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GARY | Four projects submitted last November for renewal and civic engagement in the Steel City have been named finalists in round one of the multimillion-dollar Knight Cities Challenge.

Based in Miami, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation is sponsoring the grant competition, investing $15 million over the next three years to encourage everyone to have a stake in the future of Gary and 25 other cities throughout the U.S. hit by declining circumstances.

The challenge received more than 7,000 submissions, and all 26 of the Knight Foundation communities are represented in the pool of finalists announced Monday. Grant winners, who will receive a share of $5 million, will be announced later this spring.

Those projects selected for consideration in Gary include:

• Creatives for the Good of Gary by Creatives for Good, was submitted by Nancy Schoon. This project focuses on spurring creative industries by partnering artists and creative professionals with local entrepreneurs and organizations to help build, brand and promote companies and nonprofits

• Dreams of a Sleeping City by Place Lab, University of Chicago, submitted by Lori Berko, would adapt vacant spaces in the city to serve as incubators for businesses that reduce blight and promote artistic expression while creating cultural districts.

• Gary Community Orchard by Brunswick Garden Club, submitted by Ebony Tillman, seeks to create a community orchard on a vacant lot in Gary where residents will produce and cultivate organic fruit.

• Soul Food Restaurant Incubator by University of Chicago, was submitted by Carol Brown. This project focuses on repurposing a vacant former restaurant into a soul food incubator that creates jobs, stimulates entrepreneurship and establishes an anchor institution for downtown revitalization.

“The challenge has introduced us to a host of new ideas and people who want to take hold of the future of their cities,” said Carol Coletta, Knight Foundation vice president for community and national initiatives. “Through these new connections we hope to grow a network of civic innovators to take on community challenges and build solutions together.”

The Legacy Foundation based in Merrillville provided a public conduit for grant competition in Lake County.

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Metro Editor