In collaboration with Česká spořitelna bank, we will provide CZK 500,000 to each of the six municipalities selected for intensive support for public space improvement projects through the Via program “We Can Do More”. This year and next year, the municipalities will plan public spaces together, work closely with architects on site design, and engage residents in community build work days. The grand openings of the new community gathering places is anticipated in autumn 2024.
BIG CHANGES AHEAD FOR THESE MUNICIPALITIES
In mid-May, Via finished a long and complex process during which Via staff and representatives of Česká spořitelna bank selected six municipalities to take part in the program”We Can Do More”. Each of the municipalities will receive a grant of 500,000 CZK, intensive consultations with a community engagement expert, and participation in Via educational workshops. The call attracted almost 40 applicants from among Czech municipalities and other organizations. The selection committee selected 10 finalists, which Via staff visited during the month of April. Before we introduce the six supported municipalities, it is worth mentioning a few common features observed during our travels around the country.
WHICH MUNICIPALITIES WILL TRANSFORM PUBLIC SPACES?
Municipalities that are genuinely interested in involving their citizens in the planning and design of public spaces applied to the program. The CZK 500,000 grant is a tempting bonus, but we heard from a number of applicants that the program support is appealing because it offers the help of engagement experts for the participatory process. Municipalities want to involve local residents in planning, but are happy to use outside help. Often, these were also municipalities where new people were elected to the council after the last local elections. And they are the ones who are more inclined to civic participation.
The town of Dašice, near Pardubice, plans to build a multifunctional park for users of all ages, with seating in a gazebo and a rest area for the youngest to the oldest resident. The area is located in the Velkolánská area, where a small landfill is located. There is only one park in Dašice, which is located in the centre and is mainly used by teenagers and small children. In the Velkolánská area, there is no park or other place where it is possible to hold a birthday party, play sports or just sit with friends around a campfire. The town of Dašice is currently struggling with the construction of extensive transport infrastructure, and the town administration wants to provide its residents with as much green space and quiet zones as possible.
Active residents from the village of Jablůnka in the Vsetín region would like to adapt the area next to the village’s multifunctional playground to maximize its potential. The addition of suitable play and sports equipment and perhaps the creation of a covered seating area would create a space where groups of local residents could meet and interact on a regular basis. The municipality also plans to use the new facilities to organize its own events, as the area has previously served as a sports ground and hosted cultural events. The team wants to bring the neglected site back to life and connect people of different generations in the village.
A public space in Boskovice is also due for a makeover. The Society for the Development of Architecture in Boskovice (SRAB), together with other active residents, has formed a team that wants to connect the local neighborhood groups and the public administration through this project. The intention is to create a place where people can pause from their busy lives, relax, play, but also take care of the space together. A large green area with mature trees in the middle of two large housing estates, which is currently just used to access other sites, will serve this purpose well. The busy site lies between a kindergarten and a home for the elderly. There is also a primary school and a bus and train station nearby. The team wants to start community planning in Boskovice in collaboration with local organizations, associations and business people.
A group of residents from Staré Město near Uherské Hradiště want to create a place for relaxing and meeting others near an existing walking route on the outskirts of the town near the Morava River. This is an area with relatively dense family and residential development, which is intersected by several busy traffic arteries. The town has long lacked both public green space and space for gathering and free time activities. Various organizations and associations will work with local residents to try to turn this unused space into a natural space where people can meet, relax, enjoy nature and possibly organize small community events. In addition to building the place itself, the project should also support develop of closer ties among the community members.
The village of Vřesina in the Ostrava region is spread out over three hills, between which there is a valley with two ponds. Local residents want to improve the pond area and connect it with a path. This would also connect the local parts in a natural way – the village’s project is called “Water connects us, we connect water”. The ponds would create an outdoor meeting place for local people, which is lacking in the village. A place that has been largely inaccessible, where there is nowhere to sit and relax or just enjoy nature will become a place where people will meet often. Together residents want to find the most suitable route to connect the two ponds and get from one to the other in a few minutes.
Together with the municipality of Trboušany and with the help of local residents, the Trboušany Winegrowers’ Association wants to improve the existing public spaces of the Pod Lipami area, building on the work and efforts of the older generations and creating a space for leisure and meetings of local associations and the community in Trboušany. Local craftsmen and companies will also be involved in the implementation of the project. The inhabitants of Trboušany are regularly involved in the improvement of the environment in which they live (tree planting, revitalization of the natural monument V Olše, organization of cultural and sporting events), through work parties and volunteering. This practice will also be used in the implementation of the planned project. An innovative element of the project will be the involvement of architecture students in the preparation of the design of the solutions.
We would like to thank Česká spořitelna bank for its support of the “We Can Do More” program. In addition to supporting the six municipalities described above, we were able to support approximately 20 municipalities and organizations that did not succeed in the final selection with at least a grant of CZK 100,000 for neighborhood activities and the start of the implementation of larger projects.