Main Street Challenge calls on designers for COVID-19 solutions 

A new Canada-wide challenge launches today to generate responsible, sustainable, and resilient design solutions that can be implemented during COVID-19 recovery—and post-pandemic—for Canada’s hard-hit main streets.

The Main Street Design Challengedeveloped by the Canadian Urban Institute (CUI) and the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada (RAIC)—invites all Canadianinterested in place-making and design to develop solutions that can help build the resiliency of Canada’s main streets. 


COVID-19 is resulting in devastating effects on the people, businesses and organizations that call Canada’s main streets home. Many small businesses, for example, have already been lost, and more will continue to close permanently in the coming days, weeks, and months.


The Challenge will demonstrate how design will play a key role in the revitalization of main streets: including kickstarting the economy, fostering vibrant, liveable, and healthy communities, increasing public safety, reducing social isolation, and restoring the public’s confidence to return to streets and public spaces.


The Challenge will also foster knowledge-sharing, collaboration, and expand access to the tools that communities need to rebuild during—and after—the global health emergency. 


“COVID-19 is having an unprecedented impact on Canada’s main streets,” said Mary Rowe, CEO of CUI. And as we look towards recovery, we know that the design community will play a critical role in developing creative solutions to help bring back our main streets.

“The main street of any city, town, or urban centre, across Canada has the potential to be the vibrant and vital heart of the community,” added John Brown, President of RAIC“Our organization supports the investment and promotion of design excellence in this core component of the built environment.”

An online portal will be open for submissions beginning June 22, 2020. All submissions that meet the project guidelines will be published online on a rolling basis in a free, open-access Main Street Design Playbook to inspire action by any organization, municipality, or individual. The Playbook will be released in full on World Architecture Day: October 5, 2020.

The Main Street Design Challenge is part of the Bring Back Main Street initiative, a nationally coordinated research and action campaign by the CUI to ensure the people, businesses, and organizations that call Canada’s Main Streets home can recover and emerge from the crisis stronger than ever.