Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Knight Foundation Cities Challenge: awards $5 million to 32 projects in 12 cities

It happens that when I was in junior and senior high school, I delivered the Detroit Free Press, which was owned by Knight Newspapers, and after a merger, by Knight-Ridder Newspapers (later acquired by McClatchy Newspapers).

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, based in Miami, continues to fund community development projects in the 26 cities where the company operated newspapers.

The Knight Cities Challenge is a new initiative, focused on eliciting creative ideas to make these cities "more vibrant places to live and work. It asked innovators of all kinds to answer the question: What’s your best idea to make cities more successful?"

Image of a "Porch Swing" in a public place, as proposed for Charlotte, NC.  (This would be a great treatment for some bus stops without benches.)

More than 7,000 ideas were received, and after evaluation, a number of the projects received technical assistance to further develop their proposal before final submission--$5 milllion in grants were made to 32 different projects in 12 cities.

(Blog commenter Christopher, who worked with me to create the proof of concept wayfinding signage for "Florida Market" (Florida Market Map & Directory, Florida Market History Sign) is a grad student at Parsons/New School of Design, and participated in a program where they provided technical assistance to some of the applicants.)

According to the Foundation:
The 32 winners proposed a host of ideas, from training a new community of Detroit rehabbers who will work together to combat blight and reactivate vacant buildings, to creating a subscription service that celebrates Akron with a monthly boxed selection of local goods and experiences, from mobilizing city leaders to hold monthly ceremonies for St. Paul newcomers where they are presented with a warm winter hat, to fostering conversation among strangers by installing Charlotte’s signature porch swings in public spaces. 
“Not only did the Knight Cities Challenge uncover a wealth of new ideas to make our cities more successful, it will help strengthen a network of civic innovators who are taking hold of the future of their cities,” said Carol Coletta, Knight Foundation vice president for community and national initiatives. “These important connections will help create a pipeline for new approaches to city transformation and spark the type of collaboration vital to growing and spreading good ideas.” 
All the winning projects focus on one or more of three drivers of city success: (1) Talent: Ideas that help cities attract and keep the best and brightest; (2) Opportunity: Ideas that create economic prospects and break down divides; (3) Engagement: Ideas that spur connection and civic involvement.
The winning projects offer a bunch of interesting ideas that are adaptable and applicable to other communities.

The webpage listing the successful grantees, 2015 Knight Cities Challenge Winners,  has a bit more information on each project, including links to the sponsoring organization.

Akron, Ohio (Akron Beacon-Journal was one of the first Knight Newspapers)

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. (Bradenton Herald, and the city was the spring training site for the Detroit Tigers for many years)

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. (Charlotte Observer, for many years Mary Newson wrote for the paper on urban design metters)

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. (Columbus Ledger-Enquirer)

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 (Detroit Free Press)

Re: Brand Camp: 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. (Gary Post-Tribune)

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.

Richard Young, left, and Kris Nonn are with the North Limestone Community Development Corp., which hopes to acquire the building behind them, the former Greyhound bus station at North Limestone and Loudon Avenue, and turn into a public market and local food hub. Photo by Tom Eblen from a story in the Lexington Herald-Leader.

Lexington, Ky. (Lexington Herald-Leader)

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. (Macon Telegraph, over the years, the Knight Foundation has funded many important projects in this city, including Mercer University's improvement of neighborhoods abutting the campus, in association with the Historic Macon Foundation)

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 (Miami Herald, one of the first newspapers to print color photographs regularly)

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 (Philadelphia Daily News and Philadelphia Inquirer, at the Inquirer, Inga Saffron is on the urban design beat and writes great stuff.  In the past, the Daily News did a number of great special series on improving the city including on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway and marketing the city, called Next Philadelphia.  And the Daily News published an op-ed of mine in 2003.)

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. (San Jose Mercury News)

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. (St. Paul Pioneer-Press)

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.

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At 4:58 PM, Anonymous Christopher said...

I'm actually a student at Parsons/ The New School. :-)

Also really glad to see that both Brick + Beam Detroit and No Barriers Charlotte, the two programs students here worked with this year, made the cut.

Very very exciting.

At 6:28 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

urgh. will fix. I guess I was thinking of that announcement from Pratt about their new placemaking program...


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