20 Urbanists to Pursue Groundbreaking Projects as 2016 Emerging City Champions

Knight Foundation and 8 80 Cities have selected 20 civic innovators to participate in the 2016 Emerging City Champions fellowship program. The participants will receive $5,000 to implement one project in one year that will improve mobility, public spaces or civic engagement in their home cities.

Their ideas promise to transform the future in 13 Knight communities: from bringing Bradenton, Florida, its first Open Streets program, to transforming the Grand Cities Mall in Grand Forks, North Dakota, into a more vibrant gathering space, to dressing up the buses in State College, Pennsylvania, in wild costumes that attract public attention and win new fans for the city’s transit system.

The 2016 Emerging City Champions program builds on the wave of low-cost, high-impact projects already underway or completed by the first group of champions selected in May 2015. The class of 2016 will build on this momentum and amplify their impact.

Arriving at this moment was no easy task. We received more than 200 applications from 23 cities. Applicants submitted ideas for a project or urban intervention they thought could become the next big thing in mobility, public space or civic engagement. The review panel weighed each application on a simple set of criteria: 1) Will the project enhance mobility, public spaces and civic engagement; 2) Is the idea new and innovative; and 3) Does the applicant demonstrate qualities of an effective community leader? The 20 successful applicants set themselves apart by submitting powerful solutions to crucial civic challenges.

The first stop for this group will be the Emerging City Champions Studio in Toronto in June. Over four days, the champions will strengthen their project plans while learning from established urban experts and each other. Through interactive workshops, group activities and city tours, the champions will acquire the skills and knowledge they need to execute their projects when they return home.

The Emerging City Champions program empowers future leaders to shape their cities today. We provide support and a nudge in the right direction, but the innovation and energy comes from the champions. We are proud of the positive change that the Emerging City Champions started over the past year. We can’t wait to see new city building ideas take shape as this inspiring group begins their year as Emerging City Champions.

Contact Ryan O’Connor via roconnor@880cities.org.

2016 Emerging City Champions

Akron, Ohio

Beth Vild | Akron City Repair: Hosting biweekly training sessions for diverse communities, which will culminate in a four-day, citywide placemaking festival in August.

Boulder, Colorado
Joel Kaplan | The Young Knights Project: Bringing high schools in the city of Boulder together like never before, with 10 student leaders, 20 partnerships, 30 new student opportunities, 1 final event.

Bradenton, Florida
Simone Peterson: Hosting Bradenton’s first Cyclovia event, which will draw residents from their cars and into the city’s beautiful streets, which will be closed to traffic.

Charlotte, North Carolina
Amanda Zullo | Pop Up Produce: Providing participants with a home toolkit with planting supplies and guides to promote healthy living while educating people on the benefits of fresh food.
Kia Moore: Setting up free neighborhood concerts that use hip-hop and orchestral music to break down stereotypes and promote interaction across socio-economic divides.

Rebecca Bucky Willis| Transforming a dilapidated commercial building into a roofless community space in the Lindale Gardens neighborhood.

Sam Saunders | Establishing a free, five-days-a-week music and arts summer camp for elementary and middle school children from the Brightmoor neighborhood, culminating in an end-of-summer concert.

Ezekiel Harris | Mack’s Pocket Playground: Creating a pocket playground on an empty lot at the intersection of Mack Avenue and Beals Street.

Duluth, Minnesota
Hannah Smith: Identifying and implementing creative placemaking improvements in an underused green space in the Lincoln Park neighborhood through a collaborative, community-driven process.

Grand Forks, North Dakota
Marcus Wax: Holding the first season of winter arts and crafts events in the Grand Cities Mall in Midtown Grand Forks, supported by permanent pedestrian improvements in the mall.

Lexington, Kentucky
Richard Young: Encouraging collaboration among artists and civic organizations to increase engagement around the 2016 elections and neighborhood issues along the city’s busiest transit lines.

Long Beach, California
Ziba Zehdar | Speed Reader: Creating a custom book bike that looks like the character Speed Racer to encourage the public to read and use library resources.

Cristina Mas | Brickell Splash: Raising awareness and momentum for the Underline linear trail project with a community Slip ‘N Slide that kick-starts programming throughout the year.

Germane Barnes | B.U.S. Miami (Building United Spaces): Creating an energy-efficient, modular bus shelter with amenities such as a mobile charging station and umbrella sharing system.

Sarah Yeung | Summer of Games: Hosting games in an underused public parklet in Chinatown every Friday evening to encourage interaction between passersby and community members.

Bradley Vassallo | PUMP (Pop-Up Market Place): Using shipping containers as venues to sell products and services from aspiring entrepreneurs.

Alexander Epstein | REGENERATION: Engaging formerly incarcerated youth in North Philadelphia in the revitalization of their neighborhood through jobs that transform blighted landscapes into dynamic community hubs.

San Jose, California
Jason Su | Fountain Gallery-Alley: Transforming a problematic alley in downtown San Jose into a vibrant public space with art, lighting and other street life interventions.

Zacharias Mendez: Providing youth with access to tools, technology and mentorship to develop and implement innovative placemaking projects that use digital artistic media.

State College, Pennsylvania
Clio Andris: Holding a costume contest to safely and creatively dress up city municipal buses, while attracting renewed interest from the public.

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