PURPOSE: To promote livable streets and neighborhood vitality.
LEADERS: Local Advocates, Local Businesses
SCALE: Street || Block || Building
FACT: Fort Worth’s Better Block Project was “built” using only $500 worth of materials.Today,someof thechanges proposed are being made permanent by the City of Forth Worth.

Local community activists in the Dallas neighborhood of Oak Cliff launched the Build a Better Block project. Spearheaded by Go Oak Cliff, the organization relied upon cheap or donated materials, and the work of many volunteers to transform a single underutilized urban block.

In short, Build a Better Block encourages local activists and property owners to temporarily activate vacant storefronts and public space. In Dallas, the first effort utilized food vendors and sidewalk cafe tables as places to congregate. “New York style” cycle tracks painted along the curb pushed cars outward to reduce the number of travel lanes, which effectively slowed traffic. Finally, native landscaping and street furniture helped improve the block’s sense of place.

To date, the Build a Better Block effort has had a substantial spin-off effect: the momentum gained from the project led to the permanent use of formerly under- utilized retail space. Additionally, the process helped ad- vocates in Dallas and Forth Worth garner a commitment from their leaders to permanently implement complete street improvements. It has also spurred a new consultancy firm, called Team Better Block. They are now ad- vising other organizations and cities to use the low-cost, low-risk process to to incite change.

As a touchstone of the tactical urbanism move- ment, the Better Block approach continues to capture the attention of urbanists and advocates. Similar efforts have now taken place in Forth Worth, Oklahoma City, Philadelphia, Memphis, and beyond.

In Oyster Bay, NY, a similar strategy deployed by DoTank and Street Plans utilized “pop-up shops” and a farmers’ market, which have since become permanent. This includes Billy Joel’s 20th Century Cycles, a motorcycle showroom that has become a regional draw. Joel participated in the initial event and was struck by the potential of the space he now rents.

Excerpt from Tactical Urbanism 2.

Posted in: Events
Tagged: tactical, tactical urbanism