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
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