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Think the city might be better off with pop-up beer gardens reimagined for families? Maybe a civic-minded alternative to the oft-criticized Diner En Blanc? What about a way to engage the immigrant community through ethnic foods at Reading Terminal Market?

The Knight Foundation thinks they’re powerful ideas, too. The grant-making nonprofit announced its 158 national finalists for its Knight Cities Challenge, a call for ideas that answer the question of how to make cities more successful. Of the 4,500 applicants, 20 finalists were chosen from Philadelphia.

Now in its second year, the Knight Cities Challenge received pitches from government agencies, nonprofits, individuals, community associations and more. Finalists that will be announced this spring will share a portion of $5 million.

If you want to know more about the Knight Foundation’s presence in Philly, you can attend an open discussion with Charles Leadbeater, Knight Foundation’s vice president for community and national initiatives, tonight at Pipeline Philly coworking space, 30 S. 15th St.

Here’s a look at the finalists from Philadelphia:

The Meadow at Wister Station

Applicant: Baynton Hill Neighbors Association

Submitted by: Amanda Staples

Project description: Attracting and retaining talented people by revitalizing the blighted corridor near the Wister rail station with a perennial garden.

The Family Garden

Applicant: Group Melvin Design

Submitted by: Ben Bryant

Project Description: Retaining talented millennials with children in Philadelphia by reimagining the pop-up beer garden as a family-oriented neighborhood experience.

The Little Music Studio: An Open Access Playground for Musicians

Applicant: Group Melvin Design

Submitted by: Ben Bryant

Project description: Breaking down community barriers with The Little Music Studio, a traveling playground for musicians.

20 Book Clubs, 20 Cooperative Businesses

Applicant: Philadelphia Area Cooperative Alliance

Submitted by: Caitlin Quigley

Project description: Increasing civic engagement and economic opportunity by launching book clubs in 20 Philadelphia neighborhoods for participants to study cooperative businesses and then form their own.

Councilmatic: Get Alerts for Local Events

Applicant: Participatory Politics Foundation

Submitted by: David Moore

Project description: Increasing civic engagement by enabling residents to subscribe to alerts for public events, such as city meetings, via email and text messaging.

Real World 101

Applicant: The Enterprise Center

Submitted by: Jesse Blitzstein

Project description: Retaining talented people in Philadelphia by connecting college students and local businesses to engage in mutually beneficial projects, such as building websites and refining financial plans.

City Safari

Applicant: City Safari

Submitted by: Marjolijn Masselink

Project description: Increasing civic engagement with city tours led by locals that take visitors to places that are off the beaten path.

Diner De Famille – Philadelphia, 2016

Submitted by: Tammy Cummings

Project description: Breaking down community barriers with the Diner de Famille, a pop-up dinner for families in Philadelphia held on the same night as Diner en Blanc, an experience celebrated around the world that brings together masses of people dressed in white for a shared meal.

Beyond the Census: Building a Positive Data Story of a Community’s Human Resources

Applicant: Germantown United CDC

Submitted by: Emaleigh Doley

Project description: Increasing economic opportunity by discovering new data about underserved neighborhoods that attract new businesses and investment.

Harlem Renaissance: Multicity Retrospective Festival

Applicant: The Brothers’ Network

Submitted by: Gregory Walker

Project description: Breaking down barriers and fostering community pride by showcasing the contribution of African-American men to cultural life in Knight communities.

Viola Street Connector

Applicant: Viola Street Residents Association

Submitted by: Joyce Smith

Project description: Breaking down community barriers by transforming a dilapidated alley that connects the Parkside Historic District and the Centennial District with art and events.

The Colored Girls Museum

Applicant: The Colored Girls Museum

Submitted by: Vashti DuBois

Project description: Building pride in Philadelphia’s underserved neighborhoods by documenting the stories of Philadelphia’s black women through exhibits in residents’ houses.

Breaking Bread, Breaking Barriers: Food as a Bridge to Cultural Understanding

Applicant: Reading Terminal Market

Submitted by: Anuj Gupta

Project description: Building cultural bridges to Philadelphia’s immigrant communities with cooking classes celebrating ethnic food operated by chefs from Reading Terminal Market.

Reengaging Youth in Education and Communities: Design Build Rebooted by

Applicant: Lindy Institute for Urban Innovation, Drexel University

Submitted by: Geraldine Wang

Project description: Increasing civic engagement by helping high school youth to shape their own communities through a design-build studio run by Drexel University.

Institute of Hip-Hop Entrepreneurship

Applicant: Little Giant Creative

Submitted by: Tayyib Smith

Project description: Increasing economic opportunity by using hip-hop to provide hands-on business training to members of low-income groups.

Boat Philly

Applicant: Fairmount Park Conservancy

Submitted by: Elizabeth Moselle

Project description: Transforming underused Meadow Lake in South Philadelphia into an active urban boating destination as a pilot to promote boating throughout the city.


Applicant: The Philadelphia Citizen

Submitted by: Jenn McCreary

Project description: Increasing civic engagement with a new app that matches Philadelphians with other individuals, groups and civic organizations for learning opportunities and action.

Money Laundering: So Clean, How Can It Be Free?

Applicant: Forward LLC

Submitted by: Max Glass

Project description: Increasing economic opportunity and civic engagement by turning a blighted laundromat into an inviting public space that provides free laundry services.

Rewilding Philadelphia

Submitted by: Molly Lux 

Project description: Creating a network of parks and “wild” spaces in the city to help residents learn about the environment and reconnect with nature.

Workspace Project Pop-Up

Applicant: Groundswell Design Group

Submitted by: Molly Lux

Project description: Attracting and retaining talented people by using repurposed shipping containers to create affordable and unique community co-working spaces.

Anna Orso was a reporter/curator at Billy Penn from 2014 to 2017.