Public Space Challenge 2017: Meet some of the winners

The Miami Foundation’s Public Space Challenge asks locals for their best ideas on how to improve the outdoor gathering spaces, places, and parks across the county. Each year they invest $350,000 in grants for the best ones, and now the 2017 winners are out.

The 21 winning projects all involve awesome ways to improve the community we love and use, but biking, lighting, new parks, and pop-up events are the most common approaches.

“Many of their projects seek to benefit places like Royal Road – hidden gems, right beneath our noses, waiting for someone to make them shine,” wrote Stuart Kennedy, director of program strategy and innovation at The Miami Foundation

Here’s a preview of some of the cool things in store from some of the winners:


overpass lights

Lights might not sound like much of a recreational utility at the start, but they can completely change the way people interact with an area.

CIC Miami General Manager Natalia Martinez-Kalinina won for her Greenways & Blueways idea. She proposed adding colorful LED lighting under the NW 20th Street I-95 overpass to beautify the area connecting Wynwood and Overtown, but also making it safer for pedestrians.

“The underpass lighting will help re-connect the communities on either side of I-95 by increasing the flow of pedestrians and bikers through this area who are traveling between home, work, school, health services, recreation and retail destinations. As Converge Miami grows as an entrepreneurial center, more startups, students, and researchers will populate this area. If, however, the streets surrounding the building remain inhospitable to pedestrians, they will remain siloed and be less likely to engage with the neighborhood,” – Natalia Martinez-Kalinina

The Liberty City Lights project, proposed by Annie St. Juste and Lanston Williams, will add lights to three pathways by the Annie Coleman public housing units off NW 60th St. that are otherwise pitch black once the sun goes down.

Annie Coleman Public housing units

The Miami Herald described the level of fear community members here share, and the necessity of lights to make residents feel safe. The lights will go all the way to the Miami Children’s Initiative’s Memorial Garden.

“It’s so dark in our neighborhood that people go inside as soon as the sun goes down and the wrong people are attracted to our community and engage in criminal activities. We believe that with added lights it will not only make our walkways to the park and home safer but will allow our children to play outside longer and enjoy all the benefits of MCI’s playground and the basketball court.” — Anne St Juste and Lanston Williams

Save the bees


Miami’s honeybee population is on the decline, and that’s kind of a big deal. They help keep our ecosystem in balance, helping to pollinate and sustain crops, and of course also provide honey.

That’s what makes Danielle Bender’s Public Hives project a winner. By placing urban hives across the city, people living nearby the hives can harvest honey in a beautified space.

“I can envision public courses in beekeeping taking place on the weekend, with learning opportunities for maintaining a hive, harvesting honey, understanding the different types of bee, etc.” — Daniella Bender

Activating parks

Miami Beach waterway

The City of Miami Beach won for its proposed kayak scavenger hunt through some of the local waterways and parks. The event would use environmental clues to lead curious locals from Maurice Gibb Park in South Beach through Miami Beach’s intracoastal waterway system.

“Actively access Miami Beach’s parks via an underutilized transportation alternative system (our community’s waterways) in an exciting and adventurous way, as well as connect them to our community’s diverse ecosystem, which includes mangroves, manatees, dolphins, and so much more!” — City of Miami Beach

A fight over the future of North Beach’s North Shore Open Space Park is brewing, but so far the public debate on his neighborhood gem has been pretty quiet.

DJ in North Shores Park

Miami Music Club suggested MMC by the Sea, a series of events in the park with local and national underground musicians, artists, and dancers, to create discussions about the park and its future. Plus, any performance is better with a sea breeze blowing by.

“MMC by the Sea will invite diverse communities to experience music and performance—the kind that is normally relegated to museums, galleries and music venues—in an outdoor space of sand dunes, sea grape trees, and breaking surf (free of charge).” — Miami Music Club

Pop-up putt-putt

mini golf

Little Haiti is shy on green community space. That’s why the Little Haiti Cultural Center proposed Pop-Up Mini Golf: Revitalizing Little Haiti. They want to build a mini-golf course in an empty lot at 207 NE 59th St. It’ll be designed with Caribbean motifs by local artists and have 9 holes to play for 3 months.

“As an urban area, Miami needs creative public space transformations like this project, to continually revitalize communities. Using local Little Haiti artists to help design the mini golf course in Caribbean theme will capitalize on the strong sense of ownership that the Miami community displays in its neighborhoods.” — The City of Miami Little Haiti Cultural Center