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Crowd-funding gains momentum as a way to pay for civic projects

Crowd-funding isn't anything new – everything from college tuition to movies have been successfully funded by friends, family and strangers who donate to the cause online.

But the practice of paying for civic improvements via crowd-funding does seem to be picking up steam today in parts of the world. That's not to say every attempt to fund urban initiatives with public donations has or will triumph.  However, there are enough success stories on record that cities long on wants and needs but short on cash may see possibilities in crowd-funding.

Below we'll highlight a few examples, followed by links to sites that cater to crowd-funding urban projects.

In Liverpool, England a group called Friends of the Flyover want to turn an elevated concrete highway known as a flyover into a cycling and pedestrian-friendly parkway similar to New York City's popular High Line park built on the site of an old elevated railway. The Friends of the Flyover in Liverpool envision a destination that includes landscaped gardens, art spaces and coffee shops, according to a report in The Independent.

As the report explains, the idea for the parkway stemmed from a Liverpool City Council proposal to remove the flyover, a remnant of a city plan back in the 1970s to create an urban motorway network. By some estimates the cost to knock down the flyover could cost nearly twice as much as creating a park.

And so far, flyover park proponents have crowd-funded £40,000 for a feasibility study. As Friends member Kate Stewart told The Independent: “What has become really important to the campaign is how strongly people feel about it. That is the benefit of the crowd-funding process, she said. "The city has really taken this to heart and seized the ambition."

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The UK in particular has seen a number of crowd-funding civic successes. Free public Wi-Fi in Mansfield, England's town center is thanks to a crowd-funded initiative that raised £38,000. The Wi-Fi is available for free use by all visitors, shoppers, traders and workers within the main center of town. In Glyncoch, a former mining town in Wales, crowd-funding was used to collect £28,000 to finish a community center. Both of these efforts leveraged Spacehive, a UK-based crowd-funding platform.

Across the pond in New York City, a Brooklyn design team wants to float an Olympic-size pool in the East River. The pool would have a filtration system that makes the river water safe to swim in. Back in 2011 the Plus Pool effort crowd-funded $40,000 in a Kickstarter campaign. According to the Huffington Post, 3,000 people have now contributed nearly $275,000 to keep the idea afloat. The project still needs approvals from the city, Coast Guard and other agencies.

Kansas City, Missouri has taken to crowd-funding, too. A couple of years ago a group formed to transform their city from one of the worst for biking to one of the best with a bike-sharing initiative. BikeWalkKC made substantial progress using a variety of funding approaches, but earlier this year BikeWalkKC announced plans to take it to the next level with what could be the largest crowd-funding effort yet ($1 million) to finance more bike-share stations, according to thisbigcity.net. Like BikeWalkKC, another Kansas City group is using the neighbor.ly crowd-funding site to fund civic improvements. The City of Fountains Foundation is using crowd-funding as one part of a broader fundraising initiative to restore and preserve the city's historic fountains.

Crowd-funding resources

Here are some of the crowd-funding sites that cater to civic projects. As you'll see on these sites, there's tremendous variety in the types of urban initiatives using crowd-funding.

 

More on civic crowd-funding…

Hawaii first state to propose civic crowd-funding legislation
Good Energy announces partnership to generate solar power in 20 schools
Crowd-funding platform Nyaya raises cash for health care for Nepal’s poor