Detroit, Akron, Chicago and Memphis will get a collective $40 million to invest in their public spaces in an effort to counter recent trends toward worsening social and economic segregation. Four national foundations — the JPB Foundation, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, The Kresge Foundation and The Rockefeller Foundation — announced today that they will invest a total of $20 million for civic space in improvements in these cities. The other $20 million will come from local sources. The program, titled “Reimagining the Civic Commons,” launched as an ongoing pilot in Philadelphia in 2015. (The Kresge Foundation also provides funding support to Next City.)

“We see this as a series of local experiments to interpret a common theme: What is the purpose of community spaces like parks, libraries, municipal buildings or even sidewalks? What binds us to place and to each other?” said Alberto Ibargüen, Knight Foundation president, in a statement. “Citizen engagement must be a cornerstone of our rethinking how to use great civic spaces for today’s diverse and inclusive communities.”

The four cities will use the funding to create connections between existing public and civic spaces.

Detroit’s projects aim to connect two anchor institutions in the Livernois-McNichols area, a neighborhood considered the number one revitalization priority by Mayor Mike Duggan and home to both University of Detroit Mercy and Marygrove Collage. The Civic Commons funding will target the area between the universities, creating a network of public and community-oriented commercial spaces within walking distance of one another.

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