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Growing 2021’s Investments in “Place”

Jonathan is a placemaker and New Urbanist in every sense of the word with a voracious appetite for studying and learning about new methods of community and economic development from around the world. Since 2016, he has served as a Director & Vice President of the Detroit-based community crowdfunding startup, Patronicity and their new placemaking advisory firm, Bench Consulting, supporting hundreds of community driven placemaking projects across the country. His focus remains on building vibrant communities that foster social connectivity and creativity and support a thriving, healthy downtown small business ecosystem. Jonathan holds a JD from New England Law | Boston and a BA in Communications from Quinnipiac University and currently sits on the local advisory board of Leading Cities and the board of Abundant Housing Massachusetts.

Over the past year we’ve seen small towns and big cities adapt and embrace rethinking how they utilize their valuable public space assets within their communities. From small towns like Needham, Massachusetts converting excess street space into communal outdoor dining and public work spaces, to big cities like Montreal shutting down entire streets in the city taking them back from cars, opening them to people and investing in public infrastructure, to support the strengthening of social connections and providing outdoor public work spaces.

In Boston and communities across Massachusetts, cafés and restaurants converted parking spaces into outdoor patios, expanding their value to the neighborhood as a third space with new physical space to foster and strengthen social connectivity among area residents. The Massachusetts Department of Transportation invested heavily in a program called Shared Streets & Spaces aimed at supporting communities as they transformed their streets for safer active mobility, commerce and creating new spaces for building social connectivity.

As we’ve seen small businesses struggle through closures to meet local health restrictions, we’ve also fully realized the importance of these small businesses to, not just our local economies and as vehicles to build local wealth, but also as spaces to build social connections and foster a sense of community we’ve so desperately missed during the pandemic. Through creative crowdgranting partnerships in Michigan and Massachusetts, we supported small businesses as they looked to reopen, reengage with their existing customer base, build new customer bases and expand their operations.

As “the great migration” around the country, kicked off by the pandemic, continues, expect to see communities looking into new and creative ways to support stronger qualities of life and thriving local economies for existing residents and to attract new residents and businesses to their communities. We’ll see new investments on Main Street and in downtowns, as well as a growing push to create districts with a broader mix of property use types closer together, continuing to move away from the Euclidean Zoning ideals that have dominated our planning processes for decades.

In 2022, I’d expect to see most of these investments in place continuing and expanding with new government recovery funding invested directly and equitably into; new affordable housing, improved, lower cost, public transportation, creative initiatives and projects that revitalize public spaces and overall support a more accessible, connected, live, work and play culture and stronger local economies.

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Jonathan Berk

Vice President, Patronicity

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