From 2014 to 2019, with lead partner Project for Public Spaces, the Heart of the Community grant program provided financial and technical assistance to local community partners who sought to bring new life to their public spaces and to strengthen their communities for a more resilient future.
Southwest Airlines is in the business of connecting people to what’s important in their lives, whether it be to people or to places. By supporting central, vibrant, active public spaces, the Heart of the Community grants facilitated connections, which are the foundation for more resilient communities.
At Project for Public Spaces, we have been helping people create and sustain public spaces that build stronger communities for almost 40 years. Over that time, we’ve seen placemaking grow into an international movement. It’s a movement that needs the energy and input of people in all walks of life to get us to the point where every community is empowered to shape its own public spaces.
The Heart of the Community program was a breakout moment for placemaking, and the partnership was highlighted in the 2015 United States Conference of Mayors Business Council Best Practice Report: Mayors and Businesses Driving Economic Growth. By investing in placemaking, supporting important research, and engaging their thousands of Employees in placemaking volunteer efforts, Southwest Airlines helped bring to light the vital role public spaces play in our communities.
Southwest Airlines provided a gift to MIT’s Department of Urban Studies and Planning to support the research white paper – “Places in the Making” – which reveals how placemaking has helped strengthen communities across the country. The research “examines the interactions between placemaking, community participation, and the expanding ways communities are collaborating to make great public spaces.” It outlines a range of case studies – from Houston’s Discovery Green to New York City’s Corona Plaza – to offer a snapshot of placemaking projects across the United States and showcase common elements essential to successful public places.
“Places in the Making” was released at an event in Cambridge, MA, on October 22, 2013, that featured a panel discussion of leading experts from MIT, Project for Public Spaces, Team Better Block, and The Kresge Foundation, and was moderated by The Wall Street Journal.
“Placemaking puts power back in the hands of the people. The most successful placemaking initiatives transcend the ‘place’ to forefront the ‘making,’ and the benefits for community can be substantial and long-lasting.”
– Susan Silberberg, Lead Researcher and Lecturer, MIT Department of Urban Studies and Planning