20 Detroit projects selected as finalists for Knight Cities Challenge

January 13, 2016

With projects aimed at stimulating community dialogue on race identity, installing artist-designed lighting, connecting Detroit’s Latino and Latina entrepreneurs with the larger business ecosystem and other pursuits, Detroit innovators are among the 158 finalists of the second annual Knights Cities Challenge.

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation will announce the winners, set to receive a share of a $5 million grant, this spring. Finalists will submit a full application by the end of the month.

“The finalists reflect what the Knight Cities Challenge is about: uncovering new civic innovators and motivating people to realize ideas — big and small — that can contribute to the success of their cities,” Carol Coletta, Knight Foundation vice president for community and national initiatives, said in a news release.

This is the second of the three Knight Cities Challenges, which kicked off fall 2014. The three-year, $15 million project seeks to engage individuals and organizations on solving urban problems: how to attract and retain talent; expand economic opportunities and create civic involvement and connection.

Coletta wrote in a company blog that projects able to be executed within the 18-month grant period were preferred in the finalist selection process. She also noted an uptick of applications targeting increased, informed voting, integration of different socioeconomic classes and reframing their city’s reputations.

More than 4,500 applied last fall for the second annual Knights Cities Challenge. Applicants had to offer their response to the question: What’s your best idea to make cities most successful? Projects could involve the 26 communities where Knight invests, such as Detroit, Miami, Macon, Ga., and Aberdeen, S.D.

Detroit and Philadelphia have the biggest number of finalists with 20 each.

Following are the Detroit-focused projects that might see implementation with Knight funds, according to a release:

  • The Underground Order of Tactical Urbanists (submitted by Chad Rochkind): Creating a network of tactical urbanists who collectively select a single urban challenge each year on which to focus quick, low-cost, creative improvements.

  • Detroit Bureau of Emergent Urbanity by MODCaR (submitted by Jean Louis Farges): Repurposing a vacant area into a public space and open forum for design innovation and urban transformation; the project will connect designers with residents to help them make real their  ideas for bringing positive change to the city through the forum and by way of a digital platform.

  • Glow: Detroit by BANKAi Group (submitted by FaShon Vega): Installing artist-designed lighting solutions in Detroit neighborhoods to improve neighborhood life and encourage more people to live and work in the city.

  • Detroit’s Exciting Adventure into the Pink Zone by Detroit Department of Planning and Development (submitted by Maurice D. Cox): Creating new opportunities for jobs and businesses by developing a new tool to streamline city development regulations and engaging design talent and developers to help reshape commercial districts.

  • Southwest Detroit Is Poppin’ by Southwest Detroit Business Association (submitted by Ouida Jones): Engaging artists and entrepreneurs to create entertaining pop-up events in vacant spaces in southwest Detroit neighborhoods to attract new interest and people to the area.

  • Mobile Bamboo by Bamboo Detroit L3C (submitted by Amanda Lewan): Exposing more residents to the opportunities that are available to start or grow a business in Detroit by expanding Bamboo Detroit, a co-working community for entrepreneurs, into neighborhoods with mobile sites that offer learning and networking events.

  • Permit Corps by Michigan Municipal League Foundation (submitted by Samantha Harkins): Making it easier to get stuff done in Detroit by connecting students who can provide free expertise on navigating city regulations and codes to residents who need their services.

  • Ignite Design Detroit (submitted by Ron Watters): Engaging Detroit youth in designing solutions that improve the day-to-day life of Detroiters through a series of workshops that teach participants about industrial design and entrepreneurship.

  • Side X Sidelots by Detroit Future City (submitted by Victoria Olivier): Transforming vacant land in the city with the help of Detroit Future City’s “Field Guide to Working With Lots”; the project will recruit ambassadors to work with neighborhoods on using the step-by-step guide to transform vacant or underused lots.

Click here to read the full article in Crain’s Detroit.