Creative Community Development Funding Opportunities Coming This Fall

September 2013

A new funding trend is heating up nationwide, with a major foundation increasing its involvement and several other public and private opportunities coming this fall, according to Community Development Digest, the continually updated news service covering housing and community development nationwide.

The "creative placemaking” concept focuses on forming partnerships among public, private, nonprofit and community sectors to strategically shape the physical and social character of a neighborhood, town, city or region around arts and cultural activities.

Over the past year, the Kresge Foundation has been revamping its arts and culture programs to align with the concept. Its new Harvesting Leading Practices aims to advance the body of knowledge around creative placemaking by supporting established practitioners, capturing and sharing lessons from their efforts.

Transit Oriented Development/Green Space Eligible for Funds

Through 2014, the foundation will award up to 15 grants for activities integrating arts and culture in public green and civic spaces and transit-oriented development projects in distressed cities. The funds will go to 501(c)(3) nonprofits; there are no deadlines. Initial contact is through an inquiry submitted through an online application system.

Those focusing on the relatively new "Complete Streets” concept receive preference. Complete Streets are designed and operated to enable safe access for all users, including pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists and transit riders of all ages and abilities. Complete Streets make it easy to cross the street, walk to shops and bicycle to work. They allow buses to run on time and make it safe for people to walk to and from train stations.

Kresge Foundation Already Involved in 'Place' Funding

The Kresge Foundation is a founding member of ArtPlace America, along with other large funders, including Bloomberg Philanthropies and Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. These funds go to 501(c)(3) nonprofits with an annual budget of at least $1 million. Average awards are generally in the $336,000 range.

Creative placemaking projects are designed to accomplish the following: bring new life to rural communities; help communities imagine new futures; activate public spaces; create new community-based anchor institutions; provide artists with housing and workspace; stretch established cultural institutions; and strengthen local economies. Capital funding projects can receive funding.

For instance, IdeaXfactory in Springfield, MO, was a recent grantee. It received a $200,000 grant to turn a vacant city building and adjacent open grassy lot into a contemporary art space.

Fed's "Our Town' Solicitation Could Come Next Month

Another creative placemaking funding opportunity is the federal Our Town program. Arts organizations, governments, public and private colleges and universities and nonprofits vie for the Nat'l Endowment for the Arts grants. Grants range from $25,000 to $150,000 each, with a 1:1 nonfederal match required.

Our Town funds go for creative art projects helping make communities more lively, and attractive, with the arts as their core. The program invests in creative and innovative projects where communities work with arts and design organizations and artists to: (1) improve quality of life; (2) encourage creative activity; (3) create community identity and a sense of place; and (4) revitalize local economies. Successful applicants are led by a strong partnership with the arts community, local government and the philanthropic sector. All partnerships must involve at least two organizations, a nonprofit or cultural organization and a government entity.

This funding also aids capital projects. The JPR Foundation and the City of Medford (OR) received a $50,000 grant to help in its efforts convert an old grocery store warehouse into an arts center called Jefferson Square.

More Grants This Fall for Community Development Efforts

While sharp budget differences in Congress mean continued 2014 funding challenges for federal housing and community development initiatives, there will still be funding available, according to CD Digest, however, it is imperative that applicants learn as much about program requirements as possible to increase their chances for success. In addition, as noted, many foundations are now beginning to step up to the plate and fill the federal funding gaps for local initiatives, such as the ones mentioned earlier.

John A. O’Toole, CEcD, EDP
Community Relations & Economic Development Lead
Northeast Utilities

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