After nine months of closure due to construction, hundreds of local bikers, joggers and walkers celebrated the reopening of the Venetian Causeway this month with a sunset ride/jog to Miami Beach. The staggering turnout for the event proved that the bridge was more than a transport for cars across Biscayne Bay, but an important public space for residents to connect and enjoy the outdoors. 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. Growing support for major linear parks like The Underline and Ludlam Trail, and for the proposed Plan Z overhaul of Rickenbacker Causeway, prove local residents value public gathering spaces and want easy access to them throughout Miami-Dade County.
In effort to respond to that call, for the fourth year in a row, The Miami Foundation is launching the Public Space Challenge, a contest for ideas that create, improve or activate local gathering places like parks, playgrounds, sidewalks, basketball courts and plazas in Greater Miami. The Foundation invests $305,000 to make the top ideas a reality. Health Foundation of South Florida will support winning ideas increasing access to fresh food and healthy lifestyles; the Office of Miami-Dade County Commissioner Juan C. Zapata will support ideas in West End. Anyone can submit and idea – individuals, groups, public agencies, nonprofits, private companies – at ideas.ourmiami.org from March 15th through April 21st.
“The success of Greater Miami’s exponential growth depends on our ability to develop and enhance the spaces that keep us connected as a community,” said Javier Alberto Soto, president and CEO of The Miami Foundation. “Residents strongly supported our advocacy push to help increase the county and city parks budgets last year. That energy, plus excitement around catalytic parks like Underline and Ludlam Trail, prove that this community is fervently demanding activated, safe and beautiful open gathering places. The Challenge puts the power in residents’ hands to create these important spaces themselves.”
The Challenge has funded projects big and small from Homestead to Hialeah, Wynwood to Miami Gardens. Most of them are submitted by local residents committed to improving Greater Miami, like David Hazim, whose passion for disc golf led him to submit a winning idea to create a course in his neighborhood at Homestead Air Reserve Park. Dejha Carrington, a 2015 Challenge winner, 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 a community-wide experience. More than 1,000 ideas have been submitted and over $500,000 invested in winning ideas since the Challenge’s inception.
“This is a movement toward creating 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,” said Stuart Kennedy, director of program strategy and innovation. “This year, we want to cast an even wider net, so we’re encouraging creativity to reimagine what local public spaces can be.”
To help Challenge participants with the planning, writing, and execution of their projects, The Miami Foundation will host a series of public workshops with Urban Impact Lab and Design Thinking Miami. A training schedule, which includes webinars and workshops held throughout March and April, is available at ourmiami.org/challenge.
For more information and to submit an idea, visit ideas.ourmiami.org. To schedule interviews or discuss the Challenge with The Miami Foundation, please contact Meieli Sawyer at 305-668-0070 or firstname.lastname@example.org.