Governments are increasingly using public–private partnerships (PPPs) to deliver public infrastructures and facilities. The prime motivation to embark on these partnerships is often to deliver products and services on time and on budget. It is generally assumed that by transferring project risks and responsibilities to private‐sector actors, governments can achieve better value for money. This article provides a novel perspective on the standards applied in PPP endeavors as it examines the tensions between the public management rationale behind value for money on the one hand, and conceptions of design and city building on the other. We focus on planning practice in the Canadian province of Ontario to show that governments apply different understandings of value in PPPs which, in turn, affect the way the design process is run. Architects, who are used to playing the role of master builder in a traditional public infrastructure project, are shifted into a less influential position and struggle with their new role. Furthermore, a different set of priorities applies in the new procurement process. The increasing use of PPPs can thus have significant consequences for city building.