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Web app to engage Little Village residents in creating park wins MPC’s Placemaking award in Apps for Metro Chicago Illinois contest

Mi Parque developers gift prize of $2,500, sponsored by IBM, to Little Village Environmental Justice Organization; Runner-up app Got Game helps Chicago residents join pick-up games taking place at nearby parks 

(Chicago) … Residents of Chicago’s Little Village neighborhood on the city’s southwest side are working to transform a 23-acre capped Superfund site into a vibrant, open green space for all of its residents to enjoy and make their own – and now they have technology on their side: Mi Parque, a bilingual participatory web and smartphone application that helps residents of the community contribute and share their vision for the future of Little Village’s new park, has won the Metropolitan Planning Council’s (MPC) $2,500 Placemaking award, sponsored by IBM, in the Apps for Metro Chicago Illinois contest. 

“Mi Parque is an excellent example of how the confluence of open data, accessible technology, and smart design can contribute to more vibrant cities and regions,” said Stephen Newell, Smarter City technical advisor, IBM. “Apps like Mi Parque literally put information in people’s hands so that rather than react, they can anticipate and shape local development decisions.” 

Mi Parque is being developed by an all-women team led by Pallavi Anderson, Motorola Solutions, and Mindy Faber, founder of Open Youth Networks and academic manager, Columbia College Chicago Dept. of Interactive Arts and Media. Students on the team, from Columbia College Chicago, Illinois Institute of Technology and University of Illinois-Chicago, are mentored by experienced software engineers from Motorola Solutions, Orbitz, Pearson VUE, and Thomson Reuters/Hubbard One. Mi Parque is an all-volunteer effort. The group is gifting the $2,500 prize to the Little Village Environmental Justice Organization (LVEJO), a community organization that has spearheaded neighborhood efforts to remediate the Superfund site at 28th and Sacramento and secure the land as a neighborhood park. 

“Apps for Metro Chicago Illinois unites the talents of Chicago’s tech community, needs of local neighborhoods, and data that until recently has not been available in an accessible way to the general public,” said Marisa Novara, project manager, MPC. “Mi Parque’s developers recognized how powerful that formula could be by creating an app that will help Little Village meet its long-standing need for public green space that serves the community.” 

“We have worked for this park for more than a decade, and as our community’s vision begins to take shape on the ground, it is more important than ever that we keep Little Village residents engaged,” said Kimberly Wasserman, LVEJO executive director. “Mi Parque is a wonderful invention that will help us keep people informed as well as hear their ideas for how they want to use this community space.” 

Mi Parque can be accessed through the web or a smart phone, and is available for download in English and Spanish. Designed as a participatory community building and planning tool that not only draws on data from the city but from the crowdsourcing efforts of the people who live there, the app’s main features include:

  • Mi Idea: Users can view and submit ideas for Mi Parque, as well as vote on ideas they like best. By integrating the app with their Facebook accounts, users can share their favorite ideas with their Facebook friends (or simply do so via text messaging) and encourage them to vote them up, too.
  • Mi Voto: Users can participate in community polls and vote on ideas posted about how to best use the park.
  • Mi Aviso. Users can learn about upcoming community happenings and volunteer opportunities and receive safety, weather and health alerts impacting Little Village.
  • Mi Mapa. Users can locate park sites, open lands, and community gardens in Little Village and view where alerts are being posted block by block. 

“One of the developers told her eight-year-old daughter that this is how she is contributing to her community, by flexing her technology skills to benefit this neighborhood park,” said Pallavi Anderson. “We’re so pleased Mi Parque will contribute to Little Village’s new park, and we also hope the app serves as an inspiration to others to find ways to put their talents to use for their communities.”   

“I am immensely gratified that Mi Parque has won the Placemaking Prize. The award not only honors the hard work of the development team, but it recognizes the determination, pride and togetherness of the people of Little Village,” said Mindy Faber. “Mi Parque builds upon the work of LVEJO, an organization that has fought for years not only to build a park, but a more just and sustainable future for its residents. In that spirit, our team created a participatory app that supports participatory process at the community level.”   

Apps for Metro Chicago, Illinois, facilitated by Metro Chicago Information Center (MCIC), is a regionwide competition that invites web developers and community groups to use data sets offered by the City of Chicago, Cook County, State of Illinois, and Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning to solve problems in metropolitan Chicago. Web developers are competing for more than $50,000 in prizes by creating web applications to help city residents and visitors get more out of their transportation systems, neighborhoods, and the region. Thanks to a sponsorship from IBM, MPC offered a special prize of $2,500 for the best Placemaking application submitted to Apps for Metro Chicago Illinois (A4MC). 

"The Metropolitan Planning Council Placemaking prize is the first ’add on‘ prize to the Apps for Metro Chicago, Illinois competition and has triggered a new level of collaboration between community groups and application developers,” said Virginia Carlson, president, MCIC.  The competition has truly been invigorated by this additional effort, and the quality of the submitted apps is evidence of this." 

Developers competing for the Placemaking prize were required to: 

  • Create an app that helps users find, create, sustain and/or share vibrant public places in metropolitan Chicago.
  • Clearly demonstrate that their app helps people tap into the 11 Principles of Placemaking. Learn about the 11 Principles of Placemaking at www.placemakingchicago.com/about/principles.asp.
  • Comply with all A4MC requirements. For instance, web developers were required to use data sets provided by A4MC partners on the contest web site, http://appsformetrochicago.com/data

Mi Parque developers plan to continue to improve the app, for instance by integrating built-in citizen journalism tools so that residents can also post their own video, photos and news reports to the Mi Parque Aviso section on the app and share community news directly with their neighbors. 

GotGame was the runner-up in the Placemaking division of Apps for Metro Chicago Illinois. The app allows Chicago residents to schedule or find an activity taking place in a nearby park and by making that information available via the app, encourage people to join one another in the activities they enjoy. For instance, a user could choose Basketball as his activity, and the app will display nearby parks with basketball courts. The user can then select a park, specify a date and time, and schedule a basketball game. Other people in the area who check GotGame for activities at parks near them will see the basketball game, click on the name of the park to view a map, and join the person for the game. 

“Got Game is a fun app that contributes to the vibrancy of Chicago’s existing public spaces by helping residents come together to use them,” said Novara. “Without activity, a park is just a space; when people use it, it becomes a place that is often the heart of the community.” 

Metropolitan Planning Council is an independent, nonpartisan organization that serves communities and residents in greater Chicagoland by developing, promoting and implementing solutions for sound regional growth. Through Placemaking Chicago (www.placemakingchicago.com), MPC supports the creation and care of public spaces across Chicagoland. MPC’s Placemaking award is generously sponsored by IBM. 

Apps 4 Metro Chicago Illinois, facilitated by Metro Chicago Information Center (MCIC), is an open data collaboration between the City of Chicago, Cook County, State of Illinois, and Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, with support from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, The Chicago Community Trust, Illinois Science and Technology Coalition, and Motorola Mobility Foundation. 

For more information about Placemaking or Mi Parque, contact MPC Assistant Communications Director Mandy Burrell Booth, at 312-863-6018 or mburrell@metroplanning.org. For more information about Apps for Metro Chicago, Illinois, contact MCIC Director of Development and External Communications Kathryn Auerbach, at 312-580-2597 or kauerbach@mcic.org.

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