Local Communities Driving Innovation in Florida and Nationwide

Longest Table Dinners Foster Community Connections
Last year, Tallahassee, Florida, hosted a large-scale communal dinner called The Longest Table, on a “table” that stretched two-and-a-half city blocks and served 400 residents.

It was the brainchild of Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum.

“There were so many incidents that happened last year — in Ferguson, Baltimore and elsewhere — that were making the country feel divided,” said Gillum. “People felt like they were not being heard or respected.” It gave him pause.

“I felt we needed to move the dial in our own community, which is so diverse in race and economic status,” he said. “We wanted get people who don’t know each other to come together, break bread and have conversations.”

The city is repeating the event this year in October. And with The Knight Foundation’s grant of $57,250, Gillum is adding a second event called “100 homes.”

“We’re asking 100 households in Tallahassee to entertain 6 to 10 people they don’t know for dinner,” said Gillum, who will be hosting one of the dinners at his home.

The grant money, he said, will help volunteer families who otherwise can’t afford it buy groceries to host the dinners, which will take place simultaneously on June 26.


Transforming vacant space into an urban park
The Metrorail, which runs on an elevated track in Miami-Dade County, is 26 miles long. The space underneath most of is unused.

Meg Daly’s vision is to transform 10 miles of it into an urban park called The Underline.

“It would be the only linear park in the country that’s connected to a mass transit system,” she said.

The transformation is necessary for the community, said Daly.

“Miami-Dade County is the fourth most dangerous in the country for pedestrians and the most dangerous place in the state for bicyclists,” she said. “The infrastructure isn’t there to safely allow these activities.”

The Underline would include pedestrian and bike paths and 100 acres of open space with gardens, open air gyms, dog parks and play areas for kids.

Daly, through her Friends of the Underline nonprofit, has already raised $7 million for the project, which she estimates will cost $80 million overall. The initiative received $250,000 from The Knight Foundation, which will fund an outdoor gym.

“A lot of young people live here. A public urban amenity like this will attract more young talent because it will improve their quality of life,” she said. “But it will take a village to get it done.”

Read the rest of the article online here.

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