Lean Urbanism project to empower citizens to revitalize cities with $600,000 from Knight Foundation

Related Links 

A ‘Lean’ replacement for ‘Big Civic’” by Carol Coletta on Knight Blog 

A lean means of reinventing our communities” by Andrés Duany

MIAMI—(Feb. 19, 2014)—The practice of “Lean Urbanism,” which seeks to accelerate city revitalization by helping citizens and entrepreneurs work around cumbersome regulations, will receive a boost with a $600,000 grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

The grant will go to the Center for Applied Transect Studies, led by Andrés Duany, a founder of the Congress for the New Urbanism, an organization that promotes communities that are compact, walkable, transit-oriented and mixed-use.

The center will conduct research and publish reports that explore the potential benefits and challenges of Lean Urbanism. Using this research, the project will develop practical tools that reduce the time, resources and hurdles required for regulatory compliance. These will be freely available to governments seeking to streamline their processes and entrepreneurs who need help navigating complex rules.

“The Project for Lean Urbanism will devise tools that enable community-building to take less time and lighten the frustration of well-intentioned economic initiatives,” said Duany. “Lean Urbanism will restore some common sense to development processes, allowing people to take charge of revitalizing their own cities, unimpeded.”

“The Project for Lean Urbanism brings together people from diverse social and economic backgrounds to actively invest and contribute to the growth of their communities,” said Carol Coletta, Knight Foundation vice president of community and national initiatives. “In doing so, it opens tremendous opportunities to cultivate new talent and creativity, and build cities that are shaped by their citizens.”

Lean Urbanism recognizes that many citizens, entrepreneurs and developers cannot afford to contribute to heavily regulated urban areas; the costs associated with building, starting a business, learning a trade or meaningful community engagement are too high. By devising ways to work around burdensome regulations, as opposed to waiting for comprehensive reform, the Project for Lean Urbanism seeks to achieve immediate results.

Lean tools developed through the project will focus on finding workarounds to codes and regulations, as well as identifying ways in which people can “contract out” of certain restrictions, creating “Pink Zones” that lessen the red tape. The project will address problems related to the fields of building, development (including financing), business startups, liability and risk management, environmental design, infrastructure and education.

The financial crisis in Detroit, for example, has led to a decrease in red tape. Limited resources have made it difficult to impose regulations that would typically apply to starting a business, building development and upgrades, and embarking on creative projects. As a result, large numbers of young people are immigrating to the city and contributing to its growth and revival, unhindered by a strict regulatory regime that would normally limit their participation. The Project for Lean Urbanism is looking for ways to enable this activity in other places.

Support for the Project for Lean Urbanism forms one part of Knight Foundation’s efforts to build successful cities by promoting civic innovation and robust engagement. Knight’s Community and National Initiatives program invests at the intersection of talent, opportunity and place.

Carol Coletta and Andrés Duany will host a live webinar, “Lean Urbanism: Building Successful Cities,” on Tuesday, March 4, from noon to 1 p.m. ET.Register here and follow #LeanUrbanism on Twitter for more information.

About the Center for Applied Transect Studies:  The Center for Applied Transect Studies supports interdisciplinary research, publication, tools, and training for the design, coding, building and documentation of resilient, Transect-based communities. www.transect.org

About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. We believe that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged.  www.knightfoundation.org


Anusha Alikhan, Director of Communications, Knight Foundation, 305-908-2677, [email protected]

Brian Falk, Director of Publications, Center for Applied Transect Studies, 786-871-2139, [email protected]