A healing garden in a vacant lot near Jackson Memorial Hospital. A disc-golf course at an underused Miami-Dade County park in Homestead. Public art to enliven a bare Little Haiti road median and commemorate victims of the Haiti earthquake.
What do these disparate amenities have in common? They’re among the 18 winning proposals in the third edition of the Miami Foundation’s Public Space Challenge, which solicits and funds Miamians’ ideas for turning drab or overlooked neighborhood places into community bright spots.
The 2015 competition, which brought forth more entries, grant money and winning proposals for permanent projects than ever before, closed to a rallying cry: At a ceremony in Wynwood to recognize the winners in August, advocates called on Miami-Dade commissioners to approve a proposal by Mayor Carlos Gimenez for a $13 million parks budget boost following years of cuts. The commission will vote on the county budget next week.
“Miamians deserve better,” Javier Alberto Soto, the Miami Foundation’s president, said in a statement. “The mayor’s proposed budget increase is definitely a step in the right direction.”
Foundation officials said the record 330 entries submitted during this year’s competition underscore Miami residents’ hunger for appealing public spaces, especially given a shortage of parks and open space amid the renewed large-scale development boom in the city’s urban core. To respond to demand, the foundation and its competition co-sponsors, the Health Foundation of South Florida and Baptist Health South Florida, increased the amount of grant awards by $175,000, to a total of $305,000.
The foundation launched the competition in 2013 under the aegis of its Our Miami project, which seeks to strengthen Miami residents’ community connections and identification. The project stems from surveys that found that Miamians lacked strong emotional ties to the city, and research showing that inviting, distinctive public spaces serve to foster those community ties.
The 2015 winners include nine permanent park and gathering-space projects, more than in each of the two preceding years, as well as temporary exhibits, concerts and pop-up events, in places stretching from Miami Gardens and Liberty City to Hialeah, West Miami and Homestead, the foundation said.
On the permanent side are a plan by Agorascape, a local philanthropic landscape design studio, to create the garden near Jackson, which will add green neighborhood space and aid patients in recovery.
At Homestead Air Reserve Park, David Hazim will install an 18-hole disc (Frisbee) golf course and create a meet-up group for neighbors.
The Miami Mountains Foundation will transform the Little Haiti median with its “Ayiti, Land of High Mountains” project.
Another winning project will bring solar panels to power nighttime lighting at developer Tony Cho’s planned Wynwood Greenhouse park, which will be open to the public.
Temporary exhibits or events include projections of poems on the Northeast Second Avenue Bridge over the Miami River downtown during winter months; pop-up dance parties to promote fitness and social connections across Miami; and musical performances in Overtown that recall the African-American neighborhood’s storied musical history.
For a full list of winners and project descriptions, visit ourmiami.org/challenge.