The No Barriers Project — A Knight Cities Challenge Idea

Barriers Not Included

By Sarah Hazel

The Knight Foundation put out an audacious challenge! Come up with an idea to make your city a vibrant place to live and work. The grant competition was designed to spur ideas that would help communities 1) attract and retain talent, 2) expand economic opportunity, and 3) encourage engagement. Individuals and organizations across the country were called upon to get thinking. The parameters were simple, and 5 million grant dollars were up for grabs to translate great ideas into action.

Allow me to introduce you to my idea, The No Barriers Project.

The No Barriers Project identifies physical barriers between diverse communities that act as real and symbolic divides. (Think railroad tracks, bridges, parks.) Many of these barriers were created with urban renewal funds in the 1960s, and often served to isolate and segregate minority communities here and across the country. Other barriers currently exist between established communities and newly developed neighborhoods as Charlotte grows and expands.

As part of the project, neighborhoods on both sides of the barriers are invited to work together to co-create something in a location or space. Residents will be asked to give feedback about the perception of the space and what could improve it including, lighting or access and then design or construct an installation as a way to reinvent their shared space.

Why does it matter?

The hope is that by working side by side, people build relationships and connections with neighbors from nearby neighborhoods that they would not have otherwise made. Community members get to showcase their talent and ideas to make their space something special, pride worthy, and fun. And, it doesn’t have to stop there! These relationships and collaborative spirit can be translated into future creativity and success as Charlotteans play a role in how Charlotte is developed.

What’s my inspiration?

I recently went on the Beyond the Bridge Tour with the Charlotte Community Building Initiative. (If you get the chance, go, and bring ALL your friends.) As a City employee and new Charlottean, this tour was integral to my understanding of Charlotte’s racial history and heritage. It put in context how zoning and infrastructure decisions can be tools for division or inclusion. I also learned about the many wonderful organizations and City partners such as the Knight Foundation, The Levine Museum of the New South, The Arts and Science Council to name a few that through art or history are working towards the goal of an inclusive Charlotte.

For a cool example, check out the virtual tour of the Passing Through Light project under I77.

What’s next?

The Knight Foundation narrowed the field to 126 great ideas! Grant winners will be announced in March. Go City of Charlotte teams, the wider Charlotte community teams, and all of the people who submitted over 7,000 ideas because of their deep love for their cities!