Make Your Place Even Better: AARP Community Challenge Grants

In Los Angeles’ Westlake/MacArthur Park neighborhood, Golden Age Park shows the power of placemaking. With support from AARP, a property that was vacant for 30 years was transformed by landscape architect Daví de la Cruz into a community garden with a children’s play area and outdoor fitness spaces for adults.

AARP is seeking applications for its annual Community Challenge grant program, which funds projects that improve livability. Now in its fourth year, the grant program has awarded 376 grants to non-profits and governments at all scales in every U.S. state, D.C., Puerto Rico, and U.S. Virgin Islands.

For 2020, AARP is focused on projects that can: increase civic engagement and create a broader sense of community inclusion and diversity; create vibrant public spaces; and improve transportation and connectivity through walkability, bikeability, wayfinding, and universal access.

The organization, which has some 38 million members, is also looking for projects that can support accessible and affordable housing options. In addition, AARP is interested in projects that can “demonstrate the tangible value of ‘Smart Cities'” through programs that “engage residents in accessing, understanding, and using data, and participating in decision-making to increase quality of life for all.”

According to Danielle Arigoni, director of livable communities at AARP, the grant program is “a great fit for those who care about placemaking. About 60 percent of the 375+ grants made to date have been focused on public space and/or placemaking.”

Applications for Community Challenge grants will be accepted until 11:59 pm ET on May 15, 2020. All applications must be submitted through their website and all projects must be completed by November 9, 2020. AARP states that the program is open to 501(c)(3), 501(c)(4), 501(c)(6) nonprofits and government entities. Other types of organizations will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

Together with Team Better Block, AARP has just released the Pop Up Placemaking Tool Kit, which outlines the what, why, how of temporary but impactful placemaking demonstrations. Team Better Block has also included a set of pop up placemaking “recipes,” with beginner, intermediate, and advanced options, on their website.

According to the 40-page toolkit available for free to download and print: “when communities of all types (urban, suburban, rural) and sizes experiment and demonstrate solutions, the quicker their methods can be refined and positive change achieved.”

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