Ideas for AARP Age-Friendly Communities Make Knight Cities Challenge Finals

The 26 cities eligible to complete in the Knigh Cities Challenge.

The 26 cities eligible to compete in the Knight Cities Challenge

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation has announced the 158 finalists for its second annual Knight Cities Challenge, a national call for ideas to make the 26 communities where the Knight brothers founded newspapers into “more vibrant places to live and work.”

The challenge asked applicants to answer the question: “What’s your best idea to make cities more successful?”

More than 4,500 individuals and groups responded with ideas focused on one or more of three drivers of city success:

  • Talent: Ideas that help cities attract and keep the best and brightest
  • Opportunity: Ideas that expand economic prospects and break down divides
  • Engagement: Ideas that spur connection and civic involvement

The winners will be announced in the spring and receive a share of $5 million. Since some of the Knight cities are also members of the AARP Network of Age-Friendly Communities, we’ve listed those finalists here. The many other finalists are listed on the Knight Foundation’s blog.


Super Play (submitted by Griffin VanMeter): Building a family-friendly gathering and play space for the community to encourage talented young adults to live in the city.

Fancy Lex (submitted by Clay Thornton): Creating a festival that showcases Kentucky Proud products, and local music and businesses, while connecting local government representatives with residents to share their role, work and vision.

Family-Centered Public Spaces by Lexington Public Library (submitted by Anne Donworth): Transforming Phoenix Park and Central Library into a place where children and families from diverse backgrounds can learn and play together; the project would involve complementary park and library programming and activities for families.

Parking Lot Diaries by Lexington Downtown Development Authority (submitted by Jeff Fugate): Creating a living civic engagement lab in an underused area next to the Transit Center that tests and tracks temporary interventions and activities designed to add vibrancy to the area; the project will contribute to the city’s Town Branch Commons plan.

Water for All by Blue Grass Community Foundation (submitted by Lisa Adkins): Transforming an underutilized park into Lexington’s first splash park and gathering space situated at the junction of four economically and racially diverse neighborhoods.


Macon General Store (submitted by David Moore): Transforming a vacant storefront into a marketplace that gives rising entrepreneurs the opportunity to sell local products.

The Tindall Project: Voices From the Hood (submitted by Deborah-Patrice Hamlin): Engaging the historic Tindall Heights Housing Project community in event-driven discussions about Macon’s rich musical heritage and showcasing the city’s new musical talent.

Intergenerational Pop-Up Park Goes Permanent by Macon-Bibb County Parks and Beautification (submitted by Stephen Lawson): Creating a pop-up park to encourage connections among seniors, children and families from different backgrounds and income levels.

Neighborhood Incubator by Historic Macon Foundation (submitted by Ethiel Garlington): Teaching citizens how to organize neighborhood associations that would help address community challenges such as crime, litter, blight and other issues.

Pop-Up Minimum Grid in Macon by NewTown Macon (submitted by Josh Rogers): Creating a pop-up minimum grid that would allow citizens to explore their city safely on foot or on bicycles; the project would expand a trail system from the river to downtown and the surrounding neighborhoods.


The Meadow at Wister Station by Baynton Hill Neighbors Association (submitted by Amanda Staples): Attracting and retaining talented people by revitalizing the blighted corridor near the Wister rail station with a perennial garden.

The Family Garden by Group Melvin Design (submitted by Ben Bryant): Retaining talented millennials with children in Philadelphia by reimagining the pop-up beer garden as a family-oriented neighborhood experience.

The Little Music Studio: An Open Access Playground for Musicians by Group Melvin Design (submitted by Ben Bryant): Breaking down community barriers with the Little Music Studio, a traveling playground for musicians.

20 Book Clubs, 20 Cooperative Businesses by Philadelphia Area Cooperative Alliance (submitted by Caitlin Quigley): Increasing civic engagement and economic opportunity by launching book clubs in 20 Philadelphia neighborhoods for participants to study cooperative businesses and then form their own.

Councilmatic: Get Alerts for Local Events by Participatory Politics Foundation (submitted by David Moore): Increasing civic engagement by enabling residents to subscribe to alerts for public events, such as city meetings, via email and text messaging.

Real World 101 by The Enterprise Center (submitted by Jesse Blitzstein): Retaining talented people in Philadelphia by connecting college students and local businesses to engage in mutually beneficial projects, such as building websites and refining financial plans.

City Safari by City Safari (submitted by Marjolijn Masselink): Increasing civic engagement with city tours led by locals that take visitors to places that are off the beaten path.

Diner de Famille — Philadelphia, 2016 (submitted by Tammy Cummings): Breaking down community barriers with the Diner de Famille, a pop-up dinner for families in Philadelphia held on the same night as Diner en Blanc, an experience celebrated around the world that brings together masses of people dressed in white for a shared meal.

Beyond the Census: Building a Positive Data Story of a Community’s Human Resources by Germantown United CDC (submitted by Emaleigh Doley): Increasing economic opportunity by discovering new data about underserved neighborhoods that attract new businesses and investment.

Harlem Renaissance: Multicity Retrospective Festival by the Brothers’ Network (submitted by Gregory Walker): Breaking down barriers and fostering community pride by showcasing the contribution of African American men to cultural life in Knight communities.

Viola Street Connector by Viola Street Residents Association (submitted by Joyce Smith): Breaking down community barriers by transforming a dilapidated alley that connects the Parkside Historic District and the Centennial District with art and events.

The Colored Girls Museum by the Colored Girls Museum (submitted by Vashti DuBois): Building pride in Philadelphia’s underserved neighborhoods by documenting the stories of Philadelphia’s black women through exhibits in residents’ houses.

Breaking Bread, Breaking Barriers: Food as a Bridge to Cultural Understanding by Reading Terminal Market (submitted by Anuj Gupta): Building cultural bridges to Philadelphia’s immigrant communities with cooking classes celebrating ethnic food operated by chefs from Reading Terminal Market.

Reengaging Youth in Education and Communities: Design-Build Rebooted by Lindy Institute for Urban Innovation, Drexel University (submitted by Geraldine Wang): Increasing civic engagement by helping high school youth to shape their own communities through a design-build studio run by Drexel University.

Institute of Hip-Hop Entrepreneurship (by Little Giant Creative, submitted by Tayyib Smith): Increasing economic opportunity by using hip-hop to provide hands-on business training to members of low-income groups.

Boat Philly (by Fairmount Park Conservancy, submitted by Elizabeth Moselle): Transforming underused Meadow Lake in South Philadelphia into an active urban boating destination as a pilot to promote boating throughout the city.

DoGoodr by the Philadelphia Citizen (submitted by Jenn McCreary): Increasing civic engagement with a new app that matches Philadelphians with other individuals, groups and civic organizations for learning opportunities and action.

Money Laundering: So Clean, How Can It Be Free? (by Forward LLC, submitted by Max Glass): Increasing economic opportunity and civic engagement by turning a blighted laundromat into an inviting public space that provides free laundry services.

Rewilding Philadelphia (Groundswell Design Group, submitted by Molly Lux): Creating a network of parks and “wild” spaces in the city to help residents learn about the environment and reconnect with nature.

Workspace Project Pop-Up  (by Groundswell Design Group, submitted by Molly Lux): Attracting and retaining talented people by using repurposed shipping containers to create affordable and unique community co-working spaces.


Waves of Collaboration: Creative Caravan Confluence (submitted by Connie Bonfy): Engaging residents who live just outside the revitalized downtown area through a mobile festival that explores technology, literacy, ecology and the arts.

Wichita Speak Ups! (submitted by Lisa D. Hines): Increasing civic engagement through daylong community pop-up forums designed to encourage people to participate in civic life.

Vote Like a Mother (by Greater Wichita YMCA, submitted by Mim McKenzie): Increasing civic engagement with temporary interventions, such as free child care and social meet-ups, designed to make voting more accessible, convenient and fun.

Melissa Stanton is the editor of, the website of AARP Livable Communities.



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