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Five locals named Knight Challenge finalists

By MIKE OWEN

mowen@ledger-enquirer.com

Five Columbus residents are among the 158 finalists announced this morning in the Knight Foundation’s 2016 $5 million Knight Cities Challenge, a competition to see who will receive grants from the foundation to get their pet project off the ground.

A fifth idea that could benefit Columbus was submitted for the city by the executive director of a Minnesota-based organization called the Incremental Development Alliance.

Last year, in the foundation’s inaugural challenge, Midtown Inc. and its executive director, Anne King, won a grant for its “Minimum Grid” idea to build better alternative transportation connections between midtown and downtown Columbus. The $200,000 grant allowed them to hire the international urban planning firm Gehl Studios to design the project, which was unveiled late last year.

Entries this year were judged based on three criteria:

• Talent: Ideas that help cities attract and keep talented people.

•Opportunity: Ideas that expand economic prospects by breaking down divides and connecting people.

• Engagement: Ideas that spur connection and civic involvement.

This year’s finalists are:

• “Active Transportation Made Easy and Affordable,” submitted by Brinkley B. Pound. It involves improving community life and building connections between neighborhoods, businesses and other favorite places by providing affordable and sustainable options for resident and visitor access to bicycles.

• “Evolving Midtown: Lot by Lot, Block by Block by Incremental Development Alliance,” submitted by Jim Kumon, executive director of the Incremental Development Alliance. It would involve recruiting and training a diverse group of individuals with skills to become small-scale developers. Participants would use distressed or underused lots as beta projects and receive access to investors and other resources.

•“Light the Way” by Columbus Consolidated Government Community Reinvestment Division, submitted by Phillip Trocquet. It would string lights between buildings in distressed areas of Columbus where mixed commercial building density is high, but development is low. The project aims to promote safety, more street activity and development in these areas.

•“Chattahoochee River Swim,” by Housing Authority of Columbus, submitted by Len Williams. It would involve building an enclosed pool in the Chattahoochee River neighborhood adjacent to the Chase Homes public housing development that will encourage diverse residents from across the city to meet and connect.

• “Urban Glen” by city of Columbus, submitted by Phillip Trocquet. It would create “urban glens” — inviting spaces with trees, lights and hammocks — on vacant and overgrown lots to encourage people to meet and connect, while cleaning up city-owned properties.

The finalists announced today will undergo a second round of applications and judging. The final winners are expected to be announced in early to mid-spring.

The Knight Foundation was created by John and James Knight, the founders of Knight Ridder Newspapers. Knight Cities are defined as the 25 cities that were homes of Knight Ridder newspapers.

Knight Ridder was bought by The McClatchy Co. in 2006.

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