Heart of the Community FAQ

Q: What is Heart of the Community?

A: Heart of the Community is Southwest Airlines’ multi-year program dedicated to revitalizing and activating public spaces in the hearts of cities in partnership with the pioneering nonprofit organization behind Placemaking, Project for Public Spaces (PPS). Launched in 2014, the Heart of the Community program provides direct grants and technical assistance to local community partners to bring new life to their public spaces.

Q: What are the goals of the program?

A: Heart of the Community aims to:

  • Help communities across the country bring new life to their public spaces, transforming them into vibrant places that connect people and strengthen communities
  • Raise mainstream awareness of Placemaking as a defined social cause and a catalyst for building sustainable, healthy, inclusive, and economically viable communities
  • Encourage participation and volunteerism that benefits public spaces in local communities

Q: Why is Southwest Airlines involved in the issue of Placemaking?

A: Southwest Airlines is in the business of taking people from place and to place and believes that public places are truly the heart of the local communities where its People call home and where its Customers love to visit. Southwest Airlines is committed to connecting people and strengthening local communities through its core business, charitable giving, community outreach, and environmental initiatives.

Q: What is Placemaking?

A: Placemaking is a movement that reimagines public spaces as the heart of every community. Rooted in community-based participation, Placemaking involves the planning, design, management and programming of public spaces and capitalizes on a community’s assets and potential to create vibrant destinations—such as neighborhood gardens, community markets, and downtown squares. For more than 30 years, Placemaking has sparked social, economic, and environmental benefits in communities around the world. Additional information can be found here.

Q: Who runs Heart of the Community?

A: Heart of the Community is a Southwest Airlines program managed in partnership with nonprofit organization PPS. PPS administers the grant process for the program and provides technical assistance to local partners.

Q: How many Heart of the Community projects are selected annually?

A: While there is no set number of projects selected annually, Heart of the Community aims to support approximately six projects per year.

Q: What are you looking for when selecting projects and local community partners?

A: We are looking for projects that address clear needs in the local community and have the potential for catalytic impact in the project city. We are looking for partners who are committed to the Placemaking process and who demonstrate the capacity to engage their community in creating and implementing a shared vision for public spaces in their city.

These projects follow our Lighter, Quicker, Cheaper philosophy, and are intended to be implemented in a relatively-short time frame. All grant-funded activities must be completed within one calendar year of being awarded.

Q: What organizations are eligible to apply for a Heart of the Community grant?

A: The applicant organization should be directly involved in management of the project site or have the capacity to collaborate with the necessary civic partners to implement the project. Applicants must either own the property proposed for the project, or have a formal agreement with the property owner that entitles them to use the site—in which case the property owner must be cited as a committed partner in the application.

Applicants and potential project sites must be located in the core of a city served by Southwest Airlines. Proposed projects in a city that has already received a Heart of the Community grant are not eligible to apply at this time.

Q: What do Heart of the Community projects look like?

A: Heart of the Community projects are customized to meet the unique needs and desires of the local community. PPS, Southwest Airlines, and the local community partner engage the community to develop the project vision for the selected public space—such as a park, plaza, or street corner—and then design and implement physical improvements, expanded amenities, and programming. The 2013 projects in Detroit, Providence, and San Antonio provide good examples of the typical scope of a Heart of the Community project.

Q: How much is a Heart of the Community grant worth?

A:  In the past, cash grants have ranged between $50,000 and $100,000 to the grantee, plus an equivalent amount of in-kind support in the form of technical assistance from PPS staff provided to help the partners realize their project and build local capacity for Placemaking. Therefore, the total values of the grants have ranged between $100,000 and $200,000.

Q: How do I apply for a Heart of the Community grant?

A: Heart of the Community is currently in the implementation phase for 2015 projects. Information about applying for 2016 Heart of the Community grants will be available late summer of 2015. Communities do not need to reapply for a Heart of the Community grant each year; however, local project updates are welcome as appropriate. To be notified when 2016 application materials become available later this summer, please submit your email address in the form below. For more information, contact HOTC@pps.org.

Q: Who should I contact for media inquiries?

A: Please contact swamedia@wnco.com.

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