Category: Tools for Better Blocks

How to Build a Bocce Court


During Better Block Akron, we created a bocce court in one lane of an expansive street, both to slow traffic and give attendees an activity to engage in while enjoying the public space. The court also worked as a barrier between pedestrians and the street, and provided an all-ages outlet for play; adults, adolescents, and seniors were holding bocce tournaments, and children were playing in the sand and attempting to juggle the balls.

The court was created with $200 and borrowed materials. If you’d like to create bocce court in your neighborhood, check out our recipe below. You can download a high-res PDF here.


How to build a green bike lane

Akron Better Block green bike lane
Akron Better Block green bike lane

We’ve been working on a book outlining lessons learned from Better Block projects occurring around the world, and as a part of the effort we’ve begun assembling recipes for interventions that are often implemented. One of the most notable has been the inclusion of temporary green bike lanes, which we stumbled across with help from the Baton Rouge Better Block team, and later applied with enhanced detailing in the Akron Better Block project sponsored by the Knight Foundation. Check out how we did it below, and pass it on to others (high res PDF here):



David Sucher’s Three Rules For A Walkable Neighborhood

Nantucket, MA. Photo credit:
Nantucket, MA. Photo credit:

The Better Block ideals build upon tried-and-true principles that have been codified and outlined by urbanists in the past. One such source of inspiration is David Sucher, the author of City Comforts. In it, he explains the essential elements of walkable, livable cities in three simple rules:

1. Build to the sidewalk (i.e., property line).

2. Make the building front “permeable” (i.e., no blank walls).

3. Prohibit parking lots in front of the building.

Sucher emphasizes that, more than architecture, the success of a neighborhood lies in the orientation of its buildings. “The key decision in creating a walkable, pedestrian-oriented neighborhood, is the position of the building with respect to the sidewalk. This decision determines whether you have a city or a suburb,” he says.

Build to the sidewalk

Property lines should always abut the sidewalk, channeling pedestrians into one area to encourage neighborly proximity. As a sub-rule to this requirement, Sucher suggests that the entry level of a storefront should be as level as possible with the street, not only to abide by ADA laws, but to make it easy to see into and enter the building.

Make the building front permeable

“Life attracts life,” says Sucher. Therefore, pedestrians should be able to see and participate in the activities and amenities offered in their community; place windows and doors along the sidewalk instead of blank walls, don’t block parks with high walls, and ensure that the main entrance to a business is immediately off of the sidewalk. A sub-rule to this mandate is to prohibit anything that would block visibility from the street, such as mirrored glass or heavy blinds on storefront windows, which discourage pedestrian engagement with the businesses in their community.

Prohibit parking lots in front of the building

In true urban neighborhoods, there are no parking lots in front of the buildings; they are either below, above, behind, or beside it. Sucher doesn’t deny the necessity of parking lots in cities, but they should never be the focus. “Parking lots are crucial,” Sucher says, “But unless you are in high school, or are at a tailgate party before a football game, or at a classic car concours d’elegance, parking lots are not the place you want to hang around. It is ironic, of course: we invest such great money and emotion in our cars and yet we don’t want to hang around them in parking lots.” If buildings must be built to the sidewalk to encourage pedestrian life, there can’t be a parking lot separating the business from its patrons. “Save the front for people,” Sucher says.

The following GIF illustrates how something as simple as the placement of a parking can dictate whether an area is suburban or urban:



Though Sucher’s rules are simple, they are often ignored in today’s planning processes in favor of big box stores, tight budgets, or strict parking requirements. Better Block attempts to take neighbors negatively impacted by these malpractices and re-creating vibrant, walkable neighborhoods by bringing storefronts to the sidewalk, making them inviting to the pedestrian, and encouraging streets and neighborhoods that don’t ignore the importance of the car, but are primarily designed for people. Any planning department can follow the three rules as a basic pattern for creating a successful city. “After the three rules,” says Sucher, “everything else is epilogue.

You can read more about Sucher’s three rules in “City Comforts,” or his summary online here. 

Better Block Inspiration: Jaime Lerner

As early as the 1970s, Brazilian politician and urban planner Jaime Lerner has emphasized the importance of mobility and sustainability within cities. With a focus on multi-modal transportation, reduced carbon emissions, and mixed-use spaces, Lerner has been a proponent of quick, affordable changes that can improve a city in less than three years. Like Better Block did in his wake, Lerner developed early on a series of guidelines to follow to stimulate economic development and encourage livable, accessible cities:

Make it cheaper

In his much-lauded TED talk, Lerner said, “Creativity starts when you cut a zero from your budget. If you cut two zeros, it’s much better.” Here at Better Block, we’re also big proponents of the “lighter, cheaper, faster” school of thought. Expensive, unwieldy projects take decades to plan, and are likely to become forgotten or ignored as the plans are passed through generations.

For example, his Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system revolutionized public transportation in Brazil, and cost a fraction of the amount of a light rail or trolley system. BRT simply took the idea of subway transit and combined it with a bus system, making buses more efficient and convenient to use, and encouraging multi-modal transport in the heart of his city, Curitiba. The buses run every minute, have their own lanes, never competing with vehicular or subway traffic, and mimic the loading and unloading of subway cars. Today, BRT systems have been implemented in 83 cities worldwide.

Do it quickly

When projects can be done for less money, they’re more likely to be done more quickly. Lerner also recognized that planning and hypothesizing cannot overpower the end goal of a more sustainable, lively city. When you start, he says, you can’t be insistent on having all the answers. Just do it, collaborate with the right people, and they will let you know if you’re on the right track. He calls his quick, inexpensive method “urban acupuncture.”

The Better Block team has its own way of getting things done quickly: blackmailing ourselves. When you blackmail yourself, you create pressure on yourself to make something happen by a certain deadline. To do this, make posters, a website, or a Facebook page to promote your event, even if it’s not fully planned. Tell your friends that it’s happening, and contact people in your network with whom you want to collaborate. That way, you know you need to make it happen by the date on the posters, and, in all likelihood, it will.

Transform use

Lerner noticed a perennial problem in large cities: most people work in the city, but live outside of it. This wasteful structure increases carbon emissions from its heavy dependence on cars, and makes the implementation of public transportation systems impractical, decreasing mobility within the city. Instead, he said, successful, sustainable cities are those where you can work, live and find leisure all in the same place.

To do this, spaces within cities need to be flexible and multipurpose. “You can’t have empty places for 18 hours a day,” Lerner says; sections of the city can play different roles at different hours. For example, a quarry can double as a public park, or a business district can become an outdoor marketplace on the weekends. This variety of use encourages people to live where they work, and work where they live, thereby saving energy, time and the environment.

Better Block implements this multi-use model into all of its events and demonstrations, encouraging organizers to program the street, have activities for all ages, and give attendees a reason to be there all day: a coffee shop for the morning hours, a sandwich place and independent shops for midday, alcohol and live music for the evenings, and outdoor gathering spaces throughout the day to create a perception of safety and a place for neighbors to exchange ideas. If the City and the community see the value in the Better Block project, the block can quickly become a place where people want to live, work and hang out, decreasing the likelihood of urban sprawl and its negative environmental impacts.

Our built environment should reflect our New Year’s Resolutions

Did you notice that people’s New Year’s Resolutions rarely say things like: Drive faster, Eat more fast food, Spend more time on Facebook? In fact, what we often resolve for ourselves is to take care of our personal well-being and what makes us feel whole: Create more (write, build, etc), Exercise more, Eat healthy, Spend more time with others, Spend more time doing what we truly love (reading, music, dancing, cooking, etc.), Live our values. If these things truly make us happy, why does our built environment often de-emphasize these things? Why is convenience and speed placed above quality and slowing down?

With our work, we’ve found that a healthy community naturally manifests itself onto the physical environment. But what we fail to often measure and support is how people really feel in a place. Architect, Christopher Alexander, notes that a healthy building, bench, or anything made in the past took into consideration not only “its capacity to support life, but went into considerable depth about the way people really feel: what they experience as human beings, what they experience spiritually, what is worthwhile for them, not in monetary terms (their salaries), but in felt, human terms involving creativity, fellowship, the experience of being of service to the world, and the experience of love and affection.”

He goes on to state that “The connection between human feeling and the wholeness of the world is profound. The presence of profound feeling in the hearts of human observers is the most sensitive, most reliable measuring stick.”

Spend one hour in the Bishop Arts District in Dallas (a small, walkable environment filled with local businesses, murals, and old buildings) and notice how many people take their wedding photos there, are holding hands, or simply sitting on a park bench. People feel better in these environments, yet we have so few of them.

This is why the process for change, and the act of working together as a community to re-shape the built environment from a fear-based, convenience (read: auto-centric) focused form, to one that embraces human life and the shared human experience is so powerful when encountered. Whether it be watching a boarded up, abandoned home find a new owner and slowly come back to life, or seeing Times Square convert from a cold and pedestrian hostile environment, to a place that people can meet, linger, and gather, this process of embracing life is moving for anyone witnessing the transformation. It charges something inside of us, and the moving of the needle from fear to love ultimately improves the greater social health of a community (something which we noted in past articles is just as important as diet and exercise for our well-being).

The problems we face now are not understanding what makes us truly happy, but overcoming the obstacles to change, which are largely based on fears and concerns over hurdles to convenience. With this in mind, let’s resolve to educate others on the need to create places that support and uphold life, and commit to action immediately!


Daylight your Streetcar Stops! The Future of Revitalizing American Cities

When visiting cities around the US, we are regularly asked, “Where do you like to develop Better Block projects?” Our answer is always the same…pull out your old streetcar maps, hop on a bicycle and begin re-tracing the routes. Along the former rail lines in those inner city suburbs, you should see clusters of historic buildings nestled nicely into neighborhoods. These were built to house supportive local businesses that provided daily necessities, and acted as community gathering spaces for residents in places as far away as New Orleans to New York City. The beauty of these small clusters were that they were typically only a block or two in size, and fairly small in square footage, which allowed them to be affordable enough for someone to create a manageable and solvent bakery, deli, market, tavern, flower shop, beautician 0r any multitude of neighborhood supportive retail. They were small, but they had powers of numbers to create a “sense of place” or destination, and could use collective buying power for bringing in goods, managing public spaces, and programming street activities. These places housed the local butcher that knew your favorite cut of meat, the pharmacist who knew your kids by name, and provided community gathering places where you and your neighbors could meet after a hard day at work and talk about life, love, hardships, while sharing a beer.

Bishop Arts District, Dallas (Oak Cliff), Texas. A former streetcar stop, daylighted, and filled with 30+ local businesses, and no national chains. Small spaces filled with chocolatiers, pie shops, cafes, clothiers, art galleries, designers, and some of the best/cheapest breakfast tacos in the city (El Jordan!)

Size was key…keeping it small made it manageable and instead of having to load up with 8 rolls of toilet paper, 10 cans of tomato sauce, and 3 loaves of bread (that strangely never seem to mold) at a single big box store, you simply bought fresher things on bi-weekly basis, stored less, had fresher goods, received regular exercise by simply walking 3 or 4 blocks to acquire your goods, and saw and interacted with your neighbors regularly. Also, the merchants knew and loved their products and focused on become artisans in their crafts (from breads, to meats, to flowers, to cheeses…not one “super center”, but multiple “specialized” individuals shops in close proximity). For some reason, we’ve made our “normal” routine of getting simple things like eggs or mayonnaise, something which requires the use of a two ton vehicle, a quarter tank of gas, very little muscle use, and the potential to put ourselves in harms way with hundreds of other people doing the exact same thing.

And with the recent revitalization of inner city neighborhoods occurring around the nation, we’re seeing saturation of these small blocks because they aren’t coming on line fast enough. We have a supply and demand issue which is suffocating and potentially destabilizing the potential for small blocks to return to their mainstay.

Daylight your one-block sized streetcar stops, and link them with irresistible pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure. Flickr photo by BeyondDC

Our hope is to see a return to daylighting as many of these streetcar stops as possible, and linking them with IRRESISTIBLE pedestrian, bicycle, and public transit options. Allow cars in the mix too, of course, but create parity and give people a reason to want to select other (read: healthier) options. If one mode of transit is given priority beyond any other, then people will naturally revert to what’s given to them which will stress the land use surrounding the businesses (read: lack of parking).

This is a very fragile development to create, because it requires property owners who are mindful of a blocks long term legacy. The tendency to want to “cash out” with the big chain while enticing, can quickly undo all of the work developed to make the place unique and special. Compare a block in the Bishop Arts District to the West End Marketplace in Dallas. The former is filled with dozens of small, unique, locally owned businesses, the other is filled with national chains like TGI Friday’s, Corner Bakery, and Chipotle. And while the chains might serve quality food, there’s nothing unique, All of it could be easily found in dozens of shopping strips throughout the city, the country, or conveniently, even at the airport on your way in and out of the city.

Black Star Pastry, in Sydney, Australia. Less than 1200 square feet, locally owned, and crammed full with people who can’t wait to grab a pastry on their way to the office.

So how do you keep the big chains from over running an area? Keep the buildings small. So small, that the locals can afford to run and manage their operations in the spaces. Small enough that the local neighborhood can support them. But, in large enough numbers that the businesses have collective power to create a destination and become a natural, supportive extension of the neighborhood.

Our tendency in large/mid-sized US cities is to try and replicate ideas found in New York or San Francisco, but the reality is that places like St. Louis, Dallas, and Duluth are too spread out, and lack the density to look like Manhattan. BUT, their strength exists when you get outside of the center city and go to that first inner city neighborhood “streetcar suburb” ring. Where homes and commercial edge together and create community gathering places that house local businesses, offer jobs, and promote the identity of the places and people that surround them.

The key is to “Think Small,” daylight as many of the streetcar stops as possible, and connect them with amazing multi-modal transportation. Beyond this, we must work quickly, and increment up these places. Otherwise, we could destabilizing the few that exist since their are so few available and the demand is so high for them.






What do neighborhoods and Better Blocks need? Illegal Granny Flats.

Photo from

We discussed in a recent article the need to incrementally reduce parking in neighborhoods while incrementally increasing density in order to reduce driving and allow for more rooftops that support local businesses in communities, but we didn’t outline one of the most important tools available to help move the dial.

The answer lies in small structures that we created for decades in backyards across America: the Granny Flat. Quite simply, these tiny homes do far more than increase density for neighborhoods, they also provide much needed affordable housing options for young people fresh out of school, older people looking to scale down their living expenses, or temporary residences for visitors to an area who want to get more of a “local feel” for places they travel to.

Friends who recently updated their backyard granny flat regularly post the space on which gives them an added boost to their income of approximately $700 a month. Not too bad for a young couple with a new baby who are looking for every opportunity to save or earn money that they can, given that daycare alone can be close to a mortgage in cost. They entertain guests from as far away as New Zealand who visit our small neighborhood retailers, sit in our outdoor cafes, and turn around and tell their friends to visit and follow their footsteps. This little space single-handedly provides a boost to a single household income, enhances neighborhood business economics, and acts as a one room convention and visitors bureau.

Other advantages are the added “eyes on the street” created by the additional people in the area which heightens a neighborhoods real and perceived sense of safety. Alleyways, which are common places for theft (through unseen rear access points), now have additional eyes protecting the area. Also, since these flats are nestled into historic neighborhoods with supportive commercial retail in close proximity, we see an uptick in bicycle ridership and pedestrian traffic as well. All major assets to increasing the sociability of places, whose byproduct is improved economics.

Lastly,  people who hit hard times through loss of jobs, illness, or other unforeseen circumstances, have an option to move out of their larger front house, rent the space out, and still live on their small plot of land while they recoup and hopefully recover. Or if they grow old and can no longer manage a large household, they don’t have to be shipped out of their neighborhoods and sent to cold, and distant nursing homes at the fringes of society while they still have the ability to walk.

And sadly, this staple of American households has been mostly relegated to illegal status largely due to unfounded fears. The friends I noted above are technically not allowed to rent this space, even though it’s doing so much good for them and our neighborhood. Acknowledging that communities need smart density options like the granny flat to support local businesses and residents is a first step to building Better Blocks that can act as supportive neighborhood destinations for people to live, work, and play in.

The Fragile Block: How to Kill a Good Thing

Warren Buffet has some great insight regarding the natural progression of good ideas that he refers to as “the Three I’s,” which I feel applies directly to the classic gentrification curve. Here it is from the Harvard Business Review:

First come the innovators, who see opportunities that others don’t. Then come the imitators, who copy what the innovators have done. And then come the idiots, whose avarice undoes the very innovations they are trying to use to get rich.

So if we look at gentrification as a process where on one end of the spectrum you have high segregation by low economics (poverty) and race (specifically minority) and the other end of the spectrum also being segregation but by high economics (wealth) and race (specifically majority, read: “wealthy white”), the middle ground becomes an area where we find greater integration both economically and racially, but tends to be a fragile space in time to maintain due to a tendency of what Buffet calls “idiots” to over-capitalize on what is working, without realizing the balance of identity, economics, and integration is what makes the place sustainable (for jobs, affordability, improved health, character, et cetera). I’m also a partner at a small restaurant in our neighborhood, and our group gets asked on a weekly basis to take our concept and bring it to another city in hopes that the same energy can be rubber stamped elsewhere. While the idea of “cashing in” might seem appealing, what makes our place truly special is the local ownership and the connection with the people and identity of the neighborhood. As opposed to simply using the traditional developer backed economic gardening ideas, economic harvesting within existing neighborhoods is a much more powerful and lasting solution to help make a place vibrant and sustainable. Find the locals on the ground that always dreamed of owning their own businesses and partner them with others who can help them achieve their dreams. It’s harder work, but the results are much more powerful and honest.  I’m sure this process has been talked about at length by others, but we find this regularly when discussing revitalization of areas that suffer from mass disinvestment.

In our community, we have a small block of historic, walkable buildings filled with  30+ local businesses called the Bishop Arts District that have an interesting mix of quality and services (from $1.5o tacos to a 5 star restaurant) that exist at a very small moment in time. Fortunately, this area has a handful of property owners who understand the value of maintaining a places legacy, and that this fragile balance is important. These businesses provide affordable options for locals, generate much needed economics that bring a regional draw, offer jobs, promote an identity, but is also dangerously close to being damaged by its own success. For example, once investors from outside of the area see that they can quickly create a bar that’s going to generate a healthy profit, they will rapidly jump in to build on the area’s increased economics. Others will see and do the same and potentially over-saturate the neighborhood with something it doesn’t want and can’t control.  My business partner says “it’s like eating ice cream all the time”. It sounds like fun, but the reality is it’s extremely unhealthy and hard to control.

So should we stop creating these great places for communities that provide jobs, promote identity, lowers crime, and improve an area’s health? Absolutely not, but what we face is a supply and demand issue. Since most cities, like ours, have so few of these places (less than 1% of Dallas is made up of places with well connected, walkable neighborhood destinations), but the desire is so high to have them, they quickly can become overrun by excessive capital. The answer to the problem is for us to try and replicate the form and function of these small places and  have them throughout the city because everyone deserves great places to live and walk in their neighborhoods, regardless of race or economics. A large city should be made up of one hundred Better Blocks that are all well connected (pedestrian, bike, car, and public transit), but have small spaces that locals can create their own dream business which helps support the community. In fact, our “Think Small” mantra is key because an individual who has a dream of opening something like a bakery, has to have a small but affordable space to work from. And placing several of these small spaces together creates power in numbers that allows these small business to leverage their combined resources for marketing and placemaking. Once the scale of the building becomes too large, the local business person cannot afford the rent or overhead, which leaves a series of chains who will fill the void, but with empty calories that contribute little to the character and cohesiveness of the neighborhood. Obviously, more car-centric cities face an issue of low density (higher density is needed to maintain strong walkable commercial blocks), so this problem has to be addressed in the same way that we have to address changing the auto-dominated landscape…incrementally. The gut reaction to seeing a great place like the Bishop Arts District is to say, “It needs more parking!”…the reality is that this would make the place less walkable (the reason you love it in the first place), because historic structures surrounding the area would need to be leveled to accommodate cars which would ultimately hurt the area. So what’s the solution?

Incrementally reduce parking at a rate that is almost imperceptible per year (they reduce parking by 3% in Copenhagen), while incrementally increasing the density (use the same 3%). How do you handle the latter? Simple, return to the way we did it during our “streetcar suburb” period in the 1920’s. In our part of Dallas (Oak Cliff), homes were regularly outfitted with “granny flats” in the back, and we had a healthy mix of duplexes, triplexes, and quads sprinkled around single family homes. Sadly, we’ve outlawed many of these places, due to unfounded fears. Fortunately, with the advent of applications like AirBnB, several enterprising locals have figured out that they can generate a small revenue for themselves (which helps keep them in their homes…especially in case hard times hit…read: job loss), provides more eyes on the street (heightening safety), and greater economics (tourists spend money locally).

In the end, it’s a very fragile system, but as long as we understand the process that tends to take over, we’ll have a much better chance of mitigating the downside to helping revitalize a community.

Think Small, and Perfection is Boring – Quick tips for a successful Better Block Project

We were just asked the question, “Is there any advice you can give to help me pull together a Better Block Project in my neighborhood?” by Avital Berman in Australia. Here’s some important things we’ve learned from the many projects we’ve organized:

  • Money is not the answer (people will tend to say, “we just need money to make this place great”). Get to the root of what they’re asking and find a fun solution. You might need some funds to pull it together, but that process is what’s incredible, not the money itself. An example of this is that we have a group on the East coast who wants an old historic neon sign re-lit, and they need about $500. They initially asked if we could help find donors, and we’ve said, just throw a “Help us re-light the sign” car wash. That process is what brings community together, helps build a collective sense of ownership, and creates a “barn-building” exercise that sparks all kinds of amazing conversation and neighborliness that’s missing in places. It helps tell the story to the broader community that’s easy for everyone to contribute to (eg. who doesn’t have $5 to help?)
  • Remember to relay to anyone who defaults to a fearful position (ie. we can’t do this because xxxx…) that the project is only temporary and a chance to test ideas out on how to make a more livable, vibrant block. Invite criticism and tell them, “You might be right, this could fail, but let’s try and see…we’re going to use the scientific method and test ideas to see what works and what doesn’t”. Keeping that humble, and let’s give it a try attitude is very important. Being stubborn and “my way or the highway” immediately creates adversaries. If someone says, “that’s great, but how could we maintain this (the trees, the events, etc.”, say, “great question…let’s find a solution” as opposed to the default, “you’re right, it’s too much trouble, let’s stick to the status quo”). Be open to the fact that you might be wrong, but understand that the current planning process is highly theoretical and tends to embrace worst-case scenarios that make places boring and un-livable.
  • – Don’t take on too large of a space. Stick to 250 to 400 feet (I’m not sure what the equivalent is in meters, but probably between 80 and 150 meters). Otherwise you’ll extend your resources far beyond your ability to manage and the energy will drop between “activity stations” (ie. pop-up shops, pop-up parks, etc) you create.
  • The way to get things done when you have a large project, but little means is to bring as many resources (people, local businesses, non-profits) to the problem and give them each a piece. Don’t micro-manage them…let them create something that is uniquely their identity. The hodge-podge and lack of order makes places fun. Think of it like clothes..if everything matches, it’s boring, but when you throw in some order (matching) and a little bit of chaos (bright accessories), it makes things unique and fun.
  • This is a chance to spotlight the identity of the community. What is it you do well (art, music, food, local spirit, crazy local characters) and put it out there for everyone to celebrate and enjoy with you. Make t-shirts of unique signs or things that are unique to the place…even if it’s something as crazy as a broken laundromat sign. Celebrate your unique, odd, and fun personality.
  • Think Small! Everyone tends to make things much larger than they need to be, but we all respond well to beautiful small things…and those are actually much easier to create and manage/administer. Remember, no one goes to New York and says, “I went to this AMAZING MASSIVE Italian restaurant!”…they say, “I went to this incredible, tiny, and romantic Italian restaurant with only 5 tables, a singing waiter, and a cook that came out and drank wine with us.” That’s the good stuff! Great places are made up of hundreds of tiny things, not one giant expensive thing. In Dallas, we invested millions in an Italian designed modern bridge, but people respond most to a block in my neighborhood called the “Bishop Arts District” that is made up of 30+ local businesses nestled into a neighborhood…no national chains, just small storefronts filled with wonderful shop owners, local goods, and things you can’t find in big box stores. The great places you love around the world whether it be in NYC, Paris, or Mexico City, are often only a block in size, but they’re filled with a lot of small things…a fruit stand, a deli, a flower shop, a book store, a cafe, a shoe shine guy/gal, a musician, outdoor seating, landscaping, a pocket park for kids. These things are simple, but beautiful when put together.
  • Don’t over meet…people have limited time…get them on the hook early to provide a piece to the equation, “ie. you handle the coffee shop”. Have them bring their friends and resources to the table. Document with photos, and video and promote via social media…help incite FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) with the broader neighborhood. If others see their friends are involved with helping revitalize their neighborhood, they’ll want to help too. Tag as many people on facebook as possible.
  • Keep it fun! Even though it’s not a street fair, it’s an urban planning exercise and community building process, people just want to celebrate, and allow them to do that. But your back-end goal is to create permanent, lasting change. Creating things together is the first piece. If people aren’t talking yet though, start by throwing a block party and just get everyone communicating. Remember, good food and wine can fix so many things.
  • If there’s something you really need or want, (ie. trees, wiring, etc), ask, “Are there any landscape architects in the neighborhood?”…or “are there any electricians in the neighborhood?”). You’ll find that you have most of the things/people you need to get things done within a 500 meter radius of your project. Need cafe seating? Ask the group, “Who here has any spare tables/chairs, or knows someone with these in their garage/home/apartment?”. Since the project is only temporary, it’s typically easy for people to lend those things out.
  • Embrace the chaos. You’re going to naturally want to have a nice and orderly system, but people aren’t that simple. You have to trust that the outcome will be magical. It might not be what you envisioned, in fact, major pieces that you want might fall apart at the last minute, but that’s okay…great things will happen, and the unexpected accidents are where the great stuff lies. Perfection is boring.
  • Be careful of egos…everyone’s got’m. Be accommodating, tender, but firm. Pay attention to people’s fears and find an answer that embraces love. That sounds all hippie dippie, but an example would be if someone says, “this area is dangerous, so we should hire police officers to stand on the street for extra protection” that solution is based on fear, and actually broadcasts to the greater community that this place IS dangerous, and we’ve brought in armed guards to get you through. A loving solution would be to create an inviting, romantic environment (piped in music, string lights, outdoor cafe seating) that allows people to come out naturally, creates more eyes on the street, which ultimately makes a place safer (bad guys don’t like to be seen), but embraces the good.

Better Block Camp Training Workshop Rescheduled for Fall 2013


UPDATE: This class has been rescheduled from the Spring of 2013, to the Fall. We will post updates “>here on the full schedule.

Ready to learn the ins and outs of developing a Better Block project? Join us in Dallas in November, 2013 while we help create a Better Block project in real time and instruct you on the details, obstacles, and best practices for rolling out a project in your own city.