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Atlanta, GA

AARP Community Challenge Grant Year: 2021

Project Category: Public space activation

Description: Woodruff Park's game cart allows visitors to borrow games, sports equipment and other recreation items at no charge. To improve the kiosk's appearance and attract visitors, the Atlanta Downtown Improvement District partnered with local graphic design students to create highly visible decals. They also used checkerboard decals to convert round park tables into game tables. Finally, the organization purchased new supplies for the game cart, including coloring books, watercolor paint kits and markers and crayons. Following the improvements, the BID used the tabled to host chess tournaments, which attracted new visitors to the park.

Wetumpka, AL

AARP Community Challenge Grant Year: 2019

Project Category: Public space activation

Description: Until Main Street Wetumpka saw the opportunity to create an outdoor community space, the dim alley connecting Company and Hill Streets in downtown Wetumpka served largely as a place to park cars. The local nonprofit worked to transform the alley into a sustainable, wheelchair accessible outdoor gathering space featuring greenery, moveable furniture and a live performance space. After a devastating tornado in early 2019, the Alleyway Project had to take a pause. But the project got back on track, with Main Street Wetumpka completing its work before other damage in the area was restored. Because of this, the alley activation became an inspiration for a wounded town. Now it's a lively spot for weekly events and a place for local workers to eat lunch outside. A project organizer said she hopes the alley's mural featuring historic Wetumpka figures helps connect young residents to their history inspires them to reach for the stars.

Avoca, IA

AARP Community Challenge Grant Year: 2018

Project Category: Public space activation

Description: Avoca's Main Street already had green space and places to sit, but Avoca Public Library organizers wanted to give residents a reason to spend time downtown. To invite people in, they installed oversized, weather-proof musical instruments outside the library. Since the instruments don't require any training or talent to play, they are popular with residents of all ages. Part of the town's creative placemaking plans, the new music park is located near the site of Avoca's weekly summer farmer's market. It's a fun part of the town now, Avoca resident Sunshine Schoeller said.

Nearby AARP Community Challenge Projects

Chicago, IL

AARP Community Challenge Grant Year: 2018

Project Category: Public space activation

Description: To promote walkability, economic development and better quality of life for residents, the Chicago Department of Transportation created a replicable prototype for a People Spot. Consisting of a wooden platform, the People Spots transform on-street parking spaces into outdoor patios. To help neighborhood groups set up their own People Spots, the City published construction plans and an assembly manual for the parklets online. Part of the City's Livable Streets Program, organizers say the temporary infrastructure helps neighborhoods overcome economic hardship by encouraging residents to walk and frequent local businesses. The City installed its first People Spot in the South Side Chatham neighborhood in 2018. That iteration measured about six feet wide by 20 feet long, but the platforms can be as long as 80 feet.

Chicago, IL

AARP Community Challenge Grant Year: 2020

Project Category: Community Gardens

Description: The El Paseo Community Garden in Chicago's Pilsen neighborhood added a new gathering space, dubbed El Convivio or The Gathering. The goal of the project was to make the garden more accessible to Latino older adults living in nearby apartment buildings. Improvements to the space include an outdoor kitchen and patio with a fire pit, ADA-compliant seating, walking paths and an accessible planting station. Planters at the site were specifically designed to grow culturally relevant produce, including tomatoes, peppers, garlic and onions. The picnic area's stucco and ceramic tiles mimic designs seen in Mexican haciendas. Garden leaders partnered with nonprofit architectural firm Human Scale to involve garden members in the space's design and volunteers from the neighborhood installed the new amenities. As El Paseo's leadership finalized El Convivio, they also worked with the City of Chicago to secured additional land to expand the garden.

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