Both Norfolk, and Saint Paul have Better Blocks planned for spring and summer respectively. Each city will be working directly with Team Better Block out of Dallas to help pull these projects together. Norfolk’s will take place on North Granby Street, while Saint Paul’s will focus on East 7th. The schedules are being set for both now, but you can learn more and sign up for either below:
Government Street in Baton Rouge will be transformed with lane reductions and an upgraded streetscape as part of a Better Block project planned for April 13th and 14th. Check out full details on the project here.
Check out this post from Our Chattanooga to learn more details on a Better Block project planned for Glass Street on February 23rd.
A ton of great activities and pop-up shops are planned for the block. Also, a volunteer form is available to take part.
Grand Rapids, Michigan, is launching its first Better Block project which is being led by Tyler Doornbos, Lynee Wells and Josh Leffingwell. The effort will take place on May 18-19th and will feature a revitalized street, pop-up shops, and more.
For more information, check out the story in the Grand Rapids Press here. We’ll post more details as they become available.
Team Better Block is working with the Sustainable Living Festival in Melbourne Australia over the coming week to explore how better block can advance sustainable living and putting to work many of the wonderful innovations in green technology emerging from Australia. Kicking-off in Melbourne, Jason and I spoke to a packed crowd of enthusiastic doers and thinkers.
Melbourne is proving that every community has all the resources and talent to make change, they just need to be activated and provided a platform to work together. The better block has been well received by the science community in Australia because it uses scientific methods in testing new ways of using the built environment. I am learning that better block is a pathway not only for community collaboration, but individual life changes that lead to sustainability. My own story of leaving corporate america, ditching the auto commute for walking commute, replacing many business trips with video conferences and social media and simply living local in Oak Cliff has made my life more sustainable and greatly reduced my carbon footprint.
I see now that the better block facilitates this type of lifestyle change. Many of the volunteers and leaders we have worked with have made these lifestyle changes on their own following the better block experience. They have started their own business, reduced auto use, built a cooperative housing project, started a co-working office or simply started living more locally. I am encouraged by this Festival and increasingly seeing how better block is meshing with the greater environmental movement to advance change.
In Australia they don’t have years to involve people in creating a shared vision of a sustainable future. They literally have six months. That is the next election cycle is coming around and climate change is at the center of the debate. Too many people see climate change as a daunting task and are more focused on immediate human needs. The better block could be a powerful key for Australians to collectively step up and demonstrate what a low carbon world means to them.
I recommend that projects highlight how green technology can be retrofitted into streets to reduce the need for fossil fuels by, for example, installing solar lighting and wind capture. I see using the better block as a temporary testing ground for integrating new ideas into the streetscape and urban fabric. We created testing zones for nuclear weapons and subverted laws for years to advance military technology. Why not create sustainability testing zones in cities that advance green technology, incubate new businesses and foster housing improvements?
Six months is plenty of time for Australia to accomplish 4 better block projects and give a snap shot of what a ‘sustainability testing zone’ would look like! I can only imagine what will come from the creative folks I have met here. For tour details see below:
THE BETTER BLOCK TOUR WITH ANDREW HOWARD
- GEELONG, Activating Community Lecture Better Block Lecture
Tues, 19 Feb, 6 – 7pm, Percy Baxter Theatre, Deakin University (Waterfront), 1 Gheringhap Street, Geelong, VIC 3220. Gold coin donation.
- GEELONG, Activating Community Lecture Better Block Workshop
Weds 20 Feb, 9am – 12pm, Courthouse Arts, Gheringhap St
Geelong, VIC 322, Geelong, free.
- TRARALGON, Better Block Presentation and Workshop
Thurs, 21 Feb, 6 -9pm, free.
- BALLARAT, Better Block Presentation and Workshop
Sat, 23 Feb, 10am – 1pm, free.
- HEIDELBERG HEIGHTS, Making A Better Block – Murundaka
*Inspired by Better Block
Sat 23 Feb 10am – 4pm, Murundaka Co-Housing, Heidelberg Heights, $50 Full, $40 Conc, email@example.com
- SYDNEY, Better Block Presentation and Networking event Tues, 26 Feb, 6-9pm, Riderfood Warehouse, 303 Cleveland Street, Redfern, Sydney, free
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.
The Better Block went from a small community block project in Southern Dallas to an international movement in 2012. It’s been a whirlwind year and heartening to see so many neighborhoods, non-profit organizations, and cities take on their own Better Blocks to show the rapid potential for change that can occur when a small group of thoughtful, committed people dedicate themselves to real change. With that, we wanted to highlight our list of top milestones for the past year:
Better Block featured at the 2012 Venice Biennale in Italy
Think of the Biennale as Olympics for Architecture and the Better Block’s prominent role in it the equivalent of storming the Bastille or in this case the Arsenale. The gathering of 55 nations to display and compete for the coveted Golden Lion awards for architecture occurs every two years and is typically focused on trends in modern design. One architect is chosen to select a theme and curate the main pavilion, Arsenale. British Architect, David Chipperfield directed this, the 13th annual Biennale under the theme of “Common Ground.” He chose this theme in order “to encourage my colleagues to react against the prevalent professional and cultural tendencies of our time that place such emphasis on individual and isolated actions. I encouraged them instead to demonstrate the importance of influence and of the continuity of cultural endeavour, to illustrate common and shared ideas that form the basis of an architectural culture“. Let me translate that from Old English to Americano: Architects, if you want to stay relevant don’t just thinking about the big building project but consider the space around it and the community in which you are building in. The American pavilion entitled “Spontaneous Interventions” received a honorable mention, a first for the USA!
Better Block co-founder Jason Roberts Awarded as Champion of Change at the White House
Secretary of the US Department of Transportation Ray LaHood was on hand in DC at the Champions of Change ceremony which awarded leaders in communities who were making major changes that positively influenced the built environment. Other awardees sat on panels lead by the Secretaries of the FHA, and FAA.
Roberts’ work revitalizing a modern streetcar line in Dallas, and the Better Block projects were both highlighted as major initiatives that are helping re-shape the built environment. Click here to view the full White House blog post written by Jason on these efforts.
Better Block spotlighted in Dwell Magazine
In April of 2012, Dwell Magazine released its “The Now 99 List”, which featured 99 new design ideas, people, products, and plans that had have reshaped cities. The Better Block was given a nod alongside Vancouver’s Picnurbia, and Philadelphia’s The Porch projects showing how public spaces could be rapidly activated through lighter, quicker, and cheaper installations.
The US Department of Transportation looks to collaborate with Better Block Projects
After winning the White House Champions of Change Award, Better Block founders Jason Roberts and Andrew Howard were asked to meet with officials at the US Department of Transportation to begin collaborating on tracking metrics and gaining greater insight from community led block projects that could be instituted at a national level. Currently, Team Better Block in Dallas is working with application developers and open source gurus around the nation to develop a series of tools that communities could use to help implement projects and interact more closely with public officials to make temporary changes permanent.
The Better Block TEDx
The city of Austin, and Oklahoma University both hosted TEDx events that featured the Better Block originator, Jason Roberts talking about the history of the project and the path that led to the effort’s development. From restoring historic theatres, returning bygone streetcars, to creating a bicycle movement in a community with no bike infrastructure, the series of steps that created the foundation for the first Better Block are summed up in Jason’s high-speed, but passionate presentation.
Oklahoma Unveils Better Block training for all Main Street Associations across state
In November, Oklahoma’s Chamber of Commerce sponsored an official training and Better Block build-out for all of the directors of the state’s Main Street Alliance programs.
The Directors met in Tulsa, and began work revitalizing the Kendall-Whittier district which housed a historic theater, and multiple streetcar era structures. Teams set to work in 3 days and received certifications for their efforts in helping transform an area that has great potential for redevelopment. Click here to read more about the project.
The Alamo gets Better Blocked!
Team Better Block in Dallas worked closely with the Project for Public Spaces in New York City and the City of San Antonio to help implement an Alamo Better Block project that would highlight the potential plaza improvements that could be made to the historic site to help make the space a more desirable place for residents and visitors alike to linger and enjoy.
Jason Roberts nominated for Texan of the Year by the Dallas Morning News
The year wrapped up with a surprise nomination by the Dallas Morning News for Better Block originator, Jason Roberts as Texan of the Year. Check out the full article here.
2013 looks to be an even bigger year with international projects occurring in Australia, Canada, and France!
The final better block of 2012 and 3rd in San Antonio, TX occurred this past weekend (Dec. 8th). The City of San Antonio’s City Center Development Office contracted Team Better Block of Dallas alongside the Project for Public Spaces in New York City, which worked together to develop a site plan that narrowed a segment of West Commerce Street from 4 lanes to 3 lanes in order to create a more inviting pedestrian experience. In Full Bloom Creative out of San Antonio transformed a parking lot into a plaza with an outdoor market, street furniture, and landscaping. The goal for the project was to bring to life the West Commerce Street road diet recommendations from the recently completed Downtown Transportation Study and show how the “West Commerce District” could host greater retail outlets as proposed in a recent Study.
The plan was to take West Commerce, a major east-west one-way arterial in Downtown from 4 lanes to 3 lanes with an expanded pedestrian area, better bus stops, cafes, landscaping and a market. Do all of this in a period of three hours of set-up using temporary materials, gauge the reaction, capture data and take down before the sun sets. With a handful of dedicated volunteers we set out.
Speed before 25MPH
Speed after averaged 20 MPH. The experiment worked! The addition of landscaping, on-street parking and wider sidewalks reduced speeds to a safe range. Studies indicate that every MPH under 20 MPH significantly reduces the frequency and severity of traffic accidents. A safer environment for pedestrians and cars means greater viability for retail and cafes.
Click here to view the San Antonio Express write-up on the project including a photo essay. Many thanks to all the wonderful volunteers that made this project a success. San Antonio is truly lucky to have so many people that care of love for their city. This is the last project of the year for Team Better Block. Next year, they’ll be Australia, France, and Canada demonstrating street improvements to international audiences. Next stops in the U. S. are St Paul, MN and Norfolk, VA. Check back soon for more details.
In 2011, Team Better Block in Dallas tested a median-developed public space inspired by La Rambla in Barcelona, Spain. The Dallas Morning News announced today that two-blocks of Jefferson Boulevard will now officially be transformed with a La Rambla median which will allow for small markets to be created along the center of the street. TBB is also working with Jim Lake Properties to help create smaller commercial spaces in the existing historic buildings along the 400 West Block of the street so that more small businesses will have an accessible and affordable space along the corridor. Expect to see more from this project in the near future!
On December 8th, from 10AM to 3PM, the city of San Antonio will hold their third Better Block project at the historic Plaza de Armas. Head out to experience a revitalized street complete with live music, pop-up vendors, food, dance and more.
- 10AM Running/Walking Tour of Downtown Historic Sites (Starting from The Vistana)
- 10AM – 1PM Live music by Sarah Centeno and band (Spanish Governor’s Palace, Side Courtyard)
- 11AM-11:45AM Lululemon sponsored Yoga Class by Kristal Cuevas (Inside The Vistana)
- 1PM-2PM Tango Class by Rincon del Tango (Inside the Vistana)
- 1PM – 3PM Live music Josh Klaus (Governor’s Palace)
- 10 AM to 3 PM Partridge in a Pie Tree serving Breakfast and Delizia Empanadas (Spanish Governor’s Palace, Side Courtyard)
- 10 AM to 1 PM Say-She-Ate food truck with bistro tables (Corner of Laredo and Commerce)
- 10 AM to 3 PM Pop–up Coffee Shop and Bakery, by Revolucion Coffee and Bistro Bakery, with bistro tables outside. (northern side of W. Commerce across from Continental Bldg, same side of street as Penner’s)
- Pop-up display windows by Brandon of www.gambrellrenard.com (Building located at corner of West Commerce and Flores)
- Art & Jewelry Retail and Artists at work with a live painting event by Joshua Perez (who will raffle off painting at the end) (Along the Continental Hotel Building – San Antonio Metro Health Department Building)
- Holiday Market (Plaza de Armas Parking lot)
- Great Retail at Penner’s and Marti’s, Dollar General, and Goodwill
Bring the Pets!
- Blessing of the Animals at noon and pick up your Yelp! Doggy Bandana (Market Square)
- Lucy’s Doggy daycare and Spa will be providing free nail trims, and coupons (Plaza de Armas parking lot)
- Bike Valet and BCycle (Plaza de Armas parking lot)
- Wider sidewalks and On-street parking (North Side, Across from Continental Building)
- Parked VIA Primo Bus (W. Commerce, West of Flores)
Let your voice be heard!
- Project for Public Spaces Survey (Plaza de Armas and corner of W. Commerce and Santa
- San Antonio River Authority and Kell-Munoz discussion on the San Pedro Creek Restoration Project (At San Pedro Creek)
- Yelp! Will have a table handing out bags and allowing you to vote for favorite vendor. (Plaza de Armas Parking lot)