Home > Featured > Calling all urbanists for Community Challenge
People biking on a street closed to cars

AARP Wisconsin is inviting local organizations and governments to apply for the 2022 AARP Community Challenge grant program, now through March 22. These grants fund quick-action projects that help communities become more livable in the long-term by improving public spaces, transportation, housing, civic engagement, coronavirus recovery, diversity and inclusion, and more. New Urbanists across the state are encouraged to bring their ideas forward and attend a virtual meeting of CNU Wisconsin on Thursday, February 17, at 7pm to learn more about the program (click here to register).

Now in its sixth year, the grant program is part of AARP’s nationwide Livable Communities initiative, which supports the efforts of cities, towns, neighborhoods and rural areas to become great places to live. 

“AARP Wisconsin is excited to kick off the Community Challenge again in 2022 to continue helping communities across Wisconsin become great places for people of all backgrounds, abilities and ages, especially people 50-plus,” said AARP Wisconsin Interim State Director Christina FitzPatrick. “The program has proven that quick-action projects can lead to long-lasting improvements right where Wisconsinites live.”

AARP will prioritize inclusive projects that support residents aged 50 and over, address disparities, directly engage volunteers, and aim to achieve one or more of the following:

  • Support communities’ efforts to build engagement and leverage funding available under new federal programs through laws like the American Rescue Plan Act, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, and more. 
  • Create vibrant public places that improve open spaces, parks and access to other amenities.
  • Deliver a range of transportation and mobility options that increase connectivity, walkability, bikeability, wayfinding, access to transportation options and roadway improvements.
  • Support a range of housing options that increases the availability of accessible and affordable choices.
  • Ensure a focus on diversity, equity and inclusion while improving the built and social environment of a community.
  • Increase civic engagement with innovative and tangible projects that bring residents and local leaders together to address challenges and facilitate a greater sense of inclusion.
  • Other community improvements; including health services, community development, and coronavirus pandemic recovery.
A temporary boardwalk in one image and a popup main street cafe in another image
Community Challenge recipients in Maine created temporary boardwalks for accessible beachfronts and turned parking lots into outdoor seating areas

AARP Wisconsin works in collaboration with communities across the state, bringing people together, and providing resources and expertise to help make Wisconsin’s counties, towns and cities great places to live for people of all ages. Past grants have gone to Appleton, Ashland, Bayfield, Beaver Dam, Berlin, Chilton, Cuba City, Deer Park, Ellsworth, Gays Mill, Goodman, Green Bay, Greendale, La Crosse, Madison, Milwaukee, Oconomowoc, Sheboygan, and Spooner. Other noteworthy projects from around the country (listed here) include:

  • Birmingham: REV Birmingham (2017)
    The nonprofit, its partners and stakeholders conducted pop-up demonstration projects to show how improved street safety and traffic flow for vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians can be an economic catalyst in the city’s Woodlawn neighborhood and commercial district.
  • Des Moines: Home Opportunities Made Easy (2020)
    This project will help construct an Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) demonstration in an existing urban neighborhood to introduce the ADU as a housing alternative for the area and lead to an increased range of housing options for the community.
  • Baltimore: Pigtown Main Street (2017)
    As part of a long-term infrastructure improvement project, a pop-up demonstration park event was held at an intersection in need of safety enhancements.
  • Conway: Mount Washington Valley Housing Coalition (2017)
    The coalition partnered with The Gibson Center for Senior Services and others to educate homeowners about accessory dwelling units and the state’s 2017 law allowing them.
  • Lebanon: UVLSRPC (2019)
    This project will develop an Open Data Portal to host data and maps in an accessible and interactive framework that encourages community engagement and dialogue around housing, particularly for the needs of underserved groups.

The program supports all community types, with nearly 40% of past projects benefiting rural communities and another 20% going to suburban areas. Successful proposals demonstrate an ability to garner additional funds or support from public and private funders, encourage replication and overcome local policy barriers, and receive greater overall awareness and engagement. The Community Challenge is open to 501(c)(3), 501(c)(4) and 501(c)(6) nonprofits and government entities. Other types of organizations are considered on a case-by-case basis. Grants can range from several hundred dollars for small, short-term activities to tens of thousands for larger projects.

The application deadline is 4:00 p.m. on March 22. All projects must be completed by November 30, 2022. To apply or view past grantees, visit www.AARP.org/CommunityChallenge.

By Darrin Wasniewski. Photos courtesy of AARP.