Team Better Block in Dallas has been partnering with the city of Duncanville, Texas, to develop a series of demonstration projects that show how street space can be reallocated to enhance small business potential while creating a safer environment for pedestrians, children, and the elderly.
Though Duncanville was settled in the mid-1800’s the bulk of its growth occurred after the 1950’s, leaving it few pedestrian focused retail areas which can be found in other historic suburbs like Granbury, and McKinney. With little defined edge to build from, the team took a revised strategy for placemaking by reallocating two lanes of the existing four lane Main Street and converting them to an outdoor pedestrian market. The idea is based on the “Lemonade Stand” principle…for businesses to get started they need to begin small with low overhead and risk, but also be located in high-traffic areas in order to have the greatest potential for success. By working with local organizations Duncanville Live, the Parks & Recreation Department, and Bike Friendly Duncanville, a plan was developed to bring a community garage sale directly to the street and place planters along the edge to create a revised sidewalk edge.
Upon opening, the new street slowed traffic to a safer speed for pedestrians, while giving merchants a stronger retail frontage for higher-visibility. The reclaimed space quickly turned into a thriving outdoor market with families spending the day shopping, lingering, and playing in a space that would normally be driven through quickly and ignored. Several vendors noted higher sales volumes and were excited about setting up shop again. Markets, such as these, are an important way to engage new business opportunities and give the small entrepreneur a toe-hold into the development of a longer lasting, brick and mortar business. Even well-loved retail giants, like Starbucks Coffee, started off in a market…developing active public spaces that engage locals and businesses not only promote a more economically active city, but also increase livability and safety for residents while creating a destination for locals and visitors alike.