Advocacy by design: Innovations in parks and public places for building diverse constituencies
In five cities, civic leaders and parks professionals are collaborating with local communities to reinvigorate civic assets in a way that attracts a wide range of people—and cultivates long-term advocacy for parks and public places among diverse constituencies. This session explores ongoing efforts in Akron, Chicago, Detroit, Memphis and Philadelphia to reinvent how cities and local organizations engage people in improving, programming and maintaining civic assets. Experts working on the ground in the cities will share how the Reimagining the Civic Commons initiative is demonstrating that innovative, meaningful engagement can result in public places that serve us all—and that yield greater advocacy, stewardship, equity and even funding.
Landscape Architect and Planner, City of Detroit
Senior Fellow, Kresge Foundation American Cities Practice
Carol Coletta is president and CEO of the Memphis River Parks Partnership. She is leading the relaunch of a nonprofit to develop, manage and program six miles of riverfront and five park districts along the Mississippi River.
She is on loan from The Kresge Foundation where she is a senior fellow in the foundation’s American Cities Practice. She leads a $50+ million collaboration of national and local foundations, local nonprofits and governments to Reimagine the Civic Commons in five cities. It is planned as the first comprehensive demonstration of how a connected set of civic assets – a civic commons – can yield increased and more widely share prosperity for cities and neighborhoods.
Outreach Manager, Summit Metro Parks
Principal of Urbanism and Civic Impact, Studio Gang
Gia Biagi is a Principal at Studio Gang, an architecture and urban design collective located in Chicago, New York, and San Francisco. Gia is widely regarded as a thought leader around issues related to cities and public space and guides the Studio’s urbanism and civic impact work.
At Studio Gang, she leads design teams, coordinates master plans, facilitates community engagement, and directs the urban design approach for projects across the United States. Prior to joining Studio Gang, Gia spent sixteen years working for the City of Chicago, including posts at the Park District as Director of Planning, Director of Strategy and Policy, and Chief of Staff. Gia also serves as President of NeighborSpace, a non-profit land trust that provides community-based management and long-term protection to over 100 urban gardens in neighborhoods across Chicago.
Kathryn Ott Lovell
Commissioner, Philadelphia Parks & Recreation
Kathryn Ott Lovell serves as the Commissioner of Philadelphia Parks and Recreation where she leads more than 700 employees and oversees the city’s parkland, playgrounds, recreation centers, trails and thousands of programs and events. She is credited with the recent “Reimagining the Civic Commons” initiative, a program underway to re-imagine the city’s vast and beloved parks as destinations where residents can gather and connect with their community in a meaningful way.
Under Commissioner Ott Lovell’s leadership, the Philadelphia Parks and Recreation Department will experience a drastic transformation over the next eight years through the city’s “Rebuilding Community Infrastructure” project, otherwise referred to as “Rebuild.” The Rebuild project is a massive effort to invest nearly half a billion dollars over the next six years to improve the city’s civic assets. As a private- and public-funded venture, the project intends to use the city’s public spaces as a way to promote social connectivity, elevate community engagement, and bring equity to some of the city’s most underserved neighborhoods.
Ms. Ott Lovell currently serves on the boards of the Free Library of Philadelphia, Please Touch Museum, the Schuylkill River Development Corporation and the Philadelphia Sports Congress. She lives in West Philadelphia with her husband, Andrew, and two daughters, Lucy and Johanna.