Real Estate

A Better Ross Ave. and "Tactical Urbanism"

At some point the conversation below, concerning the plan to create a so-called quick-win trail that would link Bishop Arts to the Katy Trail across the Trinity, took an odd swerve, with someone insisting that Jason Roberts, Andrew Howard and the rest of the Better Block-ers are trying to "kill the car in Dallas." Um, no, not exactly. As Roberts explains on Better Block, when writing about Sunday's Build a Better Boulevard Challenge on Ross Avenue:

Our Ross Better Boulevard project re-balanced the equation of the street giving equal weight to people and cars. This simple measure dramatically changed the psychology of the street and showed the potential for how our city can move forward in creating great places.
It's what architect and professor Ellen Dunham-Jones refers to as "tactical urbanism" on The New York Times's website today when writing about "automobile-dependent landscapes" that have been "forsaken." Like, oh, Ross Avenue. Writes the professor:
Top of the list of unloved, underperforming and ubiquitous places, [commercial strip corridors] were engineered for the single purpose of swiftly moving cars. But overzoned for commercial uses, they are now clogged with cars on both local and through trips. They provide access to cheaper land and "drive till you qualify" affordable housing -- but then eat up the savings as transportation costs have risen to 20 to 40 percent of household budgets. They are aging with little prospect of funding for maintenance. And their high vacancy rates just add to the dispiritedness of a failed public realm.

Can they be retrofitted into attractive, transit boulevards lined with trees, sidewalks and affordable housing and anchored by mixed-use centers with a public life to be proud of? June Williamson and I are tracking over 35 North American corridors that are being redesigned not to make driving miserable, but to recognize the multiple social, environmental, economic and transportation purposes that great streets serve. Their integration was highlighted in the grassroots-led temporary re-striping of Ross Avenue as "Ross Ramblas" in Dallas this week at Build a Better Boulevard. Participants employed several techniques of Tactical Urbanism, including pop-up shops, chairbombing and dumpster pools.

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Robert Wilonsky
Contact: Robert Wilonsky