In over 100 projects, Team Better Block (TBB), the organization that works directly with cities to realize large-scale placemaking initiatives, helps make your great city even better. Now, thanks to a $775,000 grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Dallas-based organization will be better able to serve cities and the people who make them. The January grant, meted out in installments, allowed TBB to create the Better Block Foundation (BBF), a nonprofit arm of for-profit TBB. Founder Jason Roberts explained that the grant will help both entities grow and support each other mutually. Roberts clarified that, while Better Block solutions like bike lane, plaza, and pop-up business recipes are "an open-source operating system, like Linux," free and open for all to use, TBB installs Better Block solutions for a fee. He and co-founder Andrew Howard realized a need for the foundation when TBB went worldwide. "We didn't have the bandwidth, so we needed the non-profit model. The nonprofit will help other folks do these things," he told AN. Things like transforming underutilized spaces, building workforce capacity, and cultivating vacant land. The program is expanding its staff to include a managing director, architect, project manager, and creating an internship program. Howard will manage TBB, while Roberts, who enjoys research and development, is directing the foundation. The BBF includes a human capacity-building component, as well. Civic leaders, elected officials, developers, and others "passionate about the built environment" will be able to meet architects, planners, and designers to discuss solutions for their cities' public spaces. Additionally, the foundation will build capacity to collect data and performance metrics before and after a Better Block project is installed. "We haven't had a chance to document that piece," Roberts reflected. "The foundation can focus on impact." This year, the BBF and TBB are planning the WikiBlocks project for the city of St. Paul. In collaboration with neighborhood groups, they'll install parklets, flowerbeds, and cafe seating from cutout designs whose plans are free to download and assemble. TBB is teaming up with the digital fabrication studio at Kent State University to create the prototypes for the project: In about three months, the early models will be developed. TBB knows how local culture manifests itself in and through the built environment, and that drawing on that ethos is key to building strong neighborhoods. Right now, TBB is using one site to turn around a struggling neighborhood in Akron, Ohio, and posing the question in reverse: how could culture express itself in an individual house? Working with refugees from Bhutan, in collaboration with the International Institute, the Bhutan Cultural Association, and a Community Development Corporation (CDC) in Akron, the team is transforming a dilapidated house in the North Hill neighborhood into The Exchange House, an Airbnb youth hostel managed by the émigrés. Refugees sponsored by the State Department are indebted to the government: refugees have to pay back their plane ticket. Consequently, they're expected to find work, but language and cultural barriers can make that difficult. Running the hostel will provide an opportunity for cultural exchange, help refugees earn money, and build English language skills, as well as revitalize a neighborhood that has excess housing and infrastructural capacity. The partners hope to "stamp North Hill as an international neighborhood." There's 11 months left on the project, and demolition on the interior is progressing apace. Sai Sinbondit (of Cleveland-based Bialosky + Partners Architects) is the lead architect. A market, garden, and community resource center will round out the hostel's program.
Posts tagged with "john s. and james l. knight foundation":
Earlier this year, AN kicked off its video series with a tour of Philly's Reading Viaduct, an abandoned elevated rail line that advocates hope to transform into a linear park. The project has been talked about for years, but the pace has really picked up over the last few months. When we visited the site, president of the nonprofit Friends of the Rail Park, Leah Murphy, and the park's designer, Bryan Hanes, said they hoped to break ground on the first phase of the project—the spur—this year. Now, it looks like that is going to happen—possibly as soon as this summer. In March, the Knight and William Penn foundations announced they would provide $11 million for five shovel-ready park projects around the city, including $1 million for the Reading Viaduct. Since then, the chances of the project getting underway have solidified even further. PlanPhilly recently reported that Councilman Mark Squilla introduced legislation that would allow the city to purchase the 0.8-acre spur from Philly's transit agency, SEPTA, which currently owns the site. If SEPTA votes to hand over the property, the project will pass a major logistical hurdle. As for funding, Friends of the Rail Park told PlanPhilly that the group has already raised about 65 percent of the $9 million required for the spur. It is also pursuing a $3.5 million grant from Pennsylvania's Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program. For more on the history of the Reading Viaduct, and its possible future as an elevated park, check out our video below. https://vimeo.com/120168095
The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation announced Tuesday the winners of the first Knight Cities Challenge, awarding a total of $5 million to 32 projects that include “consulates” for local culture in Detroit, Philadelphia, and New Orleans, and “a social kitchen” in downtown Gary, Indiana. Jurors reviewed more than 7,000 applications from the 26 eligible communities, which are all cities where the Knight brothers owned newspapers. A quick sampling of the winners includes: a plan to increase year-round outdoor activities in St. Paul, Minnesota; new pedestrian and bicycle paths in Columbus, Georgia; pop-up storefronts in San Diego's San Pedro Square market; a vacant property turned AirBnb-style hostel to benefit the Bhutanese community of Akron, Ohio; and a "science barge" in Miami to increase climate change awareness. The Knight Foundation will open up a call for a more entries in October. You can scroll the full list of winners here on Knight's site, or on this page after the jump. Knight Cities Challenge from Knight Foundation on Vimeo. 2015 Knight Cities Challenge Winners Akron, Ohio Better Block International Hostel on AirBnB, $155,000 by Team Better Block (Submitted by Jason Roberts): Turning a vacant property into an AirBnB hostel and cultural hub in Akron’s North Hill to tap the entrepreneurial potential of the neighborhood’s growing Bhutanese population. Unbox Akron, $52,168 (Submitted by Chris Horne): Fostering a stronger connection to the city by creating a subscription service that celebrates Akron with a monthly selection of local goods and experiences delivered in a box. Bradenton, Fla. ReuseReCONNECT, $90,140 by Realize Bradenton (Submitted by Morgan Bettes): Engaging millennials in Bradenton by experimenting with pop-up events that temporarily transform outdoor spaces into places for conversations on local topics. Charlotte, N.C. No Barriers Project, $67,100 (Submitted by Sarah Hazel): Bringing two diverse neighborhoods together in a public park that sits on their border by creating a new common space that uses light, sound and play to stimulate conversation. “Porch” Swings in Public Places, $28,000 (Submitted by Tom Warshauer): Fostering conversation among strangers by installing Charlotte’s signature porch swings in public spaces. Take Ten Initiative, $74,000 (Submitted by Alyssa Dodd): Challenging municipal workers to take 10 minutes each week to connect with a city resident and report on their thoughts and ideas. Columbus, Ga. Minimum Grid: Maximum Impact, $199,195 by MidTown Inc. (Submitted by Anne King): Establishing a comprehensive network of bicycle and pedestrian connections among the entertainment and business district of Uptown and the 24 diverse neighborhoods of MidTown. Detroit RE:Brand Detroit: Innovating Detroit Neighborhoods, $164,810 by Brand Camp University (Submitted by Hajj Flemings): Changing the narrative of underserved neighborhoods by developing compelling branding and digital presences for neighborhood businesses that better tell their stories. Brick + Beam Detroit, $87,424 by Michigan Historic Preservation Network (Submitted by Emilie Evans): Creating a new community of Detroit rehabbers who will work together to combat blight, reactivate vacant buildings and improve their city. The Buzz, $84,055 by Detroit Future City (Submitted by Erin Kelly): Pairing barbers with landscape contractors to transform overgrown vacant lots through facilitated design workshops that teach mowing and pattern-making techniques. Detroit Homecoming, $100,000 by Crain’s Detroit Business (Submitted by Eric Cedo): Engaging Detroit expats with a new digital community designed to keep them connected to Detroit and its opportunities. LIVE Detroit, $40,000 by LIVE Detroit (Submitted by Rachel Perschetz): Attracting and retaining residents by creating a center for information about Detroit neighborhoods and city life that showcases the best of Detroit. Gary, Ind. ArtHouse: a Social Kitchen, $650,000 by Rebuild Foundation (submitted by Lori Berko): Repurposing a vacant space in downtown Gary as a culinary incubator and café designed to reinvigorate downtown while creating jobs and opportunities for residents. Lexington, Ky. Northside Common Market, $550,000 by North Limestone Community Development Corp. (Submitted by Richard Young): Repurposing a vacant bus station into a market for locally grown food and locally made goods and a creative business incubator that will serve as a neighborhood hub. Macon, Ga. Operation Export Macon, $75,000 by College Hill Alliance (Submitted by Joshua Lovett): Fostering city pride and helping attract newcomers to Macon by sending one man in a roaming trailer to nearby cities, to showcase the city’s best food, goods and experiences. Macon Civic Spaces, $124,300 (submitted by Geoffrey Boyd): Creating an umbrella organization to bring together individual park volunteer groups to create a network of advocates, interested in improving and maintaining local parks as vibrant community engagement venues. Miami The Science Barge, $298,633 by CappSci (Submitted by Nathalie Manzano-Smith): Creating a public focal point for Miami’s climate issues with the Science Barge, a floating, urban sustainable farm and environmental education center powered by renewable energy. Multiple communities The Urban “Consulate,” $150,000 (Submitted by Claire Nelson): Promoting cross-city cultural and civic exchange by setting up a network of new “consulates” initially located in Detroit, Philadelphia and New Orleans that offer events and an entrée into local culture. The Swings: An Exercise in Musical Cooperation, $325,000 by DailyTousLesJours (Submitted by Mouna Andraos): Bringing people together to connect and engage in four Knight resident cities (Charlotte, Macon, Philadelphia and San Jose) with a musical swings installation that plays music when used and more complex melodies when people collaborate to use them together. Philadelphia The Pop-Up Pool Project, $297,000 by Group Melvin Design (Submitted by Benjamin Bryant): Introducing fun, easy solutions at city pools, which will be designed to make them more vibrant places to meet and interact with neighbors and friends. South Philly's Stoop, $146,960 by Scout (Submitted by Lindsey Scannapieco): Transforming the vacant space surrounding the recently closed, historic Edward Bok school in South Philadelphia into a new community living room that brings community members together, encourages connections and engages people with neighborhood history. Urban Arboreta, $65,000 by City Parks Association of Philadelphia (Submitted by Timothy Baird): Transforming vacant land in Philadelphia into urban forests that produce trees to be replanted on city streets and in parks. Next Stop: Democracy! The Voting Signage Project, $166,394 by Here’s My Chance (Submitted by Lansie Sylvia): Making voting in local elections more enticing by creating new types of signs at polling places and commissioning artists to perform site-specific pieces on election days. Neighborhood Conservation Kit, $20,000 by Central Roxborough Civic Association (Submitted by Sandy Sorlien): Putting the future of communities in residents’ hands with a toolkit they can use to create a special zoning designation called a Neighborhood Conservation Overlay. Philadelphia Immigrant Innovation Hub, $261,500 by Mt. Airy USA (Submitted by Anuj Gupta): Harnessing the talent and energy of immigrants to revitalize distressed neighborhoods by providing centers that would offer immigrant entrepreneurs low-cost space, language assistance, workshops and trainings, and access to traditional and non-traditional sources of capital. DIG Philly by The Big SandBox Inc., $149,050 (Submitted by Jacques Gaffigan): Bringing together members of the community from diverse ages, ethnic and economic groups to create a movement to reinvent schoolyards across the city using traditional grassroots outreach and new digital engagement tools. San Jose, Calif. Houslets, $40,000 by Houslets (Submitted by Tim McCormick): Prototyping and deploying low-cost, modular housing and workspace units to test a new model for temporary and affordable housing for San Jose’s fast-growing population. San Pedro Squared, $139,000 by San Jose Downtown Association (Submitted by Scott Knies): Testing a new method of economic revival focused on bringing activity to the streets by installing pop-up retail units on the ground floor of a parking structure opposite the lively San Pedro Square market. St Paul, Minn. 4 Play, $117,000 by Greater MSP (Submitted by Peter Frosch): Changing the way people perceive the city and its climate by inviting all residents to come together for an outdoor activity—whether it’s ice fishing or summer canoeing—once per season. 8-80 Vitality Fellow, $175,000 by Mayor’s Office, City of St. Paul (Submitted by Mayor Chris Coleman): Promoting a more livable St. Paul by embedding a fellow in the mayor’s office who will work across departments to manage the $42 million committed to the mayor’s 8-80 Vitality Fund, which aims to ensure that walking, biking and public spaces are a priority in all city projects. MN Nice Breakers, $37,960 (Submitted by Jun-Li Wang): Making the city more welcoming by using existing events to help newcomers quickly establish social networks that attach them to the city. Rolling Out the Warm Welcome Hat, $67,288 (Submitted by Jun-Li Wang): Welcoming newcomers by having city leaders hold monthly ceremonies to give them an official welcome gift, a warm hat for Minnesota winters.
The Detroit Design Festival is underway, featuring 30 design events and 500 designers through Sunday, September 28. Panel discussions, art installations and flash-mob style gatherings are all on the docket for the six-day festival, which is sponsored by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. The Detroit Creative Corridor Center (DC3) launched the festival in 2011 “in an effort to develop the economic potential of the city’s design and creative talent,” according to a press release. Corporate sponsors like Toyota have teamed up with the local AIA chapter to celebrate designers both celebrated and unknown. Read more about the festival on its website, where you can also find a full schedule of events.