co-director of Penn IUR and Lawrence C. Nussdorf Professor of Urban Research in Penn’s Department of City & Regional Planning. The following article is adapted from “Anchor Institutions in the Northeast Megaregion: An Important But Not Fully Realized Resource,” Birch’s chapter in the forthcoming “Revitalizing American Cities” (Penn Press 2013), edited by Susan Wachter and Kimberly Zeuli.
As former manufacturing cities in the United States seek to reinvent their economies, they have engaged in several types of revitalization strategies to use their key asset, land, to attract investment in new industries. Land is a critical ingredient for revitalization because it supports activities that generate income for both the public and private sectors, which, in turn, generate additional municipal revenues by the entity occupying the land. In recent decades, cities have sought to attract or retain private corporations but have given much less attention to nurturing another type of important land holder: the anchor institution, usually defined as universities, medical centers, performing arts centers, museums, sports facilities, and libraries.