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Knight Cities Challenge names finalists, including 12 from Miami, for $5M in grants

Matt Haggman, Miami program director for the Knight Foundation, speaks at the unveiling of the pop-up park, Biscayne Green, in downtown Miami in January. Biscayne Green received Knight funding as a winner of the 2016 Knight Cities Challenge.
Matt Haggman, Miami program director for the Knight Foundation, speaks at the unveiling of the pop-up park, Biscayne Green, in downtown Miami in January. Biscayne Green received Knight funding as a winner of the 2016 Knight Cities Challenge.

A neighborhood market for Overtown, a civic innovation competition for college students and a network of mobile popup containers ready for activations are among the Miami finalists in the the third annual Knight Cities Challenge.

Chosen from a pool of more than 4.500 applicants, 144 concepts nationwide have made it to the finalist round, including 12 from Miami, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation announced Tuesday. The Knight Cities Challenge is a national call for ideas to make the 26 communities where Knight invests more vibrant places to live and work.

Winners, who will receive a share of up to $5 million, will be announced in the spring.

The finalists from Miami are:

95 Park by Omni Community Redevelopment Agency (submitted by Jason Walker): Giving the Omni community a place to gather by converting three blighted, vacant city blocks into a large urban park with businesses, a skate park, art installations and restaurants.

Dan Paul Park Recreation Center (submitted by Mauricio Velazquez): Transforming Dan Paul Park into an active recreation hub by installing soccer fields, bike paths and a playground.

Green Space Pop-ups by Audubon Florida (submitted by Eric Draper): Creating incentives for developers to lend private vacant land for green spaces in urban Miami-Dade.

Instant City: A micro-urban infrastructure (submitted by James Brazil): Creating a network of mobile pop-up containers to activate underused public spaces and carparks around the city.

Ludlam Days by Green Mobility Network (submitted by Mari Chael): Building momentum for the Miami Loop, a proposed 70-mile greenway, through a series of events and demonstrations.

Magic City Innovation Challenge by Venture Cafe Miami (submitted by Leigh-Ann Buchanan): Nurturing Miami’s native talent and emerging innovation ecosystem through a competition that challenges college students to solve real-world civic and business problems.

Miami Great Streets Program by Street Plans Collaborative (submitted by Anthony Garcia): 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.

The MIA Market (submitted by Mauricio Velazquez): Reinvigorating Overtown while creating opportunities for residents and chefs by repurposing a vacant warehouse into a neighborhood market.

OurSchoolYards (submitted by Wifredo Fernandez): Bridging the divide between communities and their public schools by transforming underused school yards into public parks.

Rep(resentative) MIA by Engage Miami (submitted by Rob Biskupic-Knight): Breaking down barriers to civic participation by putting clear, actionable information about local elected officials directly into citizens’ hands.

WiFi Parks @ Overtown by Venture Cafe Miami (submitted by Leigh-Ann Buchanan): Bringing public Wi-Fi to parks in Overtown to improve digital access and encourage people to connect in the outdoors.

Civic Incite: Citizens Setting the Agenda (submitted by Civic Incite): Inspiring civic engagement with an online platform that tracks public meetings and legislation across cities to promote in-person engagement with local governments. Finalist in the “Multiple Cities” category.

In addition, there were two finalists from Palm Beach County: 12 for 12: Pop-up to Rent, with a plan to activate 12 empty storefront spaces as an economic catalyst for West Palm Beach, and The Tie Beam, which creates a public space parallel to the railroad tracks in downtown West Palm Beach that encourages pedestrian activity and integrates public art, transportation and urban design.

“The finalists use creativity and inventiveness to tackle community challenges and realize new opportunities, proposing ideas that are unique to their city, but also hold lessons and inspiration for civic innovators across the country,” said George Abbott, Knight Foundation director for community and national initiatives.

Last year, three Miami projects were winners: The Underline project, a linear park under the Metrorail, “Biscayne Green,” a pop-up park spearheaded by the Miami Downtown Development Authority underway now, and a civic technology user testing group. In total, they received $495,000 in funding.

Nationwide, applicants proposed a wide range of ideas, from technology to better connects local government with the public and increase voter engagement, to creating public spaces — parks, trails, pools, and even treehouses — that connect people from diverse backgrounds and contribute to economic growth. Many of the projects also address racial divides, blighted neighborhoods, and social and economic inequities.

Now in its third year, the challenge is part of a three-year, $15 million commitment that Knight Foundation launched in the fall of 2014. Since then, the Knight Cities Challenge has named 69 winning ideas. See the full list of 2017 finalists at knightcities.org.

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