Beer garden, soccer park projects among finalists for slice of $5M cash pot

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A pop-up beer garden tour and a new park for soccer are among the ideas in the running for a slice of a $5 million cash pot for projects designed to make cities "more successful."

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation is running a three-year project giving out $15 million to winning ideas put forward by nonprofits, government bodies and urban planners from 26 cities where the Knight Brothers used to own newspapers – which includes St. Paul and Duluth.

More than 4,500 applications were submitted in the second year of the giveaway, with every one designed to either help their cities attract or keep its "best and brightest," break down social and economic divides, or spur community engagement and involvement.

The foundation on Tuesday announced 158 finalists, with 10 of these from St. Paul, three from Duluth and one a joint venture between the two cities.

Here's a look at St. Paul's:

  • Taking Down Fences, Celebrating New Space Together: The Truth for Public Land wants to turn a vacant lot in the Central Corridor into a park for soccer and other pursuits.
  • More Than a Single Continent: An Intellectual Tour of Little Africa: African Economic Development Solutions wants to use food, music and discussions at restaurants to boost community engagement and break down barriers in the Little Africa neighborhood.
  • Bright Collective: This project would see the creation of a community "catalogue of experts" enabling residents to learn more about various subjects.
  • It's Cool: St. Paul's Planning and Economic Development department wants to install heaters and other equipment at public spaces to make it more comfortable for the community to share meals and mingle.
  • Front Lawn Placemaking: The Musicant Group wants money to help people transform the "empty expanses of grass" in their front yards to make them "vibrant places full of life."
  • St. Paul veloCITY Academy: The City of St. Paul has partnered with GovLoop and Textizen to use text messaging and other communication to "inspire and equip emerging leaders."
  • Civic Shed: St. Paul Riverfront Corp. wants to put together a set of landscaping tools and seating that can be used by community groups to improve their neighborhoods.
  • Welcome Neighbor: Provides new immigrants to the city with a resource packet with local information helping them acclimate to life in Minnesota.
  • Neighborhood Beer Garden Tour: The Planning and Economic Development Department has another idea, this one creating pop-up beer gardens in each of the city's 17 neighborhoods, encouraging residents to visit different areas.
  • I'm Going to Vote Today! Distributing "I'm Going to Vote Today" stickers to encourage participation on voting day.

Here are the submissions from Duluth:

  • industrial PARK: The Design Duluth Collaborative and University of Minnesota wants to open up trails and open spaces along the St. Louis River, improving the waterfront and boosting the community of Irving.
  • Opening the Can of Worms: Creating better open public spaces in the Lincoln Park neighborhood to promote business and increase activity.
  • Wheels That Lived to Move: Providing artistic, refurbished road bikes at bus stops to generate music or heat through pedaling.

The joint submission that would benefit both cities is the Voting Simulator, seeing digital games created to encourage millennials and other people navigate the voting process.

The winning projects are likely to be announced in March.

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