Southwest Airlines
Heart of the Community

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 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 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 are an alternative to the traditional slow, capital-intensive approach, and are intended to be implemented (and create lasting benefits) in a relatively-short time frame. All grant-funded activities must be completed within one calendar year of being awarded.

Q: Can an organization apply for multiple projects or sites?

A: Heart of the Community applicants may submit proposals for only one project/site per application. If applicants have multiple sites in mind, they are encouraged to determine which site is the best fit for the program and submit an application for that site only.

However, in the rare case where more than one site would be an outstanding candidate, we will allow applicants to submit a second complete application for the alternative site. No more than two applications per organization may be submitted.

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 partner engage the community to develop the project vision for the selected public space—such as a park, plaza, or vacant lot—and then design and implement physical improvements, expanded amenities, and programming. The pilot 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: Do applicants need to submit a proposed project budget?

A: A proposed project budget is not requested in the application. Although it is important in the application to clearly outline your goals for the grant funding, a specific budget will be established later (after a project has been selected) in collaboration with Project for Public Spaces.

Q: What if my organization previously applied for, but did not receive, a Heart of the Community grant, and wishes to be reconsidered in 2016?

A: As long as another project has not been selected in your city (see map), you are still eligible for Heart of the Community. The applicant organization does not need to fully reapply; however, in order to be reconsidered for 2016, organizations must submit a proposed project update (contact for details).

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.

Prior applicants have included business improvement districts, universities, park “friends” groups, foundations, conservancies, arts organizations, libraries, and many more.

Projects must be in or near a city served by Southwest Airlines. Proposed projects in a city or metro region that has already received a Heart of the Community grant are not eligible to apply at this time.

Location is a factor in selection: the core of the principal city of the region will receive preference. Projects undertaken have largely been in underutilized spaces in downtowns or other core neighborhoods and destinations. The project scope tends to have the greatest impact in these areas, which draw diverse users and programming partners from around the city and region.

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

A: 2016 Heart of the Community projects have been selected. Information about applying for 2017 projects will be available in the fall of 2016. To receive program updates, including notifications about the release of 2017 applications, please submit your email address in the form below. For more information, contact

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Q: Who should I contact for media inquiries?

A: Please contact

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