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Public-Private Partnerships Bring Value... When Done Right!

“The whole of the parts is greater than the sum.” We’ve all heard this great quote attributed to Aristotle. Perhaps this has never been truer than when looking at a well-executed Public-Private Partnership. To execute a PPP (or P3) well takes a lot of time, effort and understanding. You need to understand the partnerships interests and mandates, without that understanding you’ll end up with a lot of he said, she said. But more and more, the need for private support to answer the call of the public need is here. That’s why the Department of the Interior created the “Made in America” Recreational Advisory Committee in 2018 with the primary role to advise the Secretary of the Interior on Public-Private Partnerships for public lands.  It is a key role when looking at the massive backlog of deferred maintenance especially within the National Park Service. It’s important to remember that no P3 is exactly alike, but also that we can learn from all of them. So let’s take a look at some different P3’s that have occurred recently.

Gateway Arch National Park

The renovation of Gateway Arch National Park, formerly Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, begun in 2010 with a design competition in which Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates won the competition to redesign the park and surrounding area. This P3, the largest within National Park Service history at $380 million, saw a partnership that included the City of St. Louis, the National Park Service, Great Rivers Greenway, Bi-State Development Agency, Jefferson National Parks Association and the then newly formed CityArchRiver Foundation (today the Gateway Arch Park Foundation). Through closely working together they were able to lay out the plans for who would lead construction, design, funding, public engagement and activity across the park. Other groups like the Missouri Department of Transportation and Federal Highways Authority also were integral in this project with the Park Over the Highway connection that led to a united City and Arch Grounds. Upon completion in 2018 the project opened to massive coverage across the country highlighting the new connection between the City, the Arch and the River. Find out more about the project here.

The Presidio - Tunnel Tops

This mixture of parks and highways project focuses on the connection of the Main Post to Crissy Field. This 14 acre park space is being designed by James Corner Field Operations. This ongoing project was inspired by the idea of creating 360 degree views that could not previously be enjoyed. This project is a partnership between the Presidio Trust, Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy and the National Park Service with CalTrans playing an integral role on the highway construction and redevelopment. With the uniqueness of the Presidio Trust as a free standing federal government organization there is different flexibility within their statutes, but their partnerships in this effort provide for further growth and an improved project connection. Find out more about the project here.

In a similar way to the Department of Interior, the US Department of Transportation has utilized Public-Private Partnerships and has created the Build America Bureau. In doing so, their efforts encourage private sector groups to take on the design, construction, finance, long-term operation and traffic revenue. They believe that bringing in private partners can stimulate creativity, efficiency and access to capital to address complex transportation problems facing state and local governments.

Moynihan Train Hall

A conversion of the James A. Farley Post Office in New York to a facility serving Amtrak and Long Island Rail Road passengers, this site is seen as a relief to the crowds and congestion at nearby Penn Station. This collaboration between the private developer, NY’s Empire State Development Corporation, Amtrak, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and the Metropolitan Transit Authority brings both public and private entities together to maximize the opportunity that any one of these groups may not have been able to push forward, either to the maximum potential or to put together the appropriate fundraising to make it happen (total cost of the project is estimated at $1.85 billion). Find out more about the project here.

Eagle Project

This was the first P3 for commuter rail in the US to include design-build, financing and long-term operations. The $2 billion+ project creates 3 new lines and also a maintenance facility to help service the growing commuter and light rail in Denver. The partnership, unique to its core, brought in partners for investment, construction and operation of the line partnering US DOT, RTD and several private partners. It is seen as a unique opportunity to more rapidly expand the rail system of a city, that has grown exponentially over the last 10+ years. Truly a project where necessity is the mother of invention, this project has created new commuter lines for the public and even the financing was applauded as the Bond Buyer named it 2010 “Deal of the Year” for the southwest region. Find out more about the project here.