Two West Palm Beach proposals to make the city a better place were among 144 named finalists in this year’s Knight Cities Challenge.
The local finalists, chosen from 4,500 applicants, are:
12 for 12: Pop-up to Rent by city of West Palm Beach (submitted by Christopher Roog, director of economic development for the city): Expanding on the success of a pilot pop-up gallery project by inviting local talent to activate 12 empty storefront spaces as an economic catalyst for West Palm Beach.
The Tie Beam by city of West Palm Beach (submitted by Sybille Welter, coordinator of the city’s Art in Public Places program): Connecting east and west downtown residents by creating a public space parallel to the railroad tracks that encourages pedestrian activity and integrates public art, transportation and urban design.
The competition, open to innovators in the 26 cities where the Knight Foundation invests, asks applicants, “What’s your best idea to make cities more successful? …The idea should focus on one or all of three key drivers of city success, talent, opportunity and engagement, as outlined above.”
The winning projects, to be announced this spring, receive a share of up to $5 million.
Roog said he’d been working with urban planning firm Gehl Architects, gathering data about downtown activity and in particular about retail spaces that weren’t active. He came up with the idea to ask landlords to donate the spaces for use by small businesses or start-ups to occupy the slots on a temporary basis, which, with a marketing effort, “maybe have an event with some food trucks, some cool lighting,” to help activate the street and give the start-ups a shot at success.