asha_loring.jpgMIAMI – They say it takes a village to raise a child. In the same sense it took more than one not-for-profit organization to beautify an empty lot in Brownsville.

Answering the call of the Miami Foundation for ideas to beautify and make more useful public spaces in Miami-Dade, Health in the Hood joined forces with Neighborhood Housing Services of South Florida. The result? Their idea to create a neighborhood gathering place

featuring a large-scale mural, community garden and market in a vacant lot in Brownsville won an award.

“Neighborhood Housing Service had access to the land and Health in the Hood has the know-how so it’s a great partnership,” said Asha Loring, director of Health in the Hood. “We heard about the open request for ideas and thought that we had a strong case so we submitted and we won.”

On the open county owned lot in Brownsville, Loring plans to bring a farmer’s market so that people can have access to healthy, fresh foods she said. There are plans for planters with fruits and vegetables and a mural too.

The amount of her award is pending, said Stuart Kennedy, program director for the Miami Foundation.

The Miami Foundation announced the top winners in its Our Miami Public Space Challenge.  Fifteen ideas for improving, creating and activating local public spaces will share $130,000 in funding. Four of the ideas came from predominantly black neighborhoods.  The announcement was made to hundreds of young, engaged Miamians at the contest’s Wrap Party hosted at The Stage Miami last month. The challenge is part of the Foundation’s ongoing Our Miami

initiative, an effort to build a stronger sense of community and retain talented people in Miami by improving livability.

From July 31st to Sept. 19th, residents, advocacy groups and organizations submitted more than 260 ideas at A panel of community experts and professional placemakers selected top submissions based on their compelling nature, economic feasibility, relevance to the surrounding area and above all, community impact.

Health in the Hood is a follow up to Roots in the City, which was run by Loring’s father she said. Through the grant, Health in the Hood plans to give classes about healthy living, urban agriculture, food journals and nutrition to both adults and children. “The explosion of energy Miamians created around the challenge was tremendous,” said Javier Alberto Soto, president and CEO of The Miami Foundation.  “Each visionary idea added to the spark – a spark we hope will fuel a permanent community-wide focus on improving public spaces.”

Eleven projects will be funded by $100,000 from The Miami Foundation. Health Foundation of South Florida will invest an additional $30,000 in the challenge to fund four ideas promoting healthy, physical exercise activities and access to fresh food through gardens and farmer’s markets. Both organizations will work with winners to execute their projects.

The Health in the Hood project is one of the projects funded by the Health Foundation of South Florida grant.

Selected ideas  from the predominantly black neighborhoods include:

• Covering over the outdoor fitness zone at Liberty City’s Gwen Cherry Park to protect park-going residents from the South Florida heat and rain. (Idea from Gwen Cherry Park Foundation)

• To create a pleasant, shaded sitting area incorporating community input and the city’s unique Moorish Revival-style architecture at the Opa-locka Tri-Rail Station.

• To convert a school bus into The Fitness Caravan that will visit parks and neighborhoods where funding to support exercise equipment is lacking, host free workout classes for families and provide healthy nutrition education.

Some ideas can get funded and completed sooner than others, Kennedy said. Gwen Cherry’s project would be an easy fix, for instance while others can take up to six months and will need volunteers and further planning help to complete.

All participants were invited to sign up with challenge partner ioby (in our backyard), a powerful online crowd-resourcing platform that drives public financial support for neighborhood projects.  Funded projects will also require volunteer support, providing opportunities for challenge participants to engage in the project’s next phase.

“This challenge is a community-wide achievement,” said Kennedy, who coordinates the Our Miami initiative. “By connecting challenge contributors to ioby and other resources, we could see many more ideas crystallize in the coming weeks.  Together, we’re making Miami a more open, attractive, healthier and engaged place to live.”

*Pictured above is Asha Loring, director of Health in the Hood.