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How You Can Help Improve Miami's Public Spaces

Mark Hogan/Flickr

Miami doesn’t have a lot of public spaces. Experts say things like parks and plazas are in short supply, and that might hurt the city’s ability to attract and retain talented workers.

In order to change that, the Miami Foundation is trying out something new. It's holding a contest for ideas to make more public space in the county and awarding $100,000 in prize money to implement the best ideas.

Battling History

Cities with robust public spaces usually have one thing in common: they planned for that space early on. New York’s Central Park is an example of a large public space that was incorporated into the design of the city.

But, it's hard to carve out public space after a city has already been built, which is the case with Miami, according to urban planner Anthony Garcia.

He says it's also difficult to motivate locals to demand more public space if they've never had it and don't know what they're missing.

Credit Ana Bikic/The Street Plans Collaborative
Anthony Garcia is no stranger to carving out public spaces in Miami. He's been behind a couple projects that have built temporary parks over parking spaces and lots like this one next to Bayfront Park in early 2012.

"There's a negative inertia, it holds us back from actually implementing public spaces on that grand scale,” explained Garcia. “So, our newness is kind of a problem."

What Makes People Fall For Miami

Not having a lot of public space could hurt the ability of the city and the county to attract and keep talented people.

One of the goals of the Miami Foundation’s Our Miami project is to fight brain drain. The organization has done a lot of research into what is needed to get people to feel attached to Miami. Stuart Kennedy with the foundation says aesthetics, social offerings and openness are key elements to retaining talent.

"Public spaces affect all three of those top drivers of attachment,” said Kennedy. “We found out that only 42 percent of residents in Miami-Dade County live within walking distance of a public park or beach."

The Challenge

The Our Miami Public Spaces Challenge is having a kick-off event Wednesday, July 31, at 6:00 p.m. at The Stage Miami in the Design District. Starting Thursday, August 1, the Miami Foundation will start accepting ideas on its website for improving or building public spaces in Miami-Dade County.

If you are interested in participating in the challenge, keep in mind that the definition of a public space—at least by the Miami Foundation—is broad. Public spaces are areas where people can freely gather and interact. So, a farmer's market, playground, street or even something as simple as a park bench, count.

Question: What features do you look for in a public space? Tell us.