Knight Cities Challenge names 144 finalists, 21 in Detroit

knightFinalists chosen from a pool of more than 4,500 applicants
The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation today announced 144 finalists, including 21 in Detroit, in the third annual Knight Cities Challenge, a national call for ideas to make the 26 communities where Knight invests more vibrant places to live and work.
Open to innovators of all types, the Knight Cities Challenge asked applicants to answer the question: What’s your best idea to make cities more successful?
More than 4,500 applicants answered the call and proposed a wide range of ideas to make cities more successful, from technology and other solutions that better connect 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 pressing community challenges, proposing ideas to break down racial divides, repair blighted neighborhoods, and address social and economic inequities.
Submissions came from many nonprofit and government organizations, as well as design experts, urban planning organizations and individuals focused on making their cities more successful. Each of the ideas focuses on one or more of three drivers of city success:

  • Talent: Ideas that help cities attract and keep talented people;
  • Opportunity: Ideas that expand economic prospects and break down divides;
  • Engagement: Ideas that spur connection and civic involvement.

A full list of the finalists is below.
Winners, who will receive a share of up to $5 million, will be announced in spring 2017.
“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.
Applicants have to follow only two rules: 1) A submission may come from anywhere, but the project must benefit one or more of 26 Knight communities; and 2) The idea should focus on one or all of three key drivers of city success, talent, opportunity and engagement, as outlined above.
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 a total of 69 winning ideas over its first and second years.
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Knight Cities Challenge Finalists 2017
Atwater Beach by Detroit RiverFront Conservancy (submitted by Jan Shimshock): Further activating the Detroit waterfront by creating an inviting, urban beach along the city’s Atwater Street.
Better Buildings, Better Blocks by Building Community Value (submitted by Chase L. Cantrell): Fostering talent in Detroit, and providing a pipeline for minorities into real estate jobs, by teaching the fundamentals of small-scale property development and providing initial project financing.
Bus Stoplets by Southwest Detroit Business Association (submitted by Greg Mangan): Improving the commute for transit riders by creating inviting bus stops that have the feel of an intimate city park.
Crossing Trumbull by Woodbridge Neighborhood Development Corp. (submitted by Angie Gaabo): Bringing together the residents of Woodbridge, often divided geographically and socio-economically, through adult walking and youth biking clubs.
City Asset Map: Mapping Mobility in Motown by Detroit Experience Factory (submitted by Matt Chung): Fostering connection and civic involvement in Detroit by creating a map that highlights cultural, educational and mobility resources, such as libraries, health centers, museums, educational spaces, bike infrastructure and parks.
Design Center in a Box: A Place for Informed Community Exchange by City of Detroit Department of Planning (submitted by Maurice D. Cox): 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 Youth Council of Urban Explorers by Bleeding Heart Design (submitted by Rebecca Bucky Willis): Helping the next generation advocate for good city planning by sending Detroit teenagers to pioneering cities to learn best practices they can execute back home.
Dip ’N’ Dive Detroit by City of Detroit Planning and Development Department (submitted by Maurice D. Cox):
Creating spaces where residents can meet, connect and share experiences by creating pop-up swimming events at a temporary “River Pool” at the Detroit River.
The Discovery Place by Detroit Future City (submitted by Allandra Bulger): Activating open spaces in Detroit as meeting places and libraries run by and for residents who otherwise lack these amenities.
Green Culture Shift by Detroit Future City (submitted by Alex Kellogg): Creating innovative, experiential tools that change how Detroiters think about planning and transforming green spaces in urban neighborhoods.
Happy 18th Birthday! Local Citizenship Kit by CitizenDetroit (submitted by Sandra Stahl): Celebrating Detroiters becoming eligible to vote by sending them a local citizenship kit in the mail on their 18th birthday.
Las Luces de la Noche by Invest Detroit (submitted by Michael R. Smith): Making Clark Park, a neighborhood recreation hub, a safer place for residents to come together through new public lighting and programming.
Mack Lot: A New Kind of Gathering Place by MACC Development (submitted by Ezekiel Harris): Bringing people of different backgrounds together by transforming a vacant 8,000-square-foot lot into a meeting space that will include a performance stage, a playground, rain gardens, public work spaces and space for food vendors.
Mine Your Own Business by Michigan Women’s Foundation (submitted by Carolyn Cassin): Offering education, mentorship and capital for aspiring women entrepreneurs through business accelerators at neighborhood churches.
Motor City Matchbox by Detroit Economic Growth Corp. Small Business/Motor City Match (submitted by Helen Broughton): Making it easier to launch pop-up business and art events in the city’s vacant buildings – and demonstrate what could happen in disinvested areas – by creating a mobile how-to toolkit.
Neighborhood Voice: Increase Civic Engagement by Equipping Community Connectors (submitted by Garlin Gilchrist II): Improving ways to obtain feedback from neighborhoods by supporting the best connected people – such as barbers, bartenders and baristas – to get and share feedback through technology, tools and training.
Reaching Across the Border: Detroit and Grosse Pointe by Mash Detroit (submitted by Marlowe Stoudamire): Inspiring residents near the border of Detroit and Grosse Pointe to collaborate on reimagining their common public spaces by offering mini-grants to teams of residents from both areas.
Shovel Share by Michigan Community Resources (submitted by Lydia Rae Levinson): Sparking neighborhood revitalization by providing community groups with the tools and resources they need to maintain and revamp their neighborhoods.
Sign ON by Grandmont Rosedale Development Corp. (submitted by Martha Potere): Enlivening Grandmont Rosedale by pairing local artists with small business owners to create a “gallery of signage” that treats commercial signs as public art.
Slow Roll – The Power of 25,000 by Detroit Bike City LLC (doing business as Slow Roll) (submitted by Jeff Herron): Exploring why 25,000 Detroiters joined a cycling movement and sharing the learning with other cities so they can replicate the model.
The Table (submitted by Orlando P. Bailey): Giving people a voice in what happens next in their neighborhoods by convening them regularly to share ideas that can move the city forward.


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