The Knight Cities Challenge just gave out $5 million to winning ideas from civic innovators to help 26 particular American cities, from Detroit to Macon, Georgia. But there's no reason these ideas can't be used elsewhere. Here are six of the 37 winning projects that other cities might want to steal.
Turning a highway into a bicycle park
In a couple of years, the last mile of the Innerbelt highway in Akron will be shut down. The road divided the city's downtown, and was unpopular almost as soon as construction started in 1970. When the cars are finally out of the way, one section of the former highway will be turned over to bikes, in a new mountain biking park connected both to the downtown and a nearby bike trail.
"It's a way for people who don't typically ride bikes to start doing it, and get excited about it," says Jonathan Morschl, who is leading the project.
Pop-up minimum grid
It isn't easy to bike around downtown Macon, Georgia, right now, but the city will soon get to experience what it's like to have better infrastructure. In a variation on Better Block—the project that temporarily turns a block into a walkable, bikeable, active place—a local nonprofit will be temporarily converting an entire neighborhood. "People will be able to come out and ride it, and see what it's actually like to ride on good infrastructure," says Josh Rogers, president and CEO of NewTown Macon, the organization leading the project.
Over a Friday and Saturday, neighbors will be able to try out protected bike lanes, bike boulevards, and new pedestrian infrastructure connecting the heart of downtown with surrounding neighborhoods, a university campus, and parks. "All that stuff's really close, but totally disconnected right now," he says. "That's the idea of this route." Some of the new infrastructure will stay in place, and Rogers is hoping that residents will like the rest so much that they demand that it become permanent.
Front lawn placemaking platform
"We're trying to transform the most ubiquitous and underused space in America—the front lawn," says Max Musicant, founder and principal of the Musicant Group, a placemaking firm based in Minneapolis. Inspired to do something about the fact that people keep becoming more isolated from their neighbors, the group is designing a toolkit that homeowners can use to make their front lawns social. That might mean moving furniture and a grill into the front lawn, planting a garden, or adding a Little Free Library.
"It's really about people getting in touch with the things that matter to them, and putting it on their front lawns," he says. "They're going to be present in their front lawns again, and by doing that—instead of being in the backyard, or just inside—they're going to have serendipitous interactions with neighbors in a way that was never possible." The designers plan to test the project with 15-20 people in a couple of typical neighborhoods in St. Paul, release a beta kit online, and build a final kit that will come out in 2017.
By Adele Peters, Fast Company
To read the full article, go here.
A pair of St. Paul civic projects have won sizable grants from the Knight Foundation in response to a national call for ideas that would improve urban living.
The Knight Cities Challenge awarded roughly a quarter of a million dollars to the two St. Paul projects — one thought up by a professor at the University of St. Thomas and the other by a small-business owner from Minneapolis.
The first project will focus on turning front lawns of residences and apartment buildings into places where residents can actually meet and talk.
Max Musicant, a Minneapolis resident who is the founder of the Musicant Group, said most front lawns are dead spaces that residents tend to avoid, and doing something as simple as setting up a “porch-like” setting with chairs and a grill make it easier for neighbors to meet. His project will offer kits and advice to help residents do just that.
Musicant said he will focus on a couple dozen properties in St. Paul’s Hamline-Midway and Rondo neighborhoods, and will partner with the Friendly Streets Initiative to carry the project out.
It received an $82,400 grant.
The second project, titled “I’m going to vote today,” will take place during the upcoming November election, and will test whether people receiving tailored messages through the mail encouraging them to vote will be more likely to do so.
Households who get the nonpartisan messages, which include stickers saying “I’m going to vote,” will be contrasted with households who don’t. Determining whether someone votes is public information.
The project received a $170,000 grant.
“One of our interests is in increasing civic engagement, and it’s especially important that it happens at the local level. So we have a particular interest in increasing participation in local elections,” said George Abbott, the interim program director for St. Paul, who also oversees the Cities Challenge.
The Knight Cities challenge, an annual contest, awards about $5 million annually to projects nationwide; this year, there were 4,500 applicants and 26 winners.
The Knight Foundation conducts multiple challenges, though not every year, including the Arts Challenge, News Challenge, and Green Line Challenge.
The Knight Foundation formed as a part of Knight’s newspaper division in 1940. Brothers John “Jack” S. and James L. Knight died in 1981 and 1991, respectively, and left the foundation a total of $630 million.
The foundation focuses on improving cities in which the Knight brothers once owned newspapers, of which St. Paul was one.
By Tad Vezner, Pioneer Press
To read the full article, go here.
A program to help homeowners create welcoming community gathering places and an experiment to see if a little sticker can encourage people to get out and vote are St. Paul winners of the Knight Cities Challenge, a program that will split $5 million among 37 projects meant to help cities attract talented people and encourage civic engagement.
The challenge garnered more than 4,500 ideas to make the 26 communities where Knight invests “more vibrant places to live and work,” according to a statement from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation announcing the winners Tuesday. “It asked innovators of all kinds to answer the question: What’s your best idea to make cities more successful?”
To Max Musicant, the idea is to help people get to know one another with more engaging open spaces. He got the idea to transform empty lawns into “vibrant places full of life” after a fire alarm sounded at his Minneapolis apartment building a few years ago. As his neighbors milled about, he realized he didn’t know them.
“So I went and bought cheap chairs from Home Depot and just started sitting there,” he said. “Within the first week, I got to know half my neighbors.”
An $82,400 grant from the Knight Foundation will help Musicant develop tool kits for St. Paul homeowners and other property owners to use their yards and open spaces to foster a sense of community. Part of the effort will include a pilot project involving 15 to 20 homeowners in the Hamline-Midway, Frogtown and Rondo neighborhoods.
“I think it’s going to be awesome,” he said.
Aaron Sackett, a behavioral scientist at the University of St. Thomas, has studied the effects of those little red “I Voted” stickers that people wear on Election Day. He wondered: Would sending out “I Plan to Vote Today” stickers in the mail ahead of time get more people to the polls?
The “I Voted” sticker is “a little bit of a behavioral reward, like pressing the lever gets a treat,” Sackett said. “The other benefit is you go back to work and everybody sees it.”
Sackett’s idea is to use that “nuanced form of peer pressure” with stickers mailed to every registered voter in St. Paul. He and project partner Christopher Bryan, a University of Chicago associate professor, got a $170,275 grant.
By James Walsh, Star Tribune
To read the full article, go here.
The Knight Foundation announced on Tuesday 37 Knight Cities Challenge grant winners competing for part of a $5 million pool of funds, including two from St. Paul.
“When we reviewed the finalists, we were looking at them geographically blind,” said George Abbott, who leads the Knight Cities Challenge. “We were really looking for the projects that would help us achieve our goals.”
The three main goals for the challenge were to retain talent in the respective city, increase civic engagement and expand economic opportunity, he said.
Aaron Sackett, an associate professor at the University of St. Thomas, will receive a $170,275 grant to test how participation in local elections changes if people are given a sticker to wear on election day that reads “I’m Going to Vote Today.”
Sackett and his research partner Christopher Bryan, a faculty member at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, plan to send stickers to St. Paul residents ahead of election day to remind and encourage people to vote.
Musicant Group was awarded $82,400 for its proposal to develop a toolkit residents can use to create community hubs on their lawns.
The place-making and public space management firm partners with community and commercial groups to create public and common area spaces.
The group has in the past partnered with companies like Minneapolis-based Ryan Cos. US Inc. and the Minneapolis office for CBRE to plan Capella Tower’s common spaces on the first floor and skyway level.
Winners will have 18 months to implement their ideas.
About 4,500 ideas were submitted in October for the call for ideas to improve 26 cities around the country.
“It’s quite overwhelming,” Abbott said. “And it’s really encouraging to see the response that we received and the number of great ideas that are out there.”
In January, 158 finalists were announced, with more than a dozen applicants from Minnesota.
Last year, 32 applicants were awarded during the first ever Knight Cities Challenge.
By Janice Bitters, Finance & Commerce
To read the full article, go here.
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – There’s a group that’s promising this year’s winter will be different.
The group is celebrating all things Minnesotans love about cabin culture – like wood and water – and adding in a little heat.
Welcome to the sauna society.
“You can sit on the top bench. It’s a lot hotter than it is down here,” John Pedersen said.
Pedersen is the sauna-meister for Little Box Sauna in downtown Minneapolis.
This winter, next door to the Westminster Presbyterian Church, heat seekers can enjoy a free steam. The space fits up to 10 visitors.
“Well they’re only strangers for a few minutes. Then you usually get to know people, people start talking,” Pederson said.
Pederson is also the founder of 612 Sauna Society.
He found his love for the Nordic tradition on a trip to Finland, and sings the praises of its health benefits.
“The science community is still kind of catching up with what the Finns and people of sweat bathing cultures around the world have been knowing and enjoying for a very long time,” Pederson said.
“We designed this. We wanted there to be a public sauna in the Twin Cities,” Andrea Johnson said.
Architects Andrea Johnson and Molly Reichert designed and built the Little Box Sauna.
“Often times people lose their human connection in the wintertime and we found the sauna was place where people reconnected and community was formed,” Reichert said.
“And as you can see right now, we need it in the winter,” Johnson said.
Inside, temperatures reach 200 degrees.
There’s also a room to change into bathing suits – nudity won’t work downtown.
The sauna experience requires going from hot to cold and back again.
Max Musicant said a cozy fire outside invites more visitors.
“I’m excited to be able to bring and sponsor the sauna coming down here to really promote the vision and the benefits and the joy of sauna-ing,” Musicant.
Sauna sessions are free and open to the public in 90 minute blocks.
It starts Friday from 5 to 9:30 p.m. for three nights a week through most of December.
For more information visit 612 Sauna Society online.
To read full article, go here.
Minus a TV, a temporary bus shelter at S. 6th Street and the Nicollet Mall in downtown Minneapolis has most of the cozy comforts of your living room: pillows, books, board games, a clock, a rug and string lighting.
Some nights, it even has live entertainment.
Called the “Living Room Station — Your Home Before You Get Home,” the shelter is the product of a partnership between the Downtown Improvement District and Metro Transit, designed to enliven downtown spaces and improve the experience of bus riders, said Ben Shardlow, district director of public realm initiatives.
The Living Room — at the busiest stop in downtown that does not have a permanent shelter — came about partly in response to a survey used to enhance safety, cleanliness and greening downtown, Shardlow said. This year’s survey is now open for comment at www.minneapolisdid.com.
High-traffic bus stops can be flash points for safety concerns, and projects like Living Room Station represent an opportunity to bring in creative thinkers and builders to improve the experiences for riders, passersby and neighbors, he said.
The installation created by the Musicant Group and the north Minneapolis bicycle manufacturer Onyx Cycles has been met with surprise and positive feedback, he said.
The Living Room is scheduled to come down on Friday, but the next experimental station will be on 6th Street between 2nd and 3rd avenues S. Meanwhile, on Thursday, the Living Room offers music and apple cider from 3:30 to 5 p.m. On Friday, visitors can trick or treat.
By Tim Harlow, Star Tribune
Read the full article here.
A girl waits to add her hopes for a future 29th Street during the Imagine 29th Street Block Party, which happened in conjunction with Open Street Lyndale June 7.
Streets belong to the public but knowing this is different from feeling that streets are welcoming environments, which we collectively own regardless of whether we travel on foot or by car, bike, bus, light rail or all of these modes on different occasions.
It can be especially difficult to feel that streets are public spaces when we are talking about busy corridors, like Lyndale and Washington avenues. This is why Open Streets have so much transformative potential as we work to build a more livable Minneapolis for people of all ages, abilities and backgrounds. Closing streets to cars for one day means inviting people to come out and engage in a collective “thought experiment about reinventing the street” as Laura Kling, community organizer at Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition said.
For the past five years, Open Streets events — which are presented by the City of Minneapolis, Blue Cross Blue Shield Center for Prevention and the Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition — have been giving people a chance to do yoga, play with sidewalk chalk, eat hot dogs and have fun hanging out in the middle of public spaces that are usually inaccessible to humans not behind the wheel of a motor vehicle. Open Streets are a chance to “celebrate the neighborhood” as Kling put it and test out physical changes to the street that put the people first.
The coalition brings the pop-up protected bike lanes and pop-up protected intersection to Open Streets events so people can experience riding a bike in a safe space on street.
“When I tell kids, ‘this is for you,’ they get really excited,” Kling said.
At Open Streets, people experience familiar streets in a way that whole-heartedly emphasizes healthy living, local business, sustainable transportation and pride of place. Even more exciting, some of these thought experiments are beginning to result in changes lasting longer than one day.
29th Street off Lyndale was the site of a successful one-day demonstration project, the Imagine 29th Street Block Party during the Lyndale Open Street on June 7. The experiment continues with a summer-long parklet — a parking space converted into a mini park. The plan is to redevelop the street as a woonerf — a type of residential street designed to be safe enough for children to play freely and slow cars to a walking pace. The streetscape was originally developed in the Netherlands and so there are no local examples.
“When you’re trying to promote something that doesn’t exist yet it’s so easy to get into a huge he-said she-said, but when you have demonstration, you can talk about what actually happened,” said Max Musicant of the Musicant Group, who together with the Lake Street Council and using a grant from Blue Cross Blue Shield Center for Prevention has been working on the 29th street reimagining. The people who visited 29th Street during the Lyndale Open Street in 2014 “voted with their feet,” as Musicant put it. These people also shared their vision for the street on a giant chalkboard.
What do people hope to do on 29th Street? Play, people watch, freestyle rap and other things that can happen when the pace of a street is slowed down and people get to interact with one another as the new design proposes. Already, Musicant said the parklet is changing the dynamic of the street by offering an invitation to do different things, and the response has been “overwhelmingly positive.”
When people go out and experience a familiar environment from an unfamiliar perspective, they start to think a little differently and change becomes a possibility. As Musicant explained, “We can use the experience people had and say ‘wasn’t that a special day? How do we get back there.’”
Originally appeared in the Minneapolis Downtown Journal
BY: ANNIE VAN CLEVE
Annie Van Cleve is a freelance writer, blogger and volunteer with the Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition.
To keep up with their neighbors and make workers happy, Twin Cities office buildings are adding bocce ball, bike-repair stations and fitness centers with core-strengthening yoga classes.
Why not some fresh rhubarb?
Sabrina Lee’s family-owned produce stand set up shop at Capella Tower’s new farmers market.
Wednesday was the second regular farmers market at Capella Tower (225 S. Sixth St.). It’s scheduled to run weekly through Oct. 28 in the tower’s lobby.
Other downtown office buildings could soon join in, judging from the popularity and feedback from vendors.
Across the street from Capella Tower, U.S. Bank Plaza (220 S. Sixth St.) also has a small market in the plaza in front of the building with a couple of vendors.
The Capella space is unique because it’s indoors and air conditioned, said Tom O’Connor, who was working a booth at the Capella Tower Market for New Brighton-based Solomon’s Bakery. It’s popular gluten-free pastries, for example, don’t melt in the lobby like they would outside.
For vendors, the farmers market is another alternative to the traditional Thursday’s downtown market, which has been relocated from Nicollet Mall to Hennepin Avenue for the next two years due to a $50 million reconstruction project.
Sabrina Lee is one of two produce vendors set up at the Capella Tower. Her family’s Woodbury-based LPlee Garden farms land in Afton and Rosemount and has had a stand this year at the markets on Lyndale and Hennepin avenues and in Northeast Minneapolis and Osseo, mostly selling vegetables such as beans, peas, carrots, spices and potatoes.
“This is our first year doing all these little markets,” Lee said. “The Hennepin one isn’t turning out as we as we had hoped. It’s not as good as Nicollet Mall.”
Capella’s market was organized by The Musicant Group — run by corporate ‘placemaker’ Max Musicant — and by Ryan Cos. U.S. Inc., who manages the 53-story office tower on behalf of ASB Capital Markets.
The market will have a variety of vendors and events for tenants. There was a line of volunteers assembling sandwiches for a hunger program Wednesday and the Walker Art Center was there promoting its International Pop exhibit.
Sam Black, MSP Business Journal
To read the full article, go here.
The Musicant Group’s work with the Lake Street Council via a grant from Blue Cross Blue Shield of MN Center for prevention was recently featured in Finance & Commerce here.
Minneapolis unveiled new concepts this week for the city’s first shared street for bikes, pedestrians and vehicles.
As the city plans to reconstruct 29th Street alongside the Midtown Greenway and several new developments, officials want to repurpose the pothole-filled and seldom traveled street into a more vibrant public place.
The city plans to eventually reconstruct 29th Street between Lyndale and Fremont avenues with design elements meant to slow vehicle traffic and create a safe environment for biking, walking and other activities.
The road is an ideal candidate for the project because its poor condition means it sees little vehicle traffic today, said Minneapolis City Council Member Lisa Bender. It’s in a part of town where the city is attracting many new residents and it’s very close to the greenway.
“The community saw it as an opportunity to do something more innovative,” Bender said. “They wanted something more like a plaza than a road.”
The shared street concept calls for elevating the roadway to the sidewalk level and creating one curbless surface for all modes. The shared street is new to Minneapolis, but there are others in Seattle and one under construction in Chicago. Several developers are including short shared streets, called “woonerfs,” in upcoming projects.
“It’s mostly designed for people to walk and bicycle, but cars are allowed at a slow pace,” Bender said. The space can also be programmed for activities during different times of the year.
The first phase of the project, which is planned for construction in 2016, would be from Lyndale to Bryant Avenue. The first phase is already included in the city’s capital improvement budget for $700,000 and would move into final design next fall. The first phase of the street could be open to the public before winter 2016. Subsequent phases would cost about $1.4 million, according to city documents.
The land uses get more “complicated” farther west, Bender said. For example, the right of way for the road behind the Cub Foods is not owned by the city but by the grocery store. As sites on the western end redevelop, portions of the shared street could be constructed in coordination with those projects, she said.
The city and other stakeholders shared a vision for the new street last weekend during the Open Streets festival on Lyndale Avenue. Visitors were able to experience what the road would be like with more pedestrian activity and public space.
The Lake Street Council received a grant from Blue Cross Blue Shield to showcase the potential for the space this summer. The grant was used to set up the shared street concept last Sunday and to install a temporary “parklet” on 29th Street that will be in place all summer.
The street today is barrier between residents and retail establishments along Lake Street and the Midtown Greenway, said Max Musicant, who runs a placemaking firm retained by the Lake Street Council to plan activities on 29th Street.
“It’s just an ugly street which separates the property owners and businesses from that super valuable amenity of the Greenway,” he said.
The street is lined with new apartment complexes and the fully leased MoZaic office and retail building. A redesigned street that attracts pedestrians and cyclists will bring more customers to businesses, Musicant said.
From the city’s perspective, it’s important to add community value in infrastructure projects.
“Instead of just putting in a roadway designed for cars to move through the space, we can create a true community asset for people,” Bender said. “The cost is so comparable to a regular road. The community is getting a huge benefit for little or no extra cost to the city.”
To read the full article, go here.
Emerging technology and changing preferences by the next generation of workers are driving a wholesale shift in the way people work. Employees are demanding new kinds of amenities, experiences and flexibility from their workplaces. With “place” being the operative word.
The next generation of workers is demanding more than just a cubical, break room, and coffee machine from their offices. They want to work in real places that facilitate community, connection, and wellness; that give them options on when, where, and with whom they can work. The impact of shifting preferences towards more walkable, amenity rich areas with lots of “3rd places” is not just isolated to the residential market, but is impacting the future of office space too.
Employees are Demanding More Flexibility
In a 2011 study by Price Waterhouse Coopers, they found that for the next generation of workers, personal development and work/life balance would be more important than financial reward. The most essential benefit they wanted from employers was personal learning and development, followed by flexible working arrangements, with the traditional benefit of cash bonuses coming in third. Further, 67% of respondents expected some level of flexible working arrangements at their future place of employment.
And flexible working is already here. A Forrester Research found in a June 2012 study that 56% of surveyed employees work outside the office regularly. The rise of flexible working speaks to a potential reduction in the amount of square feet per employee future tenants will need.
Will the growing demand for flexible off-site working arrangements combined with increasingly effective remote working technology doom the modern office building to irrelevance?
Hardly. But these changing currents will force building owners and managers to think differently about their facilities and services, especially their common areas. The most savvy owners, managers, and leasing agents will utilize a placemaking approach to capitalize on these shifts to create experiences and environments that make tenants actually want to come to work at the office every day.
Placemaking Common Areas as an Adaptive Approach to Changing Trends
While creating fun, flexible spaces is common within single user corporate campuses (Google-plex, Target Plaza, etc.) across the country, it’s rare to find these in multi-tenant buildings. The reasons are obvious, multi-tenant buildings are shared, often open to the public, and don’t have as much space for these amenities and experiences. That said, buildings of all types – class A, B, and C – often have relatively large indoor and outdoor common areas spaces that are used as little more than glorified hallways.
By utilizing a placemaking approach within these common areas, building owners and managers can create the sorts of experiences that tenants and their employees are craving without breaking the bank.
What is Placemaking?
Placemaking is a people-centered approach to improve the every-day experience of users in any given space; combining design, management, marketing, and events to do so. Placemaking is also an ongoing and iterative process that utilizes loops of affordable, small-scale experiments and feedback loops. This approach allows owners and managers to try new concepts without breaking down a wall (or the bank) and being able to involve the tenants in the process. The latter creates a sense of ownership over the space by tenants, increasing their usage of the space and retention within the building when their lease is up for renewal.
Musicant Group Project Examples and Results
The first of note is 333 S. 7th Street, formally known as the Accenture tower, which is managed and leased by CBRE. The building has an attractive outdoor lawn/common area. Prior to 2014, that space was not creating much value for tenants (and thus building ownership), as no one was using it. In the summer of 2014 The Musicant Group was retained to launch the “333 Turf Club” was launched, an activation strategy that added new furniture, games, and activities to the space. Post project evaluation found that:
The Musicant Group utilizes the new physical features to produce regular events, installations, and programs for tenants and guests. These new physical features and amenities create a dynamic experience for tenants and guests to get away from the office, while still being productive; a space for connections, creating, and collaboration. The renovation represents the largest move yet within the regional market to capitalize on aforementioned trends. While only open a few weeks, the space is already full of creative events, tenants having meetings, eating lunch, and working on laptops.
As the office market continues to evolve, these projects will likely prove to be just the tip of the iceberg as the next evolution of the workplace emerges. Stay tuned!
This article was written by Max Musicant, Principal and Founder of The Musicant Group and originally printed by the Building Owners and Management Association of Minneapolis.
To read full article, go here.