So, you have a big idea for improving a space in your neighborhood or near where you work. But need help taking it from idea to completion?

For the past two years, Urban Impact Lab has provided Public Space Challenge winners with one-on-one technical assistance to guide them through executing their projects. Marta Viciedo and Irvans Augustin, who run UI Lab, know the process well. They are 2013 Challenge winners themselves who dedicate their work to improving the way people experience our community.

UI Lab’s team will be providing workshops in coming days to help applicants shape their ideas for the 2016 Challenge, which is offering $305,000 to projects that improve, create or activate public gathering places in Greater Miami.

We checked in with Marta and Irvans to get their top advice for anyone leading a public space project.

  • Observe the space and how people already use it: It sounds obvious, but it’s a step most people forget to take, Irvans and Marta said. Put aside your judgment and preconceived notions for a few hours to just plain take in the surroundings and think about how your project might add to the dynamic in place. Often, this simple step can keep good intentions from going bad.

“There are a million and one examples of people coming in and putting what they think should be in a public space,” Irvans said. “If you pause and see how people are using it, you can connect the dots and help them have a better experience.”

  • Ask yourself, “How are people going to benefit from my project?” Once you’ve observed the space and refined a plan, determine exactly how you think the community and space will be improved. This step helps organizers frame their project for the good of the people who use it:It’s not about someone’s idea anymore. It’s about the community and how they are going to be impacted,” Irvans said.
  • Identify the main pieces that will make or break your project (and yes, that means permitting!) Often people who want to improve a public space don’t know the breadth of permissions needed to bring a project to life. The biggest mistake people make is approaching city hall, getting one person’s implicit “approval” for a project, and thinking they have a green light. However, there is often a long, unglamorous but completely doable process to getting the permission for a project.

Marta and Irvans put together a soup-to-nuts website that walks people through the project planning process. Click here to take a look.

Urban Impact Lab will share more insights at their interactive Public Space Challenge workshops, where you can get expert advice on how to submit a winning idea, then make it happen:

  • Workshop in Downtown Miami: Wednesday, March 30th at 6 p.m. (Miami Center for Architecture & Design)
  • Design Thinking Miami Creative Workshop in Downtown Miami: Tuesday, April 5th at 6:30 p.m. (The Miami Foundation)
  • Workshop in Hialeah: Wednesday, April 6th at 5:30 p.m. (JFK Library)
  • Workshop in the West End: Thursday, April 7th at 6:30 p.m. (Kendall Lakes Library)


We look forward to seeing you there. Click here to submit your idea and see past Challenge projects. Learn more about the Challenge in Stuart Kennedy’s blog post.


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