“Joint use” describes a formal or informal agreement to share a community’s social infrastructure. Joint use typically integrates a public school with other services such as libraries, parks, recreation centers and senior centers. Joint use partnerships are particularly important for underserved neighborhoods or with limited public transportation.

Joint use partnerships save money for schools and governments, reducing the duplication and underutilization of facilities by allowing them to fulfill different functions at different times for different groups. A recent report on enabling and supporting the joint use of K–12 public school facilities (A POLICY FRAMEWORK FOR JOINT USE: Enabling and Supporting Community Use of K–12 Public School Facilities, PDF, Center for Cities and School at UC Berkeley and the 21st Century School Fund) cites additional community, educational, environmental, and public health benefits that strengthen quality of life.

Joint use agreements are not without barriers, however. Partnerships can involve cities, counties, school districts, and special districts that often lack the culture of sharing or cooperation necessary to distribute cost, liability, maintenance, and ownership responsibilities. If communities can overcome these silos, joint use offers a clear return on investment, both economically and socially. Looking for these benefits in your community? Here are some examples of successful joint use partnerships and projects:

Emeryville, California – The city is currently in the construction phase of the Emeryville Center of Community Life, a joint project between the city and school district that will combine elementary, intermediate and high school facilities with a library, health clinic and public meeting areas.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg, North Carolina – The Joint Use Task Force (JUTF) was created in 1995 as partnership among the city, county, board of education, private and nonprofit representatives. JUTF notably partnered with the Charlotte Area Transit System to build green space for a nearby elementary school atop a light rail commuter parking garage.

Wadsworth, Ohio – The city recently completed a community center containing a health facility, community television studio, recreation center, library kiosk, outdoor pool, senior center, café, and public high school, in a partnership between the city and school district.

Kenny Barry is an intern at IEDC and a master’s degree candidate at Carnegie Mellon University

This article was published by the International Economic Development Council.

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