Urban beaches, ‘visionary’ architects, ice skating paths among winners of 2017 Knight Cities Challenge
A forest on an abandoned freeway, a bike path turned winter skate track, and participatory governing at the bus stops are slated for reality thanks to the benevolence of the Knight Foundation, which today announced more than three dozen winners of its city-focused grants. This is the third year the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation has bestowed $5 million on projects that enhance public spaces large and small across 26 foundation-selected locales. Through the Knight Cities Challenge program, groups or individuals in those places are invited to submit proposals with an eye towards making cities more successful, a mandate that winners interpreted with an eye towards civic dialogue, youth engagement, and neighborhood revitalization. This year, 19 of the 26 cities are represented in 33 winning proposals the Knight Foundation selected from 144 finalists, which were in turn picked from more than 4,500 applications. The average grant is worth around $147,000, with awards ranging from $12,000 for a mobile voting booth in Georgia to more than $300,000 for a traveling participatory design lab in Philadelphia. Below, see how all of the winners will be putting those grants to use (all project descriptions are courtesy of the Knight Foundation):
The A Place Aberdeen Area Community Foundation Aberdeen, South Dakota Opening a pathway to more opportunity and civic engagement by creating a one-stop information and assistance center for immigrants and new Americans. Innerbelt National Forest Hunter Franks Akron, Ohio Reconnecting two socially and physically isolated neighborhoods by replacing a closed freeway in Akron with a lush forest and public space. @PLAY Art x Love Akron, Ohio Encouraging deeper community connections through custom games and recreational activities that highlight the unique history, identity, and character of each of the city’s communities. Witnessing the Beach Gulf Coast Community Design Studio Biloxi, Mississippi Engaging the public across race, income, and age differences through a series of community gathering and discussion spaces at the beach along the path of the “wade-in” protests, which led to the desegregation of the public beach in 1968. Speak Up Bradenton Manatee County Government Bradenton, Florida Encouraging greater civic engagement by opening up avenues for citizens to participate in government decision-making in non-traditional settings such as bus stops, landmarks, and other public gathering places. Rail Trail Grove & Field Charlotte Center City Partners Charlotte, North Carolina Encouraging economic development and city vibrancy by creating a lively place to connect with nature and neighbors along Charlotte’s light rail line. The space will also help link a retail employment center to the nearest transit stop. Your Move, Charlotte Varian Shrum Charlotte, North Carolina Strengthening connections between citizens and local government through a weekly podcast and follow-up roundtable, in which government representatives and millennials engage on local issues. The State’s Front Porch City of Columbia Columbia, South Carolina Encouraging residents to connect with their government by reimagining the State House as a front porch for all, including seating, events and alternative work spaces throughout the State House grounds. Atwater Beach Detroit RiverFront Conservancy Detroit Further activating the Detroit waterfront by creating an inviting, urban beach along the city’s Atwater Street. Better Buildings, Better Blocks Building Community Value Detroit Providing a pipeline for minorities into real estate jobs, by teaching the fundamentals of small-scale property development and providing initial project financing. Design Center in a Box: A Place for Informed Community Exchange City of Detroit Planning and Development Department Detroit Promoting civic engagement by creating pop-up city planning offices where residents can connect with city planning staff and others to exchange ideas and become informed about the design and planning work happening in their neighborhood and the city at large. Detroit’s Slow Roll Detroit Bike City Detroit Leveraging the 25,000 cyclists who participate in Slow Roll Detroit and demonstrating how to engage Detroit’s nonprofit sector, drive renewal and smile while doing it. Happy 18th Birthday! Local Citizenship Kit Citizen Detroit Detroit Celebrating Detroiters becoming eligible to vote by sending them a local citizenship kit in the mail on their 18th birthday. Making Canal Park Pop City of Duluth Duluth, Minnesota Connecting residents to both Canal Park and to each other by creating a pop-up parklet that will encourage more people to visit. City Church Ruins Garden City of Gary Redevelopment Commission Gary, Indiana Making downtown more vibrant by transforming a historic, abandoned Gothic church in downtown into a ruins garden and event space. The Grand Forks Freezeway Nicholas Jensen Grand Forks, North Dakota Inspiring winter fun and city pride by turning unused bike paths into ice skating paths during winter.
Plant&Play North Limestone Community Development Corp. Lexington, Kentucky Building an adventure playscape and community garden in Castlewood Park, a 30-acre neighborhood park on the north end of Lexington. Back Lot Drive-In at the Tubman Tubman Museum Macon, Georgia Expanding the reach of Macon’s art and museum district by transforming the parking lot of the Tubman Museum into a drive-in theater with screenings that coincide with exhibitions that support the museum’s mission to educate visitors about African-American art, history, and culture. Pop-Up Garage Park Cole Porter Macon, Georgia Converting an abandoned parking garage into a vibrant, environmentally-friendly community space by introducing green space, art, tables and event programming. Civic Incite: Citizens Setting the Agenda Civic Incite Miami Inspiring civic engagement with an online platform that tracks public meetings and legislation across cities to promote in-person engagement with local governments. Miami-Dade Quickbuild Program Street Plans Collaborative Miami Establishing a program within Miami-Dade County in partnership with local transportation nonprofit Green Mobility Network that advances low-cost, quick-build transportation and open space projects. Rep(resentative) Miami Engage Miami Miami Breaking down barriers to civic participation by putting clear, actionable information about local elected officials directly into citizens’ hands. The Year of Voting Dangerously Twin Lakes Library System Milledgeville, Georgia Engaging the community with a mobile voting booth that prompts residents to respond to pressing local issues and initiatives. 12 for 12: Popup to Rent City of West Palm Beach Palm Beach County, Florida Expanding on the success of a pilot pop-up gallery project by inviting local talent to activate 12 empty storefront spaces as an economic catalyst for West Palm Beach. A Dream Deferred: PHL Redlining – Past, Present, Future Little Giant Creative Philadelphia Building more equitable communities by launching a series of convenings across several cities where decision-makers, social entrepreneurs, activists, and innovators discuss equitable community development. PHL Participatory Design Lab City of Philadelphia Philadelphia Providing a space for Philadelphians to design city service solutions with a mobile, participatory city design lab that will travel from neighborhood to neighborhood. Tabadul: [Re]Presenting and [Ex]Changing Our America Al-Bustan Seeds of Culture Philadelphia Creating forums for cultural exchange that connect communities and activate public spaces through photographic displays of youths’ expressions of identity. Up Up & Away: Building a Programming Space for Comics & Beyond Amalgam Comics & Coffeehouse Philadelphia Creating a space where diverse communities of aspiring comic creators can attend workshops and receive professional development. Vendor Village in the Park: Vending to Vibrancy Southeast Asian Mutual Assistance Corp. [SEAMAAC] Philadelphia Providing entrepreneurial opportunities and connecting diverse communities by opening a marketplace for immigrant cuisine in Mifflin Square Park. Local Color Exhibition District San Jose, California Activating vacant commercial sites with a creative bazaar featuring artist studios alongside modular, open spaces for multidisciplinary community learning and teaching. Reimagining the City: City Designer for San Jose City of San Jose San Jose, California Working to ensure San Jose develops into a walkable, green and engaged metropolis by hiring a visionary chief architect. Pop-Up Power to the People City of St. Paul St. Paul, Minnesota Creating a suite of fun civic engagement tools that gives St. Paul residents the power to design their own community meetings. Horizontes Armando Minjarez-Monarrez Wichita, Kansas Connecting two neighborhoods by painting murals depicting neighborhood residents through an industrial corridor that separates them and engaging residents to reflect on what a “new horizon” for the neighborhood would look like.