2006 Coffeehouse Challenge

Through her job with the Benjamin Franklin Tercentenary, BLDGBLOG contributor Nicola Twilley has put together something that should hopefully get more people thinking about urban design, sustainability, quality of life, public transport, pedestrianization… Whatever sounds good.
And though BLDGBLOG is not involved, I thought I’d give it a plug here, and try to drum up some interest.

In a nutshell, the program is called the Ben Franklin Coffeehouse Challenge, and it’s sponsored by Starbucks. The idea is that you get some people together, discuss something you’d like to see happen in your community – more benches, a new park, some fresh paint on the neighborhood bus stop, a film society, a mural or two, a NASCAR track, fewer potholes, some roof gardens, a new running path – meet a few more times to refine the idea, then you organize it into a coherent, workable plan.
That plan is then submitted to the Tercentenary, who review it with a panel of urban designers, community groups, etc. – and if whatever magical buttons need to be pushed are pushed, then Starbucks will give you $3000 and you can get the project off the ground.
That’s right: cash money. It’s all about the Benjamins.
For now, though, it’s only in Greater Philadelphia (with south Jersey up to Princeton, parts of Delaware, and central PA all the way to Penn State included, hint-hint) – but I’m sure you could convince everyone involved that the desire for urban improvement is nationwide. Park benches in Minneapolis, roof gardens in San Francisco, running paths in Tucson.
Better street lighting in Denver. A public performance space in Silverlake.
Well-marked pedestrian crosswalks in Tallahassee.
As the official program graphic itself asks: “How do I plant a lawn on my roof?”
“I want a say in how my town grows.”
So whether you like their coffee or not, I think it’s pretty cool that Starbucks appears to want to fund roof gardens. We need more roof gardens.
If you’ve got some suggestions – like a UFO landing strip in Austin – send a few in to BLDGBLOG; I’d love to see what you’re thinking.

(Quick PS: BLDGBLOG contributors Nicola Twilley and Geoff Manaugh also helped organize a small, Franklinian beer competition last September in Denver, the results of which – Poor Richard’s Ale – are now available to drink! So go have a pint for Ben Franklin, think about urban design – and perhaps someday you’ll be drinking a BLDGBLOG Architectural Stout… BLDGBLOG Piranesian Ale. Oil Derrick IPA. Offshore Utopia Pale Ale. Manmade Archipelago Doppelbock. London Topological Bitter. BLDGBLOG Geotechnical Weissbier…)

8 thoughts on “2006 Coffeehouse Challenge”

  1. *&^#%@! Registration sucks especially to see Associated Press stories that are freely available anyway!!
    Preview>>> [try http://www.bugmenot.com for a password]

    By Alexandra Olson, Associated Press Writer | September 28, 2005
    LAJAS, Puerto Rico –People in this sleepy hamlet are so sure they have been receiving other-worldly visitors, they want to build a UFO landing strip to welcome them.

    A bright green sign along a lonely country road in southwestern Puerto Rico proudly displays a silhouette of a flying saucer and two words: “Extraterrestrial Route.”
    Most Puerto Ricans laughed when a horse farmer installed the sign on his property at the request of Reynaldo Rios, a local elementary school teacher who says he’s been communicating with alien visitors to this U.S. territory since he was a child.
    Rios, a 39-year-old with a goatee and a shock of dark hair, won’t be ignored. With the blessing of a local government desperate for tourist dollars, he’s dedicated himself to building the UFO landing strip.
    “I can’t say exactly when they will come, but I know it will happen,” Rios said. “I want to keep believing in my dreams.”
    Lajas Mayor Marcos Irizarry’s support for the idea has provoked outrage among islanders who complained it would be a waste of money at a time when the government is encouraging thousands of employees to shorten their work week to cope with a staggering fiscal deficit.

  2. Dude, this sounds very cool. Congratulations on organizing such a neat design-oriented event. I hope it inspires more people to be proactive about their build environment. Good luck to you guys!


  3. So far every comment is from a name that begins with J… In any case, thanks – glad you like the idea! Spread the word. Get the architecture schools into this, and high schools and everybody, regular people, design students drawing new walking paths and pedestrian bridges and cool parks and public ampitheaters and and and…

    Jav, I think that’s actually your UFO landing strip. Admit it.

  4. Would have been a great idea wihtout Starbucks sponsering it:)

    Starbucks is financially supporting Israel, which is resulting in the daily killing of Palestinians, and demolition of houses and sustainibility of thier occupation.

    It should be boycotted:)

    p.s: sorry for the off topic comment, couldnt hold myself 🙂

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