Learn how Austin, Philadelphia, Baltimore and New York City have used creative placemaking, community engagement and physical improvements to active their pools and build support for significant public investment, including the approval of a $40 million in bonds for aquatics in Austin. These public pool “makeovers", such as Philadelphia’s “Pop Up Pool”, are inspiring cities to rethink the role and potential of their public pool systems, and have spurred significant interest and investment pool assets, including New York City’s “Cool Pools” program.
Public pools, largely built in the 20th century to serve middle- and upper-class white residents, were abandoned by cities mid-century as whites moved to the suburbs and joined private pools, leaving communities of color and low-income residents with stark and neglected pools and public spaces. In many cities, neighborhood pools continue to be under threat of closure due to tight budgets and the high cost of maintenance and operations.
After years of neglect, public pools are making a comeback in cities where residents and local city departments are implementing interventions, such as pool furniture, seating, shade, and color, as well as creative activation through arts, culture and recreational programming. Through these improvements—and thoughtful outreach and communications—pools are transformed to a welcoming place for all residents, helping create the connective tissue that binds communities and anchors neighborhoods.