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School of Architecture Awarded Knight Grant to Create ‘Third Places’

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    Special to UM News

    CORAL GABLES, Fla. (April 16, 2015)—The School of Architecture has received $650,000 from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation for its plan to bring “third places”— community spaces, marketplaces, incubators and training centers—to two underserved Miami neighborhoods.

    The Third Place Project will create spaces that provide resources and support to entrepreneurs, creatives, and civic leaders in these neighborhoods, which have not yet been selected, as a way to foster their ideas and break down barriers. The project also will help transform these neighborhoods and create opportunities for local businesses by establishing inexpensive spaces for startups and hubs for arts, culture, and entertainment. The grant supports Momentum2: The Breakthrough Campaign for the University of Miami.

    “A major challenge in the Miami metro area is the disconnect between extraordinarily wealthy neighborhoods and boom areas and long-struggling urban neighborhoods such as Allapatah, Little Haiti, and Opa-locka,” said Charles Bohl, associate professor and the director of the graduate program in Real Estate Development + Urbanism at the School of Architecture. “The Third Place Project is designed to draw on the unique cultures, social capital, and entrepreneurial talent in these neighborhoods and establish focal points – ‘third places’ capable of attracting people to visit these neighborhoods and participate in their local economies.”

    “By activating neighborhoods with a high rate of entrepreneurial activity but few resources, we can bridge gaps in Miami’s innovation ecosystem and ensure a constant diversity of ideas,” said Matt Haggman, Knight Foundation program director for Miami. “The Third Place Project will grow and foster the unique character and qualities of these neighborhoods, bringing the ideas of entrepreneurs, artists, and others into the forefront and making Miami more of a place where ideas are built.”

    The Third Place Project will combine expertise from the School of Architecture in architecture and placemaking with University of Miami programs in business and social entrepreneurship. Other university departments involved in the Third Place Project include the Center for Urban and Community Design, the Office of Civic and Community Engagement, as well as business startup and support programs at the School of Business Administration. The project also will support weeklong residencies with nationally recognized “civic innovators” who will come to Miami and work with students, faculty, local entrepreneurs, and nonprofits.

    The University project team will work with local nonprofits and other interested parties to identify and secure sites that have the best potential to serve as gathering places. Architecture faculty and students will help adapt existing buildings, or create inexpensive, moveable incubator structures—“pop-up” buildings—to house entrepreneurs and vendors. Incubator structures will be arranged to create market places in public spaces or main streets that showcase the mix of art, commerce, food, and entertainment.

    Dozens of vendors, artists, and entrepreneurs will receive training and other opportunities through the project. The incubator spaces created by the project will provide inexpensive space for startups in each community, and expand economic opportunities for local nonprofits and local development organizations. The project also will train nonprofit place managers to continue curating, marketing, and managing these places to sustain the project.

    “The School of Architecture has a long history of helping to reshape and revitalize the South Florida community,” said Rodolphe el-Khoury, dean of the School of Architecture. “We are pleased that Knight Foundation has chosen to support this unique project that will have a lasting impact on communities in need of assistance.”

    As defined by sociologist Ray Oldenberg, “third places” are the essential, informal public gathering places of great neighborhoods and communities. They are the cafes, taverns, public markets, and main streets where people from all walks of life come together. In poorer, ethnically distinct neighborhoods these places also have provided opportunities for local entrepreneurs to celebrate the unique art, culture, cuisine, crafts, architecture, and commerce of their people. In gateway cities, “third places” such as Little Italy in New York, Chinatown in San Francisco, and Little Havana in Miami, have become destinations for an endless stream of visitors who help foster the local economy.

    The Third Place Project is currently evaluating project sites and is slated to begin work during the 2015-2016 academic year.

    Support for The Third Place Project forms part of the Knight Foundation’s efforts to invest in Miami’s emerging innovators and entrepreneurs as a tool to build community, while fostering talent and expanding economic opportunity. Over the past two years, Knight has made more than 100 investments in entrepreneurship in South Florida.

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