The Miami Foundation’s Public Space Challenge invests $350,000 in your ideas to improve Greater Miami’s parks, plazas and local gathering places.


Staff Report

The Miami Foundation awarded $350,000 to 21 Public Space projects

MIAMI — In many urban communities, gentrification often gets confused with beautification. However, studies show while the former displaces life-long residents, the latter provides community residents with a safe space that improves their mental health and overall quality of life.

According to the University of Washington, “Urban nature, when provided as parks and walkways and incorporated into building design, provides calming and inspiring environments and encourages learning, inquisitiveness, and alertness.”

The research further states having refreshing green and public spaces improves cognitive function because outdoor activity “helps alleviate symptoms of Alzheimers, dementia, stress, and depression and improve cognitive function in those recently diagnosed with breast cancer.”

To The Miami Foundation, this information is nothing new. That’s why the organization has been hosting a Public Space Challenge for residents to submit ideas to transform places in the community into oases that will ultimately improve the quality of life for Miami residents.

Recently, the 2017 winners were announced and 21 ideas won the foundation’s annual contest for ideas that create, activate and improve local public spaces. With additional support from Target and West End (WE) Go Green, they’ll share $350,000 in grant awards to make the ideas a reality.

Of the winners, there are four projects that will enhance communities whose residents are predominately of color. They include: Venture Café Miami, Annie St. Juste & Lanston Williams, Natalia Martinez-Kalinina of CIC Miami and City of Miami Little Haiti Cultural Center.

Venture Café will use its funding to install a solar-powered Wi-Fi station and provide digital literacy programming for youth in Williams Park.

Annie St. Juste & Lanston Williams will use their funding to install lighting around the Miami Children’s Initiative playground. Based in Liberty City, the area becomes completely dark at night. Their idea will transform it into a lighted safe zone for children and families during evening hours.

Natalia Martinez-Kalinina of CIC Miami will use funding to repurpose the NW 20th Street I95 underpass in Miami’s Overtown neighborhood with murals, LED lighting, streetscaping and wayfinding signs; and the City of Miami Little Haiti Cultural Center will use the funding to transform an empty lot into a pop-up miniature golf course while Little Haiti’s Caribbean Marketplace is open each week.

St. Juste and Williams live in the Annie Coleman public housing project near NW 60 Street. With Public Space Challenge grant funding, they will lead the aforementioned installation of lights along three pathways that link to Charles R. Drew K-8 Center, area parks and the Miami Children’s Initiative (MCI) Memorial Garden.

“We want for our children and our neighbors to be able to have walkways where you don’t have to look over your shoulders every minute. We believe that with added lights, it will not only make our walkways to the park and home safer, but also will allow our children to play outside longer and enjoy all the benefits of MCI’s playground and the basketball court,” St. Juste and Williams wrote in their submission.

“This year’s winners are all helping residents take ownership of the amazing parks and public spaces right outside our doors,” said Javier Alberto Soto, president and CEO of The Miami Foundation. “Whether it’s a vacant lot on the water, national park or 1-95 underpass, we can reimagine how Miamians experience these spaces to encourage appreciation and care for our distinct urban landscape. The Challenge gives residents the opportunity to do that.”

This year, residents, organizations and public agencies throughout Miami-Dade County submitted more than 440 ideas to the Public Space Challenge, setting a new record for entries. Since 2013, the contest has invested over $1.1 million in activations and permanent projects across the county.

The Miami Foundation worked with the Miami-Dade County Parks, Recreation and Open Spaces Department to connect Challenge ideas to the Open Space Master Plan. The comprehensive, 50-year vision looks to create a seamless, interconnected and sustainable system of parks, public gathering places, trails, waterways, green ways and streets throughout the county.

The Foundation invited applicants to review the plan and think about how their 2017 ideas fit within it.

“We are proud to support winning ideas that promote active play and healthy eating,” said Alden Kooken, group vice president of South Florida stores for Target. “These projects are an important part of how we invest in the long-term vibrancy of the local community we serve.”

Each winner will receive technical assistance from The Miami Foundation to work with county and municipal offices in executing their projects.

To learn more about this year’s winning ideas