Growing Connection: Innovation through Implementing High-Performance Public Spaces

City: Port St. Lucie, Florida

Reporting to: Deputy City Manager for Strategic Initiatives & Innovation

The Challenge

The City of Port St. Lucie has experienced significant growth in the past three years: 36,739 new residents have moved to the city since 2020. The challenges of growth are a recurring theme throughout city services. Over the past several years, the Mayor and City Council have utilized a strategic planning system that centers resident feedback through the National Community Survey and a Citizen Summit to improve city services. According to the 2023 National Community Survey: 37% of residents rated residents’ connection and engagement with their community positively, lower than the national benchmark and an 11% decrease from 2022; 48% of residents rated the quality of open space positively; 41% rated public places where people want to spend time positively and 63% of residents rated the overall natural environment positively, all lower than the national benchmark. Infill lots, commonly perceived by residents as neighborhood open space, are quickly disappearing as homes are being built on every available lot. At the 2023 Citizen Summit, residents prioritized community green spaces and amenities in neighborhoods throughout the city to further quality of life, resident satisfaction, recreational and health benefits, increased access to nature, improved social connections, and an enhanced natural environment. With an increasingly limited inventory of public land available, Port St. Lucie is seeking to create high-performance public spaces to meet varied resident needs, as outlined in the City’s Strategic Plan and in the National Community SurveyTM.

The Mayor and City Council have set a goal to be the most engaged city in the nation and are committed to utilizing resident feedback to drive the City’s Strategic Plan and budget. City staff have already made progress on several fronts and have: reviewed inventories of land owned by various departments and identified potential lots that would be suitable to meet multiple public purposes; prioritized neighborhood gathering spaces in the Strategic Plan and budgeted funds for pilot projects; gathered citizen feedback on this topic over the past several years and can map areas of the city where investments could be prioritized to increase satisfaction; and analyzed park needs through the 10 Year Parks & Recreation Master Plan (an update of which will be launched in July 2024 and will integrate high-performance public spaces). Creating high-performance public spaces is also the focus of the city’s participation in the Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative’s Innovation Track through which a cross departmental city team is learning innovation techniques to engage residents in testing, adapting, and scaling creative ideas to make progress on this priority. The team also aims to apply an equity lens throughout the design process, from their team composition and community engagement methods to design decisions. Successful implementation of the ideas generated through the Innovation Track will help the city make tangible progress toward this resident priority. City leadership has aligned citywide plans and encouraged a collaborative culture and an innovation mindset that they aim to further expand through this work.

The summer fellow will help the city deliver on its initial ideas emerging from the Innovation Track work and respond to growing resident feedback around how they might advance quality of life and connection. In addition, the work of the summer fellow will support integrating and expanding the learnings from the Innovation Track to other challenges and departments throughout the city. A successful summer fellow will produce deeper resident insights that enable the city to effectively engage and co-create solutions with residents and help introduce a new method of problem solving at City Hall.

  • How might we deepen our understanding of resident needs in prioritizing the location of high-performance public spaces?

  • How can the city collect and manage data and document the potential of high-performance public spaces moving forward?

  • How should parcels be prioritized?

  • How might we incorporate the lessons learned in the Innovation Track to scale innovation throughout the city, such as integration into the city’s growing Innovate PSL Academy?

What You’ll Do

To address these questions, the fellow will engage with the City Manager’s Strategic Initiatives & Innovation Team and High-Performance Public Spaces Team, the Mayor, City Council, the City Manager’s Office, city departments, residents, neighborhood associations, and other governmental partners that own public land within the city limits such as the St. Lucie County School District, St. Lucie County Board of County Commissioners, St. Lucie Fire District, and the South Florida Water Management District.

The fellow will serve as a key member of the team to engage internal and external stakeholders in developing the initial implementation plan for High-Performance Public Spaces. They will do this through specialized analysis and working with a team to integrate a design thinking/prototyping module in the city’s innovation academy.

Key Deliverables Include:

  1. Implementation plan for the continued development of High-Performance Public Spaces that specifically includes:
    • Internal and external stakeholder interviews to inform the development of prioritization criteria.
    • In-depth data analysis combining citizen surveys, Citizen Summit, and Census data to inform parcel priorities.
    • Prioritization criteria that incorporate resident feedback, demographic data, and an equity lens.
    • White paper that highlights the opportunity and equity implications of this work.
    • A presentation to city leadership at the quarterly PSL STAT meeting and the Mayor and City Council’s Summer Workshop of the fellow’s findings and recommendations.
  2. Working collaboratively with a team to design a prototype module to expand the learning from the Innovation Track and offer as a component of the Innovation Academy.


What You’ll Bring

The fellow will be expected to possess the following skills:

  • Data Analysis
  • Qualitative Interviewing and Analysis
  • Mapping (GIS)
  • Policy Analysis
  • Design Thinking
  • Writing and editing


Back to Summer Fellowships page.

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