Crowdsourcing to Make a City Cool

Published Sep-12-11

One Birmingham Place, a multi-use facility concept wins an international crowdsourcing competition to give Birmingham, Alabama the COOL factor.

Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham, United States

The Story:

Crowdsourcing to Make a City Cool It’s not only businesses that are benefiting from crowdsourcing initiatives as towns and cities have cottoned onto the fact that they can pick up great ideas to improve communities and neighborhoods by turning to the crowd.

A Crowdsourcing Contest is Born

As part of its 50th anniversary local charity Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham went out and asked people in Birmingham, Alabama what they wanted for their community. The usual suspects came up time and again such as the need better schools and for the roads to be fixed, but what the majority of people wanted was for something to make the city a cooler place to be.

So the charity decided to launch an international on-line crowdsourcing contest called Prize2theFuture to solicit ideas for how best to use a city parking lot next to its Railroad Park.

To help guide participants to come up with the next big thing the crowdsourcing contest posed a simple question: "What is your idea for the Prize2theFuture physical site that will transform Birmingham into a cooler, more vibrant city?”

Talk of the Town

Within hours of the contest’s announcement it had become the talk of the town, especially the $50,000 prize money for the most outstanding and transformative winning idea. Other prizes included $10,000 second place, $5,000 third place, and seven $1,000 runner-up prizes.

During the course of the competition almost 3,000 people from 39 countries took part and submitted more than 1, 100 ideas. They were pored over by a committee of 33 local and national judges.

The suggestions were judged on the following criteria:

Ideas had to be cool, doable, realistic, sustainable, and have a broad appeal that would be able to draw people of all ages from all over the region.

Winner Selected

Submissions were whittled down to 50, then 10 finalists and eventually in May 2011 the overall winner of the crowdsourcing contest was announced. Local resident Colin Coyne won for his entry called One Birmingham Place. The idea is to replace the parking lot with a multi-use facility with eight elements that can tap into performance, social media, community theater and community organizations and visual arts.

Among the eight elements are an outdoor stage for performances that can double as a shaded raised seating area during the day, an open access computer lab, an outdoor projection wall to show images of Birmingham, and a café.

In his entry, Coyne said of One Birmingham Place that "each day is different based on creativity, what someone else is doing, what's on the menu, or what show is playing." He believes that it will be the constant evolution and changes that’s going to make it a cool place.

Coyne said that the initial concept came to him almost immediately, and then he let it percolate in his mind for a few weeks. When he was ready to commit the ideas to paper they all came out in one creative twenty minute burst.

Finding Funding

Now that the crowdsourcing competition is over, the next stage is to secure funding to make One Birmingham Place a reality. Coyne estimates that it could cost between $17 million and $25 million, but says that it was designed to appeal to many different funding sources.

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