Reclaiming neighborhood streets for play and interaction

FUNDER: The Children’s Trust
PARTNER: ConnectFamilias
PROJECT AREA: City of Miami
STATUS: Complete
TIMELINE: January 2017 - March 2018


One of Miami-Dade County’s most problematic issues is the lack of safety for pedestrians and cyclists (MDC is the 4th most dangerous place in the US to bike or walk). In communities such as Little Havana, a family’s inability to safely walk, ride bike or play outdoor games together is made worse by the lack of green spaces and parks.

Streets are Miami’s most plentiful public spaces. Instead of being able to safely use streets as adaptive spaces for activity, our roads and even sidewalks are often avoided and feared. Families in neighborhoods with limited access to safe park/play space have little choice for where to engage in healthy recreation, develop stronger relationships, and become more active members of their community.

Additionally, many residents are unaware of the role they can play in shaping how their neighborhood develops. Modeled after the Play Streets concept, PlayFamilias provides a simple, innovative process so residents  can temporarily transform their neighborhoods streets into centers of health activity, engagement, and community connection.



Urban Impact Lab introduced the concept of Play Streets to actively engage Little Havana and Liberty City residents. Play Streets has been implemented in communities throughout the world as a way to temporarily limit automobile traffic on smaller, neighborhood streets in order to allow local kids and their families the opportunity to play and socialize. Residents of Little Havana and Liberty City immediately saw the value in the program and took the lead to implement the initiative.



Play Streets can be done on streets with low traffic volume and is ideal for communities with limited green or public spaces. Play Streets is a low cost, easy to implement initiative yet it has a significant impact on communities, including increased physical activity, social interaction, community connection, and civic engagement.

Urban Impact Lab introduced the idea of Play Streets to ConnectFamilias, a community development non-profit headquartered in Little Havana. Urban Impact Lab worked with ConnectFamilias to secure funding in order to prototype the program in Little Havana and Liberty City. Once funded, Urban Impact Lab managed the project, developed its communications strategy, secured additional partners, designed interactive program workshops, engaged local leaders, and oversaw recurring Play Streets implementation. The Urban Impact Lab also designed and led a civic engagement and advocacy training program for participating families.



  • Evidence-based identification of community need & solution to support Play Streets program

  • Action-oriented program development & engagement through 25 community meetings

  • Implementation of 8 resident-led Play Streets activations

  • Civic engagement training & advocacy development for participating residents

  • Creation & distribution of play streets how-to guide


The Urban Impact Lab team worked closely with ConnectFamilias to design an outreach, education, and engagement strategy to reach local families. The program was openly available to all residents.

Urban Impact Lab then worked closely with ConnectFamilias and interested families to design, prototype, and implement the Play Streets program. Local community members embraced our collaborative approach which empowered to lead everything from the official naming (PlayFamilias in Little Havana) to the dates, times and activities each Play Street would be held. Over 15 families consistently participated in ongoing Play Streets activities.


Once the Urban Impact Lab team had supported the  community in successfully implementing 5 Play Streets, the team then brought residents together for a Civics & Advocacy training course, where they learned about local government structure, leadership and policy making. The training helped interested residents prepare to advocate for an expanded, easily accessible Play Streets policy within the City of Miami.  As part of the course, residents learned how to contact their elected representatives, practiced writing a letter to their representative, and role-played a mock meeting with a city official.

Following the training, a group of these resident leaders joined Urban Impact Lab and ConnectFamilias staff in a meeting  at the district Commissioner’s office where they led a conversation describing the PlayFamilias initiative and confidently advocating for expanding the program citywide.

Based on lessons learned, the Urban Impact Lab team created a Play Streets How To Guide available to anyone interested in organizing a Play Streets initiative in their community.



Play Streets can happen in most communities, and arguably there should be at least one Play Street in every neighborhood! Download the Play Streets Guide in english or español for details on how to organize one.

Learn more about transforming your neighborhood streets into avenues of play and connection.