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Ten St. Paul finalists named in Knight Cities Challenge contest

The Knight Foundation funds the contest, providing $5 million to implement the winning ideas in cities where there have been Knight newspapers.

Ten St. Paul ideas are finalists in this year’s Knight Cities Challenge, which offers funding for top ideas that will make cities more vibrant and successful.

This is the second of a three-year run for the Knight Foundation’s challenge; last year, 32 winners shared the $5 million price.

There are 158 finalists this year, chosen out of 4,500 applications from 26 cities that have had Knight newspapers. The goal is for nonprofits, government organizations, experts or individuals to come up with ways to make their cities more successful by focusing on one or more of these:

●     Talent: Ideas that help cities attract and keep the best and brightest;

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●     Opportunity: Ideas that expand economic prospects and break down divides;

●     Engagement: Ideas that spur connection and civic involvement.

 Winners will be announced in the spring. Finalists from St. Paul this year are:

  1. Taking Down Fences, Celebrating New Space Together by The Trust for Public Land (submitted by Hilary Smith): Creating new green space along St. Paul’s Central Corridor by transforming a vacant lot into a park for soccer and other activities; the space will also advance a larger plan for the area that includes a new Major League soccer stadium. 
  2. More Than a Single Continent: An Intellectual Tour of Little Africa by African Economic Development Solutions (submitted by Gene Gelgelu): Increasing community engagement and breaking down social barriers through a series of events featuring food, music and discussions at restaurants in St. Paul’s Little Africa neighborhood.
  3. Bright Collective (submitted by Kris Huson): Increasing civic engagement and community connections with a catalog of experts that residents can “check out” to learn more on a variety of topics. 
  4. It’s Cool by St. Paul Department of Planning and Economic Development (submitted by Margaret Jones): Encouraging more use of public space in fall and early spring through pilot projects that provide heaters and other infrastructure to make the environment more comfortable for people to gather and share meals and conversation.
  5. Front Lawn Placemaking by The Musicant Group (submitted by Max Musicant): Transforming front lawns from empty expanses of grass to vibrant places full of life through the development of a toolkit that encourages residents to create community hubs on their doorsteps.
  6. St. Paul veloCITY Academy for Emerging Public Innovators by city of St. Paul (submitted by Scott Cordes): Increasing civic engagement in partnership with GovLoop and Textizen by designing a cutting-edge learning experience that uses tools such as text messaging to inspire and equip emerging leaders.
  7. Civic Shed by St. Paul Riverfront Corp. (submitted by Tim Griffin): Creating an accessible set of public space prototyping tools, such as landscaping elements and seating–and places to store them–for use by community groups to test neighborhood improvements.
  8. Welcome Neighbor (submitted by Tousue Vang): Welcoming new immigrants with a resource packet that features information on events, services and stores to help them acclimate to life in Minnesota.
  9. Neighborhood Beer Garden Tour by St. Paul Department of Planning and Economic Development(submitted by Ross Currier): Promoting civic engagement and community connections by creating pop-up beer gardens in each of St. Paul’s 17 neighborhoods and encouraging residents to visit the different neighborhoods.
  10. I’m Going to Vote Today! (submitted by Aaron Sackett)Testing a new way to increase participation in local elections by distributing stickers that read “I’m Going to Vote Today” to eligible voters to wear on Election Day.

Last year, four St. Paul ideas were chosen as winners of the first year’s competition:

  • 4 Play, $117,000, by Greater MSP (Submitted by Peter Frosch): Changing the way people perceive the city and its climate by inviting all residents to come together for an outdoor activity — whether it’s ice fishing or summer canoeing — once per season.
  • 8-80 Vitality Fellow, $175,000, Mayor’s Office, City of St. Paul (Submitted by Mayor Chris Coleman): Promoting a more livable St. Paul by embedding a fellow in the mayor’s office who will work across departments to manage the $42 million committed to the mayor’s 8-80 Vitality Fund, which aims to ensure that walking, biking and public spaces are a priority in all city projects.
  • MN Nice Breakers, $37,960 (Submitted by Jun-Li Wang): Making the city more welcoming by using existing events to help newcomers quickly establish social networks that attach them to the city.
  • Rolling Out the Warm Welcome Hat, $67,288 (Submitted by Jun-Li Wang): Welcoming newcomers by having city leaders hold monthly ceremonies to give them an official welcome gift, a warm hat for Minnesota winters.