Change is happening in Miami’s parks, plazas and open spaces. You can skate at a new skate park in what was once an empty lot under I-95 at NW Third Avenue and NW First Street. You can stay hydrated and reduce waste at Margaret Pace Park’s newly installed water bottle refill station and water fountain. You can easily explore all the amenities along the Ludlam Trail by following walking and biking signs that make it easier to know how long it will take to get where you want to go.

Vibrant public spaces like these help connect Miamians to each other and to their communities. That is why we created the Public Space Challenge. We wanted to empower Miamians to improve, activate and create new public spaces in their neighborhoods. Anyone can apply to get funding and help technical help to make their idea a reality.

There’s a growing movement in Greater Miami recognizing the power of parks and open spaces. All you have to do is look at the 400+ submissions for evidence. The community set a new record for number of ideas submitted. Residents across the county from Miami Gardens to Homestead shared their vision during the Challenge. West End residents also submitted more 2016 entries than in the past three years of the Challenge, supported by County Commissioner Juan C. Zapata, District 11.

Today, we are happy to announce 56 finalists for this year’s Challenge. You can see the finalists and all the ideas submitted here.

The themes we saw emerging in this year’s Challenge were around parklets, bus and transit stops, bicycle infrastructure, and under passes and bridges. Many entries also involved reclaiming unused spaces. From a 1,000-foot water slide, to a ladies kickball league, to community gardens, these are the things that Miamians want to make happen.

Design firm PlusUrbia proposed creating an urban parklet out of a parking space in East Little Havana’s residential area. They want to transform the parking area into an open space with a small grouping of tables and chairs where residents can gather to play dominoes in a safe, welcoming spot away from traffic.

The Nature Conservancy wants to create green spaces along Wagner Creek, which runs through Downtown Miami’s health district. They note greenery allows people to connect with nature, supports wildlife and helps reduce flooding. They envision trees for shade and grassy areas people can enjoy.

Hialeah Public Libraries, pictured above, suggested adding seating areas along the walkway surrounding the JFK Library building, featuring a free library. Their hope is that this people will come together in a shared gathering space to socialize, relax, exercise and read.

Green Mobility Network seeks to enhance the West End bus terminal with a transit kiosk, a bike pump/repair station and covered bike parking, and public art installations. Their intention is to encourage more residents to realize the benefits of public transit in an area of the county known for long commute times.

In Homestead, Branches, Inc., recommended installing a shade system over theBranches Florida City Playground. They note that this project would provide a safe inviting playground for children, youth and families, and an opportunity for people to get to know one another.

Other finalists aim to bring an interactive light installation to an underpass in Little Haiti, build a floating park and mangrove sanctuary sanctuary off the Rickenbacker Causeway, or design an aeroponic educational garden in Liberty City.

These ideas help improve quality of life for all Miamians. They create opportunities for neighbors to connect, engage residents to play a role in revitalizing their communities and spur economic development. In the coming weeks, Challenge finalists will work on developing full proposals for their submissions.

We invite all Miamians to explore these finalists on the submission website, We also encourage you to reach out to your elected officials to let them know what these community gathering places mean to you (find contact information for county officials here).

It’s up to all of us to create an even more vibrant place to call home.

Stuart Kennedy is Director of Program Strategy and Innovation at The Miami Foundation.

Click here to view all the 2016 Public Space Challenges finalists.

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