Taking Oak Cliff's "Better Block" to Atlanta and the Congress for the New Urbanism
It began as an art installation-slash-political statement at the clusterfudged intersection of Kings Highway, W. 7th Street and N. Tyler Street in Oak Cliff: the Better Block project, which thumbed its nose at Dallas's antiquated City Code. And it was a great deal of fun for all involved -- those who erected those temporary storefronts and laid down that temporary bike lane, and those of who just went down to watch, hang out, grab some coffee and take our kids to the makeshift art studio to glue together patchwork flags.
The event's been wrapped for days, but its reverberations linger -- and they could be significant. Jason Roberts sends word today that the Better Block project will be presented next month at the Congress for the New Urbanism's 18th annual confab, which will take place May 19-22 in Atlanta and features among its guest speakers David Byrne, Andres Duany and other renowned urban planners and government officials. Only, don't look for Better Block on the agenda just yet: It has just been added.
"Fortunately, CNU has some flexibility just for this kind of stuff," says Andrew Howard of Kimley-Horn, who will make the presentation on Go Oak Cliff's behalf next month. Howard, a Go Oak Cliff volunteer who presented last year as well, tells Unfair Park today that CNU will run on a loop the video above, as well as the first part, which we ran on April 9. Better Block will also be a topic of conversation during CNU's Open Source Congress, a series of so-called "freestyle mini-sessions."
"This year I didn't have time to put a presentation together," Howard tells Unfair Park. "But when this came around, I was like, 'We gotta show it.' Then it started showing up on listservs, and then the organizer for CNU's NextGen said, 'We gotta show this.' And I've been following it on other listservs, and folks are seeing the really quick, positive impact of it -- that it can do more than any photo rendering or architectural sketch. Those have a place in conceptual design, but as far as motivating people to experience urbanism, it's being seen as a much better tool than just a pen."
Howard expects Better Block will make a big impression at CNU -- he's promised to send updates during the May meeting, matter of fact. The idea, he says, is to take Better Block national; and, matter of fact, Roberts writes this morning that "Go Oak Cliff is being asked to recreate the Better Block in two other cities in Texas to help showcase the potential for revitalizing their respective areas."
CNU "is not just another conference," Howard says. "There's a definite feedback loop. We like to come out with white papers and subject papers and directions for all our members to use, and those often translate into best practices or guidelines -- from local municipalities and states and private entities to even the federal government, which follows some of our policy docs on transportation and transportation network design. We're not just there to learn. We translate it into a policy document.
"And my hope is it adds to that conversation and people see it as the first step to engage a community in terms of walkability and urban design and it's used to help this country embrace sustainabiltiy and moveability. Hopefully this shows people they should embrace it. Try it out. It's a good thing -- not government coming to take away your car." He laughs. "I've been doing this for five years as a consultant, and I've been banging my head against the wall trying to convince people of it. Now I just wanna give them a taste of it, and they can make up their own minds."