published Sunday, September 2nd, 2012

Lyndhurst’s new mission

Chattanooga’s renaissance and community revitalization has benefited immeasurably the past several decades from the generosity and vision of the Lyndhurst Foundation. In the past seven years alone, for example, Lyndhurst poured around $85 million into the community, helping fund the 21st Century Riverfront, redevelopment of the Southside, neighborhood housing and renewal, Riverwalk expansions, public art and land preservation.

A reorganization of the foundation last year, however, brought a pause to reconsider Lyndhurst’s mission. So it’s good to learn that Lyndhurst plans to take an even broader view of its work in coming years to help the city and the surrounding metro region weave a truly regional fabric as economic growth and development converge.

A new mission statement, adopted by the foundation’s board and released by Lyndhurst President Bruz Clark, emphasizes a new regional approach to explore “promising partnerships that empower significant and enduring improvements in our city and enhance collaboration, connectivity and quality of life throughout the neighboring tri-state region.” The goal, Clark says, will be to strengthen the region’s “long-term livability and resilience.”

“There is no question that our future quality of life will depend on our ability to think and act as a region, whether we’re talking about conservation, education or economic growth,” he said.

That broad mission wisely casts a net wide enough to consider most of the major factors that will determine our future quality of life and propel sustainable prosperity. Lyndhurst hopes to generate a positive influence on education, conservation, arts, culture, economy, urban design and development, neighborhood revitalization and physical health.

It will seek to support initiatives on how to create unique, desirable and sustainable communities; how to foster “robust and innovative job creation”; how to prepare children and adults to relate to a more mobile world. It will promote initiatives in efficient transportation, mobility, infrastructure and energy use. And it will promote stewardship of the natural resources “that underpin our quality of life and our ability to accommodate future generations.”

This is quite a comprehensive view of philanthropy in the interest of sustainable, resilient communities. It’s equally notable because of the inherent need for some group, somewhere, to be thinking and working every day toward bringing people together to anticipate the impact of regional growth, and to make it positive in a fundamentally human way.

At the moment, there is no city, county or regional agency charged with this broader challenge. Yet absent a focused initiative, the likely outcome could easily be haphazard sprawl; lack of connectivity; a dearth of civic, recreational and greenspace infrastructure; and neglect of resource stewardship. Lyndhurst’s support for community building has been invaluable in the past. It’s new mission will make it equally valuable in the future.

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