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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.

Charleston, SC

AARP Community Challenge Grant Year: 2019

Project Category: Public space activation

Description: The American College of the Building Arts installed benches and a new pergola to create a multigenerational gathering space at the Community's Hope Impact Center, a local community center. The College saw the installation process as an opportunity for education, holding workshops on masonry where volunteers helped lay bricks for the space's walkway. With a goal of preserving, enriching and educating about architectural heritage, the organization trains artisans in traditional building crafts, such as carpentry and forging architectural iron. It was founded in the wake of Hurricane Hugo in 1989, which damaged or destroyed much of coastal South Carolina's historic architecture.

Gooding, ID

AARP Community Challenge Grant Year: 2020

Project Category: Public space activation

Description: The Gooding Public Library Foundation converted an unused area of West Park into a community commons. Located near Gooding's library, city hall and police station, the site now features accessible picnic tables, shade canopies and lidded trash cans. The library now uses the site for a variety of activities, including story time and science experiments. Library patrons, workers on lunch break and other community members also gather in the space. The library now plans to install a little free library in the park.

Nearby AARP Community Challenge Projects

Kansas City, MO

AARP Community Challenge Grant Year: 2018

Project Category: Roadway/sidewalks/crosswalk improvement

Description: Kansas City's Oak Street was long plagued by high-speed car crashes. This month-long demonstration project put a two-block stretch of Oak Street on a road diet, with a mobility lane replacing one lane of traffic. Cars parked along the street -- as well as new planters -- protect bicyclists, scooter users, skateboarders, rollerbladers and joggers from traffic. The changes maintained all preexisting on-street parking. In fact, the project added two parking spots while also adding parking for 12 bicycles, 25 scooters and a few motorcycles. During the demonstration, vehicle speeds were 10 to 15 miles per hour slower than before. Since the project, the City has invested in parking hubs for bikes and scooters.

Kansas City, MO

AARP Community Challenge Grant Year: 2020

Project Category: Public safety interventions

Description: As part of community placemaking efforts, the Blue Hills Neighborhood Association installed solar pathway lights to Blue Hills-Kissick Park. The pocket park -- created by activating a vacant lot -- is a new addition to midtown Kansas City. Intended to increase safety, the lights allow residents to visit the park after dark. Organizers say the new green space serves as a pilot project, demonstrating how repurposing vacant lots can beautify a neighborhood, cut down on illegal dumping and reduce crime. The Association reports the project also helped them educate residents about the benefits of solar lighting, which include reduced electric bills.

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