MISSION - to undertake Aesthetic & Functional Interventions in Public Space.

CIVITAS initiatives include initiating and co-founding Preservation ErieInnovation ErieAll Aboard Erie, the Made in Erie Marketplace, the Made in Erie Design Lab and ErieCPR. Lisa Austin, the 2004 co-founder of the CIVITAS collaborative, works with with self-taught urban critic Stephen Sonnenberg, organizer Laurel Swartz, and newer members landscape architect Michael Beightol, art historian Lindsey Finlan and architect Adam Trott. Austin co-authored dozens of Considering the City essays for the ErieReader from 2013-2016.

Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody.
— Jane Jacobs

INSPIRATION: John Nolen's Plan for Greater Erie

In celebration of the centennial of Nolen's 1913 Plan for Greater Erie, CIVITAS launched a year-long study of his masterwork to see if this revered designer's suggestions are relevant to 21st century Erieland.


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INSPIRATION: The Congress for the New Urbanism

Inspired by the urban vision outlined in the Charter of the Congress for the New Urbanism, we founded CIVITAS (Back to Erie, Inc.) in 2004. 



FOUNDER Lisa Austin

Art Teacher. Social Sculptor. Civic Leader and Failed Politician.



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Stephen Sonnenberg

Water-Meter Reader. Artist and Self-taught Urban Critic.


Laurel Swartz

Former Director of Hamot Women's Center. Organizer and Reality Checker.