Miami-Dade County

Program that awards money for neighborhood-improvement ideas aims to move Miami

An art installation of lighting beneath Metrorail and along the Underline won a 2014 Public Space Challenge grant for the idea of enhancing safety and spotlighting public transit.
An art installation of lighting beneath Metrorail and along the Underline won a 2014 Public Space Challenge grant for the idea of enhancing safety and spotlighting public transit. The Miami Foundation

If you know of a place in your neighborhood or around Miami that is neglected, ugly, useless or inaccessible, transform it with aid from the Public Space Challenge. All it takes is a little imagination.

Mobility, a pressing need in the gridlocked metropolis, is the theme in 2019. Projects that help Miamians move more safely, pleasantly and efficiently will vie for a share of $250,000 in grant money from The Miami Foundation, which is seeking ideas from local visionaries who want to enrich their communities and foster neighborliness.

The focus is on pedestrians, cyclists, scooter-users, streets, sidewalks, crosswalks, bus stops, public transit stations, bike lanes, running paths, boat ramps and waterways.

“You go anywhere in Miami and people are talking about traffic and how difficult it is to get from point A to point B,” said Dawn Shirreffs, director of public affairs for The Miami Foundation. “Growth has put stress on our infrastructure, which has not kept pace with that growth. We think people want to be part of the solution. Part of our civic agenda is to create local champions and give residents a sense of ownership.”

Past Challenge grant winners with mobility-oriented ideas designed a crosswalk for the Miami Springs Circle park, improved access to the beach for disabled people, installed lighting on the M-path beneath Metrorail’s elevated tracks, posted mile markers along the Miami Beach boardwalk and organized a Ciclovía event that temporarily closed streets to car traffic.

Ciclovia
A Ciclovía project closed off a section of streets and temporarily transformed the area into a car-free linear park for cyclists and pedestrians. The Miami Foundation

“When people have access to different ways of getting around a city, it becomes easier for residents to connect with one another and the place they live,” said Javier Alberto Soto, president and CEO of The Miami Foundation. “The better connected our community, the more tight-knit we become. Resilience is about relationships, not just infrastructure. As we think about building a more resilient Miami-Dade, the social ties of a neighborhood are just as important.”

Since 2013, the contest has invested more than $1.5 million in activations and permanent projects that improve public areas, green spaces and waterways through design, art, music, landscaping and technology. The Challenge has become so popular that more than 500 entries were submitted last year, from which 22 winners were selected.

Any individual, non-profit or for-profit group or government entity is welcome to submit ideas by the May 16 deadline at PublicSpaceChallenge.org.

“It could be something very simple, like shade at a bus stop. It could be a phone app or a brick-and-mortar concept,” Shirreffs said. “We will help with the logistical hurdles and red tape. Every year, the proposals are amazing.”

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