GrooveMiami transformed the tops of parking garages into dance party space. The Miami Jazz Cooperative, Inc. initiated a lunchtime jazz concert series. And the Village of El Portal has a vision for an expanded nature trail and a meditation garden. These are just three locally conceived projects that have become realities through the Miami Foundation's Public Space Challenge.
This year's initiative launches today, with $305,000 up for grabs for the city's most innovative ideas to create, improve, and activate parks, plazas, and local green spaces.
"Anyone in Miami who has an idea can win funding to make it happen," says Stuart Kennedy, director of program strategy and innovation at the Miami Foundation. "We're really looking for folks who know their local public spaces and know exactly what they might need."
Now in its fourth year, the Public Space Challenge has helped fund 51 local projects. Among them are Palmetto Bay native Nick Katz and his organization Skate Free, which won a $10,000 grant in 2014 to create a public skate park under an I-95 overpass in downtown. It's scheduled to break ground June 21. Naomi L. Ross, with FoodSpark Miami, won the following year to organize Hialeah's own FoodSpark, a pop-up potluck event meant to ignite a dialogue about food.
Last year, funding was increased from $130,000 to $305,000 through partnerships with the Health Foundation of South Florida and Baptist Health South Florida. Kennedy says he expects the Foundation to fund 18 to 20 projects this year.
"We're looking for unique, exciting, and engaging ideas that speak to a specific neighborhood or place," he says. "They need to be sensitive to the surrounding area and the people who live there and have a really creative and interesting plan."
Kennedy says the Foundation wants to spread this year's projects countywide, especially in places outside Miami's urban core.
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"District 11's Juan C. Zapata has brought in additional funding for ideas specifically in his West Kendall district. So there will definitely be an increased focus there, but we want to continue to push it further to get equal representation across neighborhoods."
Though the challenge began as an experiment in 2013, the Foundation quickly realized it could have a big impact on Miami's city spaces.
"We tried to figure out how we as a foundation could spur the growth of public spaces," he says, "but we realized it made sense to turn the question to Miamians, who know their street corners and parks."
For more information, visit ideas.ourmiami.org. The last day to apply is April 21.