In a city like Toronto, there are countless parties, concerts, and soirees going on any random night of the week – but tonight one of the most important events of the year will unfold, and it’s made for people who adore the city itself. After over 120 Torontonians under age 30 submitted their ideas for re-imagined public spaces in Toronto, the first ever NXT City Prize will be awarded to the winner with the most innovative submission, and it’s a big prize: $5,000 in cash and an additional $10,000* to work with a team of experts to turn the idea into reality.
The event itself will take place in a parking lot – yes, a parking lot – near John and Adelaide that’s been transformed into a pop-up park with trees, furniture, food trucks, a marketplace, an outdoor gallery, music , and, of course, proud Torontonians including mayoral candidates John Tory and Olivia Chow. Will our current mayor show up to support the city and the next generation of urban planning game-changers? We’ll be there to find out, and we’ll also be there because NXT City Prize is one of the most awesome and inspiring concepts we’ve heard about in a long time. We caught up with NXT City Prize founders Christine Caruso, Mackenzie Keast, and Justin Leclair to find out more…
Tell us a bit about yourself. What should people know?
Well, we came together because each of us has unique skills and education and we want to use them in a meaningful way. We’re all interested in cities and the communities and neighbourhoods that shape them and give them their character and vitality. We look at the role neighbourhoods play in shaping great cities and come up with ways to enhance the quality of life in our cities.
How/why did you come up with the idea for NXT City Prize?
NXT taps into an emerging trend, which is that people like living in cities – especially young people. We’ve had this boom in growth in downtown Toronto but public space just isn’t catching up. NXT City Prize is a chance for young people to shape and take ownership of theses spaces – the winning idea actually gets implemented. This generation has tons of talent, and this is the city’s chance to listen to new ideas.
What can Torontonians expect from the event on Thursday?
NXT City Prize is about improving public spaces in Toronto. So, NXT City Night is our way of doing just that. We’ll be transforming a parking lot into a pop-up park, complete with trees, furniture, food trucks, music (our favourite DJ Kris Steeves is on the turntable), an outdoor gallery, and a small marketplace. We’re expecting a huge turnout of invited guests. We have big names in city building coming as well as mayoral candidates, including John Tory and Olivia Chow. So, we’re hoping that – aside from being a great night – the voices of young people are heard by people who can move this change forward.
What have been some of the biggest challenges and best rewards so far with NXT City?
We received over 120 submissions from young people and the quality of the submissions blew us away. There is so much talent in the city that we should be tapping into! The projects ranged from apps to businesses to furniture and streetscape improvements. The biggest reward is to see the project actually implemented at the end of this. In terms of challenges, the prize is in its inaugural year, so funding is always a challenge. We’ve been fortunate to have the support of generous sponsors and partners who have committed time and resources to make this happen.
Finish this sentence: I love Toronto because…
…it’s young, it’s vibrant, and there is a creative energy here unlike that of any other global city. Our public spaces should align with this so we can really put ourselves on the global stage.
How do you hope to see NXT City Prize shape Toronto in the future?
Above all, we want to make sure that these ideas don’t just stay on paper. We want to see lots of them implemented across the city – not just the winning idea. We hope that young people will want to take action and try to move their projects further. And, we’d like to take the prize across Canada in coming years.
Let’s get social for a mo’. How can people stay up-to-date with your busy life?
You can read more about NXT City Prize on our website and on Twitter. Distl is also on Twitter, if you want to see what we’re up to next.