Skip to main content

COVID-19 Economic Response and Recovery

Integrate Programs to Achieve Better Delivery and Cost Savings


Department, agency, and/or program integration may make sense on a number of fronts. It can lead to cost savings, economies of scale, and efficiencies, as well as the ability to leverage additional sources of revenue. It can also help to join up complementary programming, which can lead to more targeted and effective delivery.

Learn more about the Toolkit

COVID-19 Economic Response and Recovery

Generate revenue by selling, or monetizing city-owned buildings, infrastructure, and other assets


Most cities own numerous real estate, infrastructure, and enterprise assets and have a concerted asset management program. However, this program does not usually prioritize investments/reinvestments which deliver economic development goals (which can yield longer-term returns for the city).

Cautionary Tale and Learning Lessons

  1. In 2008, the City of Chicago Mayor Richard Daley successfully lobbied for the approval of an agreement which privatized all of the parking meters in the City for a period of 75 years for an immediate $1.157 billion cash infusion (for a one-time payment towards the city’s unfunded pension liability). This agreement immediately drew the ire of the public who immediately saw escalating meter rates as well as the Chicago Inspector General at the time who proclaimed the agreement undervalued the system by $975 million. It is expected that by 2021, the initial $1.157 billion will be recouped by the private operator with 62 years left remaining on the lease. The agreement to commercialize Chicago’s Parking Meters is considered a case study in what not to do. As other cities such as Louisville, Indianapolis, and Cincinnati have considered commercializing their parking meter assets over the past 10 years, they have been much more cautious in their commercialization efforts.
  2. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) released an article in March 2018, which summarized how cities can unlock their public wealth by, “ doing a better job of managing their assets.” Specifically, as this relates to cities in the U.S., the article references Boston, MA and outlines how the city ban expects to achieve better performance (i.e. up to fourfold based on the research cited) by simply analyzing and reporting their existing assets return on investment (ROI). As such, the article projects that Boston could achieve a 3% return on its commercial assets by managing these more professionally and with independent oversight.

(Click here for more information on Cautionary Tale and Learning Lessons.)

Cities can commercialize these assets by

  • Creating a public-private partnership;
  • Doing a sale-leaseback, which both provides immediate funding and alleviates future maintenance and operation costs; and
  • Utilizing them for immediate opportunities such as incubators/accelerators, shared workspaces, and maker spaces.

Best Practices from International City/County Management Association (ICMA).

Click here for ICMA Best Practices.

Cities should also consider whether a larger asset portfolio would be more attractive to partners. Cities may need to review existing regulations if they are to maximize the value of the assets.


It cost the city ~$6m less to repurpose an existing building, rather than build new. The incubator profits, which are in the range of $25,000 a year, are reinvested into start-up support.

Over 10 years, the incubator has supported 500 new technology jobs, and 50 new businesses, and it continues to be a viable venture.

Learn more about the Toolkit

COVID-19 Economic Response and Recovery

Consider Additional Sources of Funding and Cost Savings


In the future, many DMOs will have to manage with smaller budgets, and many local businesses have bled cash during lockdowns. As a result, everyone will need to identify savings, find new ways to collaborate, and pool resources for programming which benefits all.

Learn more about the Tactical Guide