How to Turn a Vacant Parking Lot, and an Empty Gas Station, Into a Public Square

The scene at Square 67, formerly an abandoned gas station on Red Bird, over the weekend
The scene at Square 67, formerly an abandoned gas station on Red Bird, over the weekend
Courtesy Team Better Block

A couple of months back we mentioned Jason Roberts's plan to connect North Oak Cliff with the southernmost tip of the Katy Trail via a nine-mile trail along and across the Trinity River -- one he'd hoped to have wrapped within 90 days. And, lookie here, says the Better Blocker: "We'll announce more details on that project later in the week." Tick and tock.

Meanwhile: Roberts has posted about an intriguing project done in partnership with UTA architecture prof Wanda Dye, whose covered food court on Ross Avenue took top prize in the Better Boulevard event-slash-competition in late June. Long story short, as Dye wrote over the weekend: "Dallas' Team Better Block turned a vacant gas station in South Oak Cliff into a people-friendly environment complete with shipping container converted to a restaurant, outdoor cafe seating, fountains, and fishing!" A vacant gas station on Red Bird Lane, to be specific, surrounded by a sea of vacant parking spaces and a moribund strip shopping center -- a familiar sight in many parts of town, not just south of the Trinity.

Roberts last night posted the plan and photos on the Better Block website -- a step-by-step how-to, of sorts, for the project called Square 67, so called because Team Better Block intends for it to serve as a new public square rather than a dead space. He wrote last night:

At the end of the day, people lingered in a space formerly dedicated to cars, bought food and drinks, people-watched, and talked about how the community needed more events like this to bring everyone together. We were constantly asked about the next event, and how they could help. It's so rewarding to find out how much a community is willing to pitch in to help us make places that matter. When you step away from the world of specialists, and consultants, and just have fun with a community, you get a much better sense on how to make things better. The real key is to just do something concrete. Planning, and studying is necessary, but if we can't tie that to actual improvements on the ground in short order, then momentum can quickly be lost, and we can find ourselves in a pattern of always talking about doing something great, but never acting. And for places like this, time is of the essence. Everyone deserves a place that matters, and that builds up a community.

And, no, this is not a one-off. More retail to come; also, complete streets.

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