Funding Targets 'Heart of the Community'

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Indianapolis is among five U.S. cities selected for funding aimed at boosting the city's "next great public space." The Southwest Airlines Co. (NYSE: LUV) Heart of the Community grant, valued at $220,000 in cash and technical support, is an investment in improvements involving two of downtown's most historic landmarks: Monument Circle and the Indianapolis City Market.

The effort is a collaboration among City Market, Indianapolis-based Big Car Collaborative, the airline and Project for Public Spaces. PPS says the work in Indianapolis is the first joint project for the program. Officials say it will help re-imagine and reinvigorate the East Plaza of the market and Monument Circle. The projects in Indianapolis, Philadelphia, Minneapolis, Atlanta and Los Angeles beat out more than 80 other applicants.

The placemaking effort is designed to strengthen cities "at their heart."

City Market executive director Stevi Stoesz says "the generous grant from Southwest Airlines provides City Market officials the opportunity to activate a unique space that has been dormant and without a soul for far too long. Working with Jim Walker and his Big Car team will enable us to create an inviting and engaging space. We have a great opportunity to compliment what is planned for the Market East District by providing valuable programming and amenities to draw residents, employees and visitors alike."

Big Car has worked on other quality of place initiatives before, including working with the city last year to execute the 11-week stretch of creative programs and temporary infrastructure improvements known as Spark. The organization says more than 85 percent of participants reported meeting someone new during the experience.

Over the years, the Southwest Airlines and Project for Public Spaces initiative has supported a total of 18 projects.

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