Urban beaches, 'visionary' architects, ice skating paths among winners of 2017 Knight Cities Challenge

33 Winners

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.

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
Further activating the Detroit waterfront by creating an inviting, urban beach along the city’s Atwater Street.

Better Buildings, Better Blocks
Building Community Value
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
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
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
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.

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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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]
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.

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.