Why Anchor Institutions Matter

By Matthew Stein

As we know, our world is becoming more urbanized and over the next 15 years there will be a large increase in the number of people living and working in urban areas. Anchor institutions are important players in this urban revitalization. They understand their fates are closely tied to the health and well-being of their surrounding neighborhood and city.

A great example of an anchor institution is the University of Pennsylvania (Penn). Penn serves as not only Philadelphia’s largest private employer, but as the second largest employer in the state of Pennsylvania, and has fostered partnership initiatives to advance Philadelphia’s development across multiple segments of their business from real estate development to health care and education, and everything in between.

Penn recently helped to “green up” vacant lots and clean brownfields along the Schuylkill with the completion of Penn Park, a 24-acre recreational and athletic urban park. Although it is a Penn development, it is open to public use and serves as a great resource to not only Penn students but the city as well. Projects like this redevelopment illustrate why it is so important for anchor institutions to stay in the city and, consequently, why it is difficult for them to leave. Anchor institutions are willing to provide non-income generating developments (such as Penn Park) because they are aware of the benefits it provides to their communities. Not only do anchor institutions hold significant investments in real estate, but they become a larger part of the community. Such institutions can make their communities more inviting with new developments and the addition of retail or restaurants. Anchor institutions, and in particular universities, can be a huge resource to their community.

This is Part II of a III-part series, so stay tuned for more on anchor institutions!