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Three New Cities Awarded “Heart of the Community” Placemaking Grants

Jun 14, 2017
Jan 9, 2018

Southwest Airlines and Project for Public Spaces are pleased to announce the three U.S. cities that have been awarded this year’s Southwest Airlines Heart of the Community grants. Now entering its fourth year, this exciting grant program has helped local organizations and partners in 20 cities to re-imagine and reactivate important but underperforming public spaces in their communities.

‍Community outreach event in Atlanta's Woodruff Park, recipient of Southwest Heart of the Community grant in 2016 | Image by PPS

Since the creation of the Heart of the Community program in 2014, Southwest Airlines has been committed to supporting placemaking projects throughout the country as a way to help bring people together and strengthen communities for a more resilient future. One of the ways the airline is accomplishing this is by partnering with PPS to support the creation, activation, and sustainability of vibrant community gathering spaces such as Burnside Park in Providence (2013), Pratt & Light Plaza in Baltimore (2014), Civic Plaza in Albuquerque, and Pershing Square in Los Angeles (2016).

To date, the airline has invested over $6.4M in this effort.

We are excited to present below the 2017 Heart of the Community grant recipients, selected from a competitive pool of ­­­over 75 applicants representing 43 cities nationwide:

Reading Park | Buffalo, NY

In Buffalo, NY, partners at the Buffalo & Erie County Library are taking great strides to empower the local community, to encourage lifelong learning through accessible educational alternatives, and to provide meaningful cultural experiences for the entire community. With support from the Southwest Airlines Heart of the Community grant, they will transform the library’s front yard – an “orphaned” space in the heart of Buffalo’s downtown – into the “Reading Park,” which will be an extension of the Library and the centerpiece of the city’s emerging Literary Corridor. By “bringing the inside out,” the Library will offer more programming and opportunities for neighborhood connections, helping it to become an even greater asset to the entire city.

Duncan Plaza | New Orleans, LA

In New Orleans, Duncan Plaza is a point of convergence that connects several distinct and diverse downtown neighborhoods. Until now, though, the potential of this public space to become a treasured community place has yet to be fully realized. With support from Southwest Airlines Heart of the Community grant, the Downtown Development District and Arts Council of New Orleans hope to capture the city’s unique character and charm within this park, making it a valuable local asset and a springboard for social life and cultural expression. By engaging with all the existing users of this plaza, this project aims to transform Duncan Plaza from a forgotten space between neighborhoods into a quality place that connects people from all walks of life, helping to build community and generate long-term resilience.

Kerr Park | Oklahoma City, OK

At the center of downtown Oklahoma City, Kerr Park is a freshly renovated public space with the potential and ambition to become the city’s shared living room. With support from the Southwest Airlines Heart of the Community grant, Downtown OKC, Inc. (DOKC) and partners hope to attract not only local office workers and visitors to Kerr Park, but also the area’s growing residential community for whom the downtown has only recently become a place to call home. Located at the epicenter of a vibrant dining, arts, and entertainment scene, the park will soon become a placemaking trailblazer and a model for how other spaces in the city can reflect the energy, creativity, and dynamism of today’s Oklahoma City.

Our goal in working with the 2017 Southwest Airlines Heart of the Community grant recipients is to help them create great public spaces where everyone in the community feels welcome. When people in communities come together in this effort, results are tangible and immediate, and the placemaking process itself helps to strengthen the sense of belonging, sociability and inclusion that great places naturally generate.” –Fred Kent

Congratulations to this year’s awardees! We can’t wait to celebrate these exciting public space transformations with each of these communities throughout the coming year.

Interested in applying for a 2018 Heart of the Community grant? Details will be available in September 2017, but in the meantime, click here for more information on the application process, and visit our Frequently Asked Questions page to learn more and sign up for program notifications.

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