Philadelphia wins seven Knight Cities Challenge grants

     (Knight Cities Challenge) A rendering of the proposed South Philly Stoop project.

    (Knight Cities Challenge) A rendering of the proposed South Philly Stoop project.

    The Challenge is an annual competition that gives money to pay for projects with the potential to spur innovation in communities.

    Philadelphia is winning things again.

    Seven projects in Philly have been named Knight Cities Challenge winners. The Challenge is an annual competition that gives money to pay for projects with the potential to spur innovation in communities, from the neighborhood up to the city level. According to the Knight Foundation, which sponsors the contest, the focus is on three things: “attracting talented people, expanding economic opportunity and creating a culture of civic engagement.”

    Here are the Philadelphia ventures:

    The Pop-Up Pool Project ($297,000): A project to make public pools more fun. Group Melvin Design wants to add seating, shade, and programming, like food truck visits, to pools so they become more vibrant spaces.

    South Philly’s Stoop ($146,960): The Edward Bok school in South Philly has been closed, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be a community space. Lindsey Scannapieco wants to transform the space around the school into a shared area for neighbors and revamp a dog park. Eventually she wants the school to serve as a shared space for entrepreneurs. 

    Urban Arboreta ($65,000): Timothy Baird wants to use vacant land in Philadelphia to plant trees. Those trees could then be replanted on city streets and in parks.

    Next Stop: Democracy! The Voting Signage Project ($166,394): Making pools more fun (see above) may seem like an easy idea but making voting more fun is anything but. Lansie Sylvia wants to create new signage and commission site-specific performances on election day at polling places to get people to turn out and vote. 

    Neighborhood Conservation Kit ($20,000): The Central Roxborough Civic Association wants to put together a toolkit to help residents create areas zoned for conservation. 

    Philadelphia Immigrant Innovation Hub ($261,500): Anuj Gupta is proposing the creation of a space that would offer immigrants language assistance, workshops and training, access to capital, and a space to work. The idea is that these same immigrants will help revitalize distressed neighborhoods. 

    DIG Philly ($149,050): A proposal to transform the city’s schoolyards with green infrastructure, physical activity, gardens, and community parks for after-school hours in mind. The Big SandBox, which wrote the pitch, wants to engage the community in planning.

    Two of the winners were also multi-site projects that included Philadelphia:

    The Urban “Consulate” ($150,000): Establishing “consulates” to promote cross-city cultural and civic exchange. One of them would be located in Philadelphia.

    The Swings: An Exercise in Musical Cooperation ($325,000): This is a project that would install musical swings in several cities, including Philadelphia. When people collaborate, the swings can play more complex melodies.   

    Philadelphia secured more successful projects than any other city and is the only Pennsylvania city to have winners.  The winners were chosen from 126 finalists, which themselves were chosen from about 7,000 applicants.

    Have an idea that fits the bill? The next submission period starts in October.

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