Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group

City & Regional Planning

First Advisor

Eugenie L. Birch


In Legacy Cities throughout the United States, local philanthropic foundations provide resources to non-governmental organizations (NGOs) working at the forefront of areas such as education, affordable housing and arts and culture. In the past three decades, NGOs in these places have become leaders in urban revitalization, responding to the consequences of their cities’ economic restructuring and depopulation. This dissertation finds that local foundations influence urban revitalization in cities where the institutional make-up of local growth coalitions largely comprises NGOs such as intermediaries, anchor institutions and local development organizations. In this work, philanthropic foundations committed millions of dollars to urban improvements, economic development and capacity building. Between 2003 and 2012, philanthropic expenditure for urban revitalization ($6.3 billion) surpassed that of federal support provided through Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) ($5.9 billion). While many scholars have documented efforts to renew Legacy Cities, their contributions largely focus on the activities of government, non-profit organizations, citizen-led efforts, or the private sector. Their mentions of philanthropy are limited. To remedy this gap, this study examines the influence of philanthropic foundations in Legacy City revitalization, namely local foundations’ roles in the conception, planning and implementation of related activities. It assesses the foundations involved in urban revitalization, the grants made, the organizations that receive them, and the activities they fund. It then presents three case studies: Cleveland, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, to explore the strategies, relationships and outcomes of this type of philanthropic activity. It finds that in cities with high levels of local philanthropy, as measured by number of local foundations and grant expenditure, foundations influence urban revitalization practice. It concludes that in the 21st century, local growth coalitions have evolved to include local foundation and mission-driven NGOs as active agenda-setting members.

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