Support for parks and reimagined public spaces in Greater Miami is exploding.  Across the county, residents are displaying appreciation for how these places contribute to their community’s well-being more than ever before.

Evidence of this movement is in the 330+ submissions and 50 finalists of The Miami Foundation’s 2015 Public Space Challenge.  From solar-powered, shaded seating sculptures  to sound and art installations across our skyline, Miamians brought a fresh perspective to improving, creating and activating local gathering places.  The diversity and quality of the ideas reflect an increased understanding of how to pull Miamians into our parks, plazas, waterfronts, libraries and transit hubs across town, enabling them to connect with each other and their community.

Alex Cardelle wants to see a grand public square in downtown Miami.  Like Washington Square Park in New York City and Place de la République in Paris, he notes the need for global cities to have a defined place to celebrate victories, remember tragedies and engage in civic life.  He envisions an inclusive, programmatic urban design that allows for spectator arts, music performance and cinematic events.

Southern Miami-Dade and Homestead residents submitted more 2015 ideas than they have in each of the past two years of the Challenge.  District 8 County Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava suggested installing pop-up parks or portable parks off of neighborhood streets, featuring locally grown trees and shrubs to highlight South Dade’s agriculture industry.  Her hope is that people will come together in a shared community space to enjoy the natural resources found in South Dade.

In North Dade, the Inter-City Arts ColLABoratory wants to partner with local organizations to turn the Miami Gardens Neighborhood Enrichment Center’s grassy parking area into a cultural hub after hours and on weekends.  They want to transform the relatively under-utilized public space in Bunche Park into a place where highly acclaimed educators, business leaders, professional designers and artists can partner with residents of Miami Gardens to develop innovative, inter-generational and interactive cultural arts outreach programs.

Groove Miami proposed a series of multi-style group dance classes in various locations throughout Miami.  They hope to activate places like parking garage rooftops, parks and Metrorail stops, bringing people together around salsa, swing and line dancing.  It’s an effort to broaden Miamians’ understanding of how a public space can be used.

Other finalists seek to bring much-needed lighting to Riverside Park in Little Havana,create crews of urban food foragers in Liberty City or transform a jogging trail under the Metrorail near NW 79th Street into a healthy park with fresh food and arts & crafts vendors.

These ideas help Greater Miami come alive with vibrant opportunities for neighbors to meet, get active and enjoy our surrounding environment.  As the finalists prepare full proposals for submission, we encourage all Miamians to think about their role in fostering this explosive public space movement.  Engagement opportunities include using ioby’s powerful crowd-resourcing platform to keep working on your Challenge idea or develop a new one, collaborating with others who submitted similar ideas, and letting your elected officials know how important these gathering places are to you.

It’s up to all of us to build the lively community we call home.

Stuart Kennedy is senior programs officer at The Miami Foundation.

Click here to view all the 2015 Public Space Challenges finalists.

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