In late June, the Better Block project -- which, in April, transformed the dangerous intersection of Kings Highway, W. 7th Street and N. Tyler Street into a pedestrian-friendly plaza -- reached the pages of the Houston Chronicle. And, some time after that, it found its way to Anderson Cooper's producers at CNN, who, in recent weeks, have been reaching out to certain Cliffdwellers wondering: "So, when are you doing that again, anyhow?" Because maybe that's something CNN would like to, ya know, cover.
Jason Roberts, chief among its creators and organizers, had no good answer. Except: On September 12, Go Oak Cliff is hosting its First Annual Blues, Bandits & BBQ at 1230 W. Davis, site of The Kessler. And Roberts thought, well, that'd be an awfully good time to build another Better Block. So, then, that's the date. And the place: W. Davis, between N. Edgefield and N. Clinton Avenues. And this time, Roberts has "roped in" (his words) SWA Group, the Lamar Street landscape architectural firm, to assist with the build-out.
"We're building out a series of decks using old pallets, and building those into the parking lanes, like the Parking Day event in San Francisco," Roberts tells Unfair Park this evening. "We're not going to do the whole area, but create several areas of cafe seating. And we'll partner with Shag Carpet to do the props again. And then we'll create some identifiers. Our hope is you've entered an area that's more walkable. It'll be a little trickier because it's two-way with a center turn lane, so we'll create landscaping in between with safe areas in between as people walk across. We're really going to make the area more humane. I mean, there's a lot of broken sidewalks.
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"The exciting thing is we'll also create pocket parks in the alleys. That's something we're hoping becomes permanent because we have a lot of alleys. We'd like to string up lighting, put out seating, use creative placement of furniture and landscaping." (Which, speaking of, is what downtown McKinney has been doing recently -- I was up there about a month ago, and an antique shop had set up in long stretch of alley ... and, suddenly, a small stretch of Collin County felt a little like NYC.)
On his Facebook page, Roberts also mentions something about there being a Deep Ellum Better Block project in the works for September 18. And he's heard from groups in other cities around the country, including Baltimore, interested in reclaiming their streets.
"Waco and Austin and other places too," he says. "But that was the plan all along -- to create and this national movement of people who could look at blighted blocks and see much more."