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Mobile, AL

AARP Community Challenge Grant Year: 2020

Project Category: Public space activation

Description: Organizers with Via Health, Fitness and Enrichment Center envisioned a community green space where Mobile residents of all ages can interact. This project added two gazebos to the space, providing visitors with shade. Project organizers also installed a bike rack and dog watering station onsite and volunteers constructed a raised garden bed for growing flowers, herbs and vegetables. Since the transformation, Midtown Meets has become a meetup spot for local walking and biking clubs, a space for college students to take study breaks and a place for older adults to socialize. In addition, a new volunteer group, called Midtown Neighbors, continues to meet to work in the community garden beds.

Columbia, SC

AARP Community Challenge Grant Year: 2020

Project Category: Public space activation

Description: As part of efforts to activate space and increase the vitality of Columbia's downtown, this project created the city's first parklet. Parklets transform on-street parking spaces into public gathering spaces. Originally intended to be temporary, Columbia's miniature park consists of a ground-level, fenced-in deck featuring an art installation, a cafe table and chairs and new planters. While several nearby restaurants lack outdoor seating space, the parklet remedied this, giving visitors a space to eat and socialize. To gather public feedback about the new space, city staff displayed a QR code onsite, which linked to an online survey. Spurred by the success of this project, organizers made plans to add more parklets downtown. City staff have also looked into creating a parklet ordinance, which would allow local businesses to create similar spaces in the future.

Brattleboro, VT

AARP Community Challenge Grant Year: 2020

Project Category: Public space activation

Description: Residents considered the Brattleboro Transportation Center's parking garage to be ugly and uninviting. To change this, the Downtown Brattleboro Alliance worked with local artists to create signage for each level of the garage. The new signs feature a different animal for each level, with each creature -- the osprey, river otter, American shad and sea lamprey -- significant to the Abenaki indigenous community and the Connecticut River ecosystem. Additionally, the Alliance held a pop-up event in the garage's elevator to display the prototype for a new Ask the River kinetic sculpture. Visitors to the garage could view the sculpture and give their feedback. Today, the full-size version of the artwork decorates the facade of the Transportation Center building.

Nearby AARP Community Challenge Projects

Jackson, MS

AARP Community Challenge Grant Year: 2019

Project Category: Engaging residents in vibrant public places

Description: To recast public spaces for people rather than vehicle traffic, the City of Jackson launched an Open Streets initiative. First, the City installed a parklet -- a small park that fits in the footprint of a parking space. The parklet is just one component of us trying to make Congress Street more pedestrian-friendly. This street was a very automobile-oriented street. It was very traffic heavy. It was very busy, urban designer Travis Crabree said. The City painted a mural onsite. To demarcate the space, project organizers also painted vibrant blue dots along the street, demarking it as a place to gather. Additionally, the City purchased picnic tables and flexible furniture, which it set out in Smith Park. Local organizations -- such as the Parks and Recreation Department -- can now use the furniture for downtown events.

Jackson, MS

AARP Community Challenge Grant Year: 2021

Project Category: Trails

Description: The City of Jackson is working to develop the Museum Trail -- a four-mile, multi-use path designed to improve community health and wellness, connect areas of interest within the community and promote active transportation. Building on this work, the Jackson Heart Foundation improved wayfinding along the corridor by installed railhead and mile markers. Organizers say the signage helps visitors understand where the trail begins and ends and provides them with information about ongoing work to improve the path. Volunteers also created a mural at the trail's entrance. And to promote the trail, project organizers launched a new website and offered branded tote bags for donors.

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