Knight Foundation’s Cities Challenge showcases winning ideas
Ideas on how to make cities more vibrant places to live and work will be discussed all over Detroit this week.
That’s because the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation is holding its Cities Challenge Winners Summit in Detroit, where the 32 winners — including six from the city — will showcase their ideas.
The summit, which runs Wednesday through Friday, will include urban experts for two days of panel discussions, interviews and workshops.
Discussions will explore everything from how to use public spaces to help reverse economic and social inequality to ways to engage citizens and leaders in uniting to shape their communities, said Anusha Alikhan, director of communications with Knight.
Mayor Mike Duggan spoke to summit members Wednesday night at a welcome reception downtown, saying Knight stands for young people pursuing their dreams. In 1976, Duggan himself won a $1,000 scholarship from the foundation to help pay for college.
“Entrepreneurs are rebels by nature and the ultimate rebels are moving to Detroit,” Duggan said. “I hope you enjoy your stay and if you like it — stay with us for good.”
Speakers and panelists include leaders in urban transformation such as Theaster Gates, artist and urban planner; Charles Landry, author of “The Creative City: A Toolkit for Urban Innovators” and Fred Dust, partner at IDEO, a California-based design firm.
Winning ideas from Detroit are:
■Brand Camp University, to support small businesses in under-served neighborhoods.
■Brick + Beam Detroit, to create a new community of Detroit rehabbers who will work to combat blight.
■Detroit Future City, to pair barbers with landscape contractors to transform overgrown vacant lots.
■Crain’s Detroit Business, to engage Detroit expatriates through a new digital community to connect them to the city.
■LIVE Detroit, to create a center for information about neighborhoods and city life that highlights the city’s offerings.
Knight program director Katy Locker said the ideas could attract and retain talent, create spaces that expand opportunities and increase civic engagement.
During the day on Wednesday, summit participants went on walking tours of the Madison Block, Campus Martius Park, the RiverWalk, the Greening of Detroit’s Lafayette Greens and the Grand Army of the Republic Building.
Josh and Allie Lovett were in Detroit as winners of the Cities Challenge in Macon, Ga. The married couple plans to use their $75,000 grant to purchase an airstream trailer and stock it full of things “Made in Macon” to promote the city.
“What do we think of Detroit? There is a lot of construction, and that’s a good thing,” said Allie Lovett, 22.