Creative thinking is right up there with sheer stubbornness as a driving force behind Detroit’s resurgence. That spirit of innovation was recognized this week with the announcement of the 2016 class of Knight Cities Challenge winners.
Detroit is home to more winning projects than any other city.
The challenge solicits ideas from local organizations and innovators to improve cities, with an emphasis on three elements of successful communities: talent, opportunity, and engagement. The 2016 contest attracted more than 4,500 entries competing for a share of $5 million in grant funding from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.
Of 37 winning projects, six are taking shape right here in the D. Altogether, they will receive more than $638,000 in funding from the Knight Foundation to bring their ideas to life in the city.
- Petal to Porch - $30,000
The brainchild of Cornetta Lane, Petal to Porch: A Storytelling Journey grew out of Lane’s efforts to preserve the history and heritage of her Core City neighborhood as the boom in nearby Corktown threatened to rebrand the neighborhood as an extension of Corktown’s success. Her first event, Core City Stories, was a guided bike tour of the neighborhood with stops at residents’ homes to hear them tell their stories. With Petal to Porch, Lane plans to expand beyond her own neighborhood to organize bike tours of other Detroit neighborhoods. The 2016 season includes Jefferson Chalmers and Southwest Detroit, as well as a repeat of the Core City route.
- Dequindre Cut Market - $135,665
The Detroit Riverfront Conservancy continues its placemaking work with this plan, which aims to make one of Detroit’s most exciting assets even better. Repurposed shipping containers will provide a creative and environmentally-friendly venue for pop-up shops along the greenway, creating opportunity for local entrepreneurs to market their products and connect with the community along the newly-expanded Dequindre Cut.
- Detroit’s Pink Zone - $75,000
Maurice Cox, accomplished urban designer and planning director for the city of Detroit, is known for his ability to engage communities and build innovative plans for cities. So it comes as no surprise that his ambitious plan to reshape Detroit’s commercial districts is among the Knight Cities winners. Detroit’s Pink Zone will bring together design talent and developers while streamlining city regulations to stimulate economic growth.
- Give a Park, Get a Park - $75,000
Another idea from Maurice Cox, this time on behalf of the city’s neighborhoods, the Give a Park, Get a Park initiative aims to create neighborhood microparks based on local feedback and community needs. By repurposing vacant land and designing parks that require few resources to maintain, these parks will create welcoming and sustainable gathering places unique to the neighborhoods in which they are located.
- Sensors in a Shoebox - $138,339
Think of this project as a fact-finding mission. University of Michigan professor Elizabeth Birr Moje is engaging young people in the use of sensors and data analytics to track environmental conditions in the city, to answer questions about conditions in the city, and to inspire creative thinking about how to make their communities better.
- The People First Project - $184,080
Chad Rochkind, executive director of the Urban Social Assembly, developed this plan to create a network of “tactical urbanists” to formulate bottom-up solutions to urban problems. He envisions a group that will focus its collective efforts on a single issue each year, with the goal of developing quick, affordable, and innovative solutions.