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Civic Impact

NXT City Prize looks to youth for city planning ideas

The winners of the 2014 NXT City Prize Under-18 category pose with Daniel Winberg of the Rockport Group.

Mackenzie Keast wants to engage young people about the future of public space in Toronto, and he’s willing to put his money where his mouth is. His firm, Distl, is one of the partners organizing the NXT City Prize, which offers a five thousand dollar reward for the best ideas in public space. “Really, the NXT City Prize is an opportunity for young people to have their say to what they want public spaces in their city to look like,” Keast says.
The NXT City Prize wants ideas from youth, defined as those under 35 years old, because, as Keast explains, “it’s an important time for this very large demographic. They’re entering this stage of their life cycle—buying homes, having kids—and their decisions are going to have a massive impact on our cities over the next thirty to forty years.” Keast says that this group is currently the least likely to be participating in this type of long-term city planning. “The baby boomers are still leading that,” he says, adding, “This is an opportunity for these highly educated, underemployed, tech-knowledgeable people to get engaged.”
The NXT City Prize offers a variety of categories, including best under-18 submission, best sustainability and energy submission, and best overall. This year, judges will look at submissions from all over Canada as young people step forward with their best public space ideas. After the July 31 deadline, the city will implement winning proposals using Section 37 funds raised from developers. Last year’s winner suggested that Yonge Street be pedestrianized, an idea that is currently under consideration by the city’s planning department.
As for what aspiring city planners should keep in mind as they create in 2015, Keast says, “We’re focusing on the theme of opportunity this year. What are the opportunities to breathe new life in forgotten spaces, or create new economic opportunities in spaces?” His own goals are loftier. “We want to keep young people excited about making their city a great place to live, for them to shape it for future generations.”

Author: Kailtyn Kochany
Source: Mackenzie Keast
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