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Projects to improve Miami may come to life, thanks to Knight grants

Science Barge 2

The Miami Science Barge is moored in a notch in the seawall at Museum Park downtown, adjacent to the site of the new Frost Museum of Science. The concept for the barge won a grant in the Knight Cities Challenge in 2015. Frost Museum of Science

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

Four organizations in South Florida won grants to bring to life their ideas to make their cities more successful. They were national winners of the Knight Cities Challenge, the same contest that gave the Miami Science Barge its kickstart.

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation on Monday announced that 33 projects nationwide will share $5 million to pursue their ideas, which center on expanding economic opportunities and promoting civic engagement. Altogether," The challenge attracted more than 4,500 ideas.

The 33 winners proposed ideas such as providing a space for Philadelphians to develop city service solutions through a traveling city design lab; replacing an inoperative freeway in Akron with a public space; and turning Columbia, South Carolina’s State House into a front porch for all.

“The winners of the Knight Cities Challenge will help create new avenues for people to contribute to their community. They aim to bring together diverse residents, ensure talent thrives and connect people to place — giving them a stake in city-building,” said George Abbott, Knight Foundation director for community and national initiatives.

The three winners from Miami are:

Civic Incite: Citizens Setting the Agenda, submitted by Jorge Damian de la Paz: An online platform that tracks public meetings and legislation across cities to promote in-person civic engagement with local governments. Granted $105,595.

Miami-Dade Quickbuild Program, submitted by Anthony Garcia for Street Plans Collaborative: A program within Miami-Dade County in partnership with local transportation nonprofit Green Mobility Network that advances low-cost, quick-build transportation and open space projects. Granted $150,000.

Rep(resentative) Miami, submitted by Rob Biskupic for Engage Miami: Putting clear, actionable information about local elected officials into citizens’ hands by breaking down barriers to civic participation. Granted $119,800.

In Palm Beach County:

12 for 12: Popup to Rent, submitted by Christopher Roog for the City of West Palm Beach: Invite local artists to activate 12 empty storefront spaces as an economic catalyst for West Palm Beach. Granted $180,000.

Last year, local projects to help create a gym under The Underline, a pop-up park along Biscayne Boulevard and a user testing group for local government technology all received funding as part of the Knight Cities Challenge. Two years ago, the Miami Science Barge was a winner; last year the barge opened behind the Frost Museum of Science and this year it became an official part of the museum via donation.

See the list of winners at www.knightcities.org.