Detroit’s Canfield Social Yard Wins “It’s About Place” Contest
A panel of national placemaking experts selected Detroit’s Canfield School Yard project as the $2,000 grand prize winner of the Let’s Save Michigan “It’s About Place” contest.
The contest, which started in May with online voting of 46 projects from 28 Michigan communities, concluded this week with a group of judges selecting four projects to receive a share of $4,000 in prize money. The money is to be used to implement the projects, said Sarah Szurpicki, the contest’s project coordinator. A $1,000 second-place prize was awarded to The Fat Garden Project in Muskegon; and two $500 runner-up prizes went to Innovation Square project in Detroit and the Old Hartland High School Project in Hartland.
Nora León, of the Canfield School Yard project, was ecstatic about winning the contest. The Canfield School Yard project seeks to raise awareness of the west Woodbridge area in Detroit and foster a culture of neighborhood and civic engagement by programming a vacant lot with entertainment and educational events that support existing community efforts and encourage new projects.
"We are beyond excited about winning the Let's Save Michigan “It’s About Place” competition,” León said. “It is a tremendous honor and we can't wait to get our hands dirty and bring Canfield Social Yard to life. We think the project has the potential to become a great asset for the Woodbridge community.”
The other three winning projects are:
Muskegon: The Fat Garden Project – second prize $1,000: The Fat Garden Project helps the Fatty Lumpkins Sandwich Shack secure much-needed parking but more important, transforms a portion of a vacant lot into a beautiful, functional picnic and garden area complete with works of art by local Muskegon artists.
Detroit: Innovation Square – runner-up $500: Innovation Square will transform a “cracked, warped and tired” parking lot in Tech Town into an inviting outdoor space that encourages inter-organization collaboration and community development, with the goal of generating sufficient momentum to secure follow-on funding.
Hartland: Old Hartland High School – runner-up $500: The Old Hartland High School project will create a year-round gathering place with an atmosphere that encourages interaction and socialization among community members and where community groups can hold casual meetings under the backdrop of a large Poetry Word Wall.
Judges gave significant weight to the feasibility of a project in selecting the winners, as well as to submissions that show they have considered how to manage the project over time. Other criteria include creativity and originality, community engagement and the overall impact that the project could have on the community.
Placemaking judge Nate Berg, staff writer for The Atlantic Cities, was very impressed with all the finalists’ ideas. Moreover, he was struck by how well the projects coordinated with the surrounding community and local government.
“Ideas—even really good ideas—are far more plentiful than the capacity to take on the often long and frustrating task of working within bureaucracies to bring those ideas to reality,” Berg said. “It should be inspiring for people throughout Michigan and beyond to see such dedication from these finalists for making small but important improvements to their neighborhoods.”
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