The Public Space Challenge turns three this year.  Over the last month of events leading to today’s launch, I’ve watched the mounting community-wide excitement.  It’s a testament to how Greater Miami took this idea and ran with it.

In 2013, we set out to create a unique platform for funding new and enhanced public spaces.  Both the 2012 and 2014 Our Miami Reports highlighted the importance of parks and public spaces for our residents’ physical well-being and facilitating connections to our city and each other.  Miamians have taken that concept, and coupled with the hard work of numerous local organizations leading this cause year-round, ignited a countywide movement, championing the expansion and protection of these important spaces that belong to all of us.

The annual contest will again seek ideas to connect Miami-Dade residents by creating, improving and activating public gathering places like parks, libraries, plazas, community gardens and playgrounds.  Anyone – individuals, groups, agencies, nonprofits or companies – can submit ideas at ourmiami.org/challenge through the April 1stsubmission deadline.  We encourage the community to weigh in on the ideas by liking, sharing and commenting on them.  The Challenge offers a way for everyone to help advance the cause by putting solutions in the hands of residents who have a passion for this place; your voice and input is critical for this platform to work.

In an effort to invest in bigger ideas, mobilize more people and see greater results, The Miami Foundation and our partners have upped the total prize amount to a fitting $305,000.  Our Challenge sponsors Health Foundation of South Florida, who is entering their third year of supporting the contest, and Baptist Health South Florida, who is partnering with us for the first time, have each committed funds to the total. Because of their generosity, the Challenge will support ideas encouraging healthy lifestyles and exercise activities in the community.  We are privileged to help advance their work of building a stronger, more energetic Miami.

Last year, the Public Space Challenge garnered 410 ideas, up from 263 ideas in 2013. Individuals can get expert advice for crafting their ideas by attending training seminarsaround Miami-Dade County throughout this month.  Following the submission period, community experts and “placemakers” will evaluate all of the ideas and select finalists, who will develop full proposals for the final selection round.

Tonight, we will host the Public Space Challenge kickoff at Ball & Chain: 1513 SW 8th Street in Little Havana. The free event will feature past winners and opportunities to learn more about the Challenge and submit your ideas.  We’re thankful for the entire Ball & Chain team, who has completely reinvigorated that iconic landmark, honoring its noted past and infusing the energy and flavor of Little Havana today. They’re leading a resurgence in the historic Calle Ocho corridor that we think is worth highlighting, so we hope you will join us.

With more community partners, more prize dollars and more local changemakers like YOU, this is shaping up to be to the most galvanizing Public Space Challenge ever.  Remember, the power to shape the vibrant city you want to call home is in YOUR hands.  We look forward to seeing all your dynamic ideas for connecting Miamians through unique and engaging public spaces.

Javier Alberto Soto is the former president and CEO of The Miami Foundation.

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