Published by

Stuart Kennedy

3.15.16
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Our Challenge: Make More Miami Spaces

Miami residents skate through Bayfront Park as part of Bay Skate Miami, 2014 Public Space Challenge winner.
Miami residents skate through Bayfront Park as part of Bay Skate Miami, 2014 Public Space Challenge winner.

A couple weeks ago, I hopped on my bike, skipped my existing plans and took part in something big. I joined hundreds of Miamians on a sunset ride to celebrate the reopening of the Venetian Causeway.

Sure, some folks perceived the Venetian’s nine-month closure as an insignificant blip in Miami’s lifecycle. But from the turnout of bikers and joggers that evening, it’s clear the Venetian means so much more to this community than a bridge linking Downtown and Miami Beach. It’s a public space where we all come together to enjoy the water and connect with our neighbors.

Even as Downtown Miami’s skyline undergoes exponential growth – including scores of new condo towers under construction – the clamor for open public spaces continues to get louder. I heard it on the Venetian that night. You can hear it in support for major linear parks like The Underline and Ludlam Trail, and for an overhaul of Rickenbacker Causeway called Plan Z. We are all searching for that urban oasis where we can meet with friends and make new ones, connect and be part of something bigger, or just escape into some relaxing green space.

At The Miami Foundation, we hear that call and have made improving our local public spaces a priority.  Last year, we successfully helped push for increased parks funding in Miami-Dade County and the city of Miami.  Now, for the fourth year in a row, we’re launching the Public Space Challenge, offering $305,000 in funding for ideas that create, improve or activate local gathering places.

The Challenge, in partnership with Health Foundation of South Florida and the Office of Miami-Dade County Commissioner Juan C. Zapata, puts the power to improve public spaces in the people’s hands. Anyone can submit an idea through April 21st. All you have to do is pull up the map at ideas.ourmiami.org, click on a location you want to improve, and describe your idea in a few lines.  You can garner support for your idea by encouraging friends and networks to like, comment and share it.  If your idea is ultimately selected as a winner, we’ll give you the funding and technical support you need to make it a reality. Health Foundation of South Florida will support winning ideas increasing access to fresh food and healthy lifestyles; Commissioner Zapata’s office will support ideas in West End.

A local resident uses the new shaded fitness area at Gwen Cherry Park, provided by the Gwen Cherry Park Foundation, winner of the 2013 Public Space Challenge
A local resident uses the new shaded fitness area at Gwen Cherry Park, provided by the Gwen Cherry Park Foundation, winner of the 2013 Public Space Challenge

Public spaces include much more than parks. They’re all around us – from sidewalks to plazas, basketball courts, roadways and more.  Over the years, we’ve funded projects big and small from Homestead to Hialeah, Wynwood to Miami Gardens. Most of them are submitted by residents committed to making Greater Miami that much better, like David Hazim, who won funding through last year’s Challenge.  David is so passionate about disc golf that he is creating a course in his neighborhood at Homestead Air Reserve Park. And Dejha Carrington, who sought to activate the Miami skyline as a place to unite the local community. She created a public art project on the side of the InterContinental Miami.  The hotel’s 19-story digital wall lit up with original art moving in sync with contemporary, instrumental music streamed online for all Miamians to experience.

You can learn about both those projects in the coming weeks on our blog.

If you’re interested in submitting an idea, but want a little guidance, we have you covered.  To help get you prepared, from writing your idea to carrying out your project, we will hold a series of public workshops together with Urban Impact Lab and Design Thinking Miami. The schedule and descriptions are below.

Gayle Zalduondo stands in front of the Wynwood Chalk Wall, her winning 2013 Public Space Challenge project.
Gayle Zalduondo stands in front of the Wynwood Chalk Wall, her winning 2013 Public Space Challenge project.

The Miami Foundation team hopes you’ll join this movement towards a county bursting with great public spaces – a county where every Miamian is a 10-minute walk from an urban retreat to share with their friends and neighbors.

Here are a few, tangible ways to get involved with the Challenge over the next few weeks:

  • Go to ideas.ourmiami.org, click a place you want to improve on the map, answer two quick questions and submit your idea before April 21st.
  • Explore other ideas on the map and offer your support – like them, share them, comment on how to make them even better. Our panel of reviewers takes that engagement into account when selecting the Challenge winners.
  • Share your love for previous winners and all public spaces with the hashtag #ourmiami.

And finally, from reopened causeways to the local skate park, go enjoy the great public spaces that help bring our community together!

Stuart Kennedy is the director of program strategy and innovation at The Miami Foundation.

Schedule of Public Space Challenge workshops: