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"Heart of the Community" Placemaking Grant Applications Available

Posted by Southwest Airlines/Projects for Public Spaces ; Posted on 
Funding / Grants; Public Art - DEADLINE :  


Heart of the Community is a signature outreach program of Southwest Airlines with a mission to build connections that bring people together and strengthen communities for a more resilient future.

Launched in 2014 with lead partner, Project for Public Spaces, the Heart of the Community grants provide financial and technical assistance to local community partners who seek to bring new life to their public spaces.

Southwest Airlines is in the business of connecting people to what’s important in their lives, whether it be to people or to places. By supporting central, vibrant, active public spaces, the Heart of the Community grants facilitate connections, which are the foundation for more resilient communities.

The goals of the Heart of the Community grants are to:

  • Help communities bring new life to their public spaces, transforming them into vibrant places that connect people and strengthen communities
  • Raise awareness of Placemaking as a mainstream approach and a catalyst for building sustainable, healthy, inclusive, and economically viable communities
  • Encourage activation, participation, and volunteerism in public spaces to benefit local communities

The program looks for projects that clearly address the needs of the community with the potential for having a catalytic impact in your city.  The Placemaking process provides an alternative to the traditional slow, capital-intensive approach to public space development and improvement, and seeks to envision and implement change in a relatively short timeframe while bringing lasting results.


Heart of the Community grants include a direct grant to the recipient organization ranging from $25,000 to $200,000 and a commensurate amount in technical assistance provided by PPS. Successful applicants will be informed of the grant amount to be awarded.  You are not required to submit a project budget; instead, the direct grant budget allocation will be determined during the Placemaking process in partnership with the Southwest Airlines and PPS teams.

  • To give you a better idea of how grant funds could be used, the items below illustrate eligible expenses:
  • Cost of amenities and equipment;
  • Cost of programs and activities;
  • Artist fees for design, fabrication, producing events, etc.;
  • Cost of management of the space (no more than 20% of the overall budget)
  • Documentation, evaluation, and report writing (no more than 5%)
  • Marketing and promotional materials for the project (no more than 5%);
  • Participation in a kick-off Heart of Community grant recipient convening



The Location

  • The site must be located in a city served by Southwest Airlines.
  • Proposed sites must be located in the downtown core or in a major, mixed-use urban hub. The Heart of the Community program has the greatest impact in downtown areas, which draw diverse users and programming partners from around the city and region.
  • The proposed site should be highly visible and accessible to a diverse public, with the potential to become an inspirational example of Placemaking for the applicant’s entire city.
  • Projects in a city or metro region that have already received a Heart of the Community grant are not eligible to apply at this time. If your city has already received a grant, we encourage you to make contact with the recipient organization in order to learn from their experiences and continue the Placemaking momentum together.

The Site

  • The site must be an outdoor space, accessible and open to the public at all times.
  • The site should be an underperforming public space or an underutilized area within a public space. Our goal is to infuse these places with new experiences and activity so that they can become attractive destinations, and catalysts for new economic, cultural, and social activity in the area.
  • Applicants must either own the property proposed for the project, have legal jurisdiction over it, or have a formal agreement with the property owner that entitles them to use the site—in which case, the property owner must be cited as a committed partner in the application.
  • If your site has an existing plan in place for major capital improvements in the near future, you may not be eligible for the grant. While additional funding sources and long-term vision is welcome, any final project design and/or plan funded by this grant will be created within the Placemaking framework, facilitated by PPS and conducted by the grant recipient. Furthermore, the project must be sustainable for three years following receipt of the grant, and therefore the site must not be scheduled to undergo construction, offered for sale or for redevelopment during this time period.

The Project

  • Your proposed project must focus on improvements (physical and programmatic) to a publicly accessible outdoor space that can be completed within a year of receipt of the grant.
  • Through the Placemaking process, your plan will continue to evolve, so we are not asking you to submit a finished concept.
  • Applicants are encouraged to use this opportunity to explore the benefits that co-creating a space with the community has to offer. While you will be asked to submit a vision or description of your project, keep in mind that one of the essential principles of Placemaking is: “You never know what you are going to end up with.”
  • When conceiving your proposal, you should identify and outline how this project will contribute to inclusion, equity, social cohesion, and resilience in your community.

The Applicant

  • The lead applicant must be a non-profit or government organization. Prior applicants have included business improvement districts, universities, park “friends” groups, foundations, conservancies, arts organizations, libraries, and many more.
  • The applicant organization should either be directly involved in management of the project site, or demonstrate the capacity to collaborate with the necessary civic partners to manage and implement the project.
  • The applicant must be able to complete all grant-funded activities within one calendar year of being awarded, and to maintain any grant-funded amenities for three years following receipt of the grant.
  • The applicant should demonstrate its commitment to the Placemaking process including describing their proposed public engagement and outreach strategy. In addition, the applicant should demonstrate the capacity to engage the broad community in creating and implementing a shared vision for the project site and other public spaces in their city. Applicant organizations that display previous experience in civic engagement, project management, and/or work in public spaces will have a significant and favorable advantage.



The 2017 Southwest Airlines Heart of the Community grant application is open now through December 5th, 2016 4PM ET.  Join Projects for Public Spaces for a live webinar on November 9th, 2016 2PM ET about the Heart of the Community grants and learn about this exciting opportunity to create a vibrant, active space at the heart of your community!  Register for the webinar at this link.

To download program explanation and eligibility criteria, visit here.

The online application is located here.

QUESTIONS?  For more information, contact