Twenty cities made the cut as finalists in a competition to solve problems and improve life in American cities. The finalists in the Mayors Challenge, an initiative of Bloomberg Philanthropies, are competing for a total of $9 million that will be awarded to five cities to jumpstart their plans.

Ideas submitted by the finalist cities include a plan to rehabilitate foreclosed properties by transferring them to community members to put the land into productive use, an initiative to cut a city’s infant mortality rate in half and an effort to improve early childhood development for children in low-income households. The grand prize winning city will receive a $5 million prize, while four runner-up cities will receive $1 million each.

Finalist cities were selected from among 305 cities that submitted ideas in the competition. The 20 finalists are: Boston; Chicago; Cincinnati; Durham, N.C.; High Point, N.C.; Hillsboro, Ore.; Houston; Indianapolis; Knoxville, Tenn.; Lafayette, La.; Lexington, Ky.; Milwaukee; Philadelphia; Phoenix; Providence, R.I.; Saint Paul, Minn.; San Francisco; Santa Monica, Calif.; Springfield, Ore.; and Syracuse, N.Y.

Teams from the finalist cities will attend a two-day ideas camp in New York City November 12-13. The teams will work collaboratively to refine and strengthen their ideas in preparation for final submission next January. Winners will be announced in spring 2013.

The goal of the Mayors Challenge is to develop ideas that can be replicated in other cities. New York City Mayor and billionaire Michael Bloomberg, the namesake for Bloomberg Philanthropies, issued the challenge to the nation’s mayors in June.