A City (and City Hall) For All: Jason Roberts's Hopes and (Wet) Dreams For Dallas in 2011

Categories: Development
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There may have been an Observer staff meeting this year during which Jason Roberts's name wasn't brought up. Maybe one. The rest of the time, we were either talking about Jason Roberts or talking about how we should probably write about Jason Roberts, except that we were over-covering Jason Roberts, but, by God, he keeps doing things worth writing about.The Oak Cliff biko -- hey, there's a word for inclusion in the 2010 dictionary -- has become one of the most prominent faces of the Oak Cliff bikes-goats-gardens-better-blocks movement, something that surprises him as much as anyone else.

But he's in the driver's (biker's?) seat now, and for our year-end Unfair Park sorta-series about Dallas's hopes and dreams for 2011, we can't not ask the guy: What's next? I mean, really, the dude has helped bring street cars, walkable blocks and bike lanes to Dallas, of all places. Like Veletta Lill, Roberts says he's excited about high-quality street food coming to Dallas. And he's looking forward to seeing the first bike lanes painted on Dallas streets.

But for 2011, Roberts and company is taking to the high seas. OK, not the seas. The freshwater. The creeks, actually.

"Something we're personally working on is trying to start focusing on the water," Roberts told me this afternoon. He says the Better Block Project is now asking, "How do we interact with creeks and rivers here?" Having conquered the road, Roberts said he realized that when it comes to our water resources, "traditionally, the city of Dallas has not honored that feature as much as they could, especially since we're so hot here."

Roberts told me he's also "really excited about getting involved with the open government movement." Meaning: Let's get 311 and other city services rolling on Twitter and social media so that when pot holes and other repairs are made, "the city can tabulate those for the public." As usual, Roberts has taken other cities as inspiration (Boston in this case) and decided to try and bring their good stuff to Dallas, rather than moving away or accepting the status quo here.

And there may be more and more good stuff -- literally, stuff -- coming out of Dallas next year, if Roberts has anything to do with it. He says there's a group of "cultural mechanics" who not only get into craft beer and food and music, but manufacturing as well. They're hoping to turn West Dallas warehouses into suppliers of Better Block-type products. "Let's say you have to buy all of these kiosks and benches," he says. "Is there a chance we can manufacture them locally?"

And while Roberts is riding his bike to newly renovated Texas Theatre and Kessler in Oak Cliff, he'll also potentially be spending a fair amount of time downtown at City Hall. He says he was shocked to hear that Dallas City Hall took notice of the Better Block Project for its Downtown Dallas 360 plan, which should be approved by the council in February. Ish.

"We're excited in 2011 for the chance to work with the city on some of these projects," Roberts says. Looks like our biko boy's all grows up.
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