Cities For All

Honorable Mention

MPLS Empowerment District

Ben Tillman
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Minnesota ranks as one of the least racially equitable in the United States. Black residents face historical and current structural racism and oppression. The pandemic has greatly exacerbated disparities in terms of health, employment, housing, education, and business vulnerability, while Minneapolis’ shortage of affordable housing distances residents from opportunities. The protests following the death of George Floyd highlighted lifetimes of systemic failures and injustice. These events physically scarred the Longfellow neighborhood, demonstrating the community's loss of faith in public institutions. This damage provides a unique opportunity to rebuild a neighborhood core, prioritizing interconnected and holistic support of residents struggling in dual pandemics.

Three civic programs - community-led safety strategies, social services, and a community center - symbolically balanced at the intersection of the protests, ensure neighborhood connection and public input and transparency into these evolving practices. Community organizations displaced by the protests are rehoused. Widened pedestrian spaces encourage future peaceful protests to hold institutions accountable.

Transitional and affordable housing provide stability, while career programs, skills training, and business incubation encourage economic empowerment and social innovation. The marketplace provides flexible storefronts for entrepreneurs to workshop business ideas with real clients and strengthen the community’s legacy of minority-owned businesses. A Black-owned bank provides fair financing. Daycare and youth programs support parents while improving educational outcomes alongside local schools. 

New parkways create healthy recreational spaces, reclaim parking lots, reduce flooding, filter runoff, support biodiversity and agriculture, and connect to public transportation and trails. Parkways and green roofs reduce the area’s heat island potential and energy usage. Green spaces reduce the risk of health and respiratory conditions that increase vulnerability to COVID-19. The various exterior spaces provide safer socialization during the pandemic, encouraging the formation of micro-communities and support networks. Wooden facade panels pay homage to the plywood that protected windows and housed vibrant murals expressing solidarity with the Black community during the protests. They are a canvas for residents to process ongoing grief and trauma, create community, showcase local artists of color, and test unique business branding.

People all have valuable and unique experiences they can contribute to their communities if their energy isn't devoted to merely surviving. By providing an interconnected network of services dedicated to helping these underserved communities find stability and balance in everyday life, community members have renewed capacity to grow and thrive, be resilient, and support others, resulting in a stronger and more equitable city for all.

architecture, urban design, landscape architecture
social justice, social housing