"Welcome to the Future of the City of Dallas." Though Ross Could Use a Few More Trees.

Categories: Events

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Photos by Leslie Minora
Jason Roberts took a moment to celebrate the birth of his brainchild, Ross Avenue as a much-improved Better Boulevard.
Yesterday afternoon, the stretch of Ross from North Hawkins to Pavilion temporarily became a pedestrian oasis of sorts as cars slowed into a narrowed traffic pattern, bike paths ran alongside car lanes and a marketplace island replaced the center lanes of one area, as Robert dispatched yesterday. Visitors enjoyed crepes, bahn mi sandwiches and other mobile vendor goods, while some cooled off in a dumpster pool and dried off in the sun while browsing through crafts stands usually found at the Deep Ellum Market.

Dallas's fairy godfather of active street-space, Jason Roberts, had again waved his magic wand with the help of his Better Block team and troops of volunteers. Better Block's collaboration with the city's Complete Streets project as part of this Ross Ave. Build a Better Boulevard project resulted in a make-over as significant as it was temporary, and demonstrated how a neighborhood can shape up with just a few cans of paint, potted plants and plenty of resourceful, thrifty manpower. Meanwhile, the city is taking notes for more permanent fixer-uppers.

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Visitors sat on chairs made from recycled fences under an awning of recycled vinyl billboards.
The Build a Better Boulevard project was a 72-hour blitz during which small teams remade a section of Ross. A group of UTA graduate architecture students took first prize for their atrium area with a massive awning made from recycled billboards, and tables and chairs built from reclaimed fences. Faced with a huge challenge and no budget, UTA team member, Ezra Loh, said making something out of nothing became an "intuitive, inventive game."

"Our goal is to have our streets enjoyed by everyone," council member Linda Koop said at an opening press conference. "We're trying to do a better job of that, and that's why we're here today."

"Welcome to the future of the city of Dallas," council member Angela Hunt told the crowd.

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Council member Linda Koop introduced yesterday's Ross Ave. event with Angela Hunt and Ann Margolin standing nearby.
Koop told Unfair Park she hopes a series of Better Block/Complete Streets collaborations will result in an overall understanding of how to move forward to permanently improve the streets of Dallas and "bring that traffic that goes outside the city back into the city."

"Who would have thought downtown Dallas could activate a street like this?" she said. "Jason [Roberts] helps unlock that imagination of what a great street might look like."

"You're in the middle of the street!" Roberts told me as I approached him in the open space near the piano that straddled the yellow lane markers dividing Ross. He called the response from the city "surreal." Then again, he insisted: "Everything about this project has been surreal."

"It's no longer abstract," Roberts said of seeing the project in action, "It's temporary, but it's a chance to see what we can do and revision the area." At 4 p.m. Ross would turn back into its old people-less self, but at that moment, it was still wearing its proverbial glass slippers.

Roberts hopped onto the piano bench, standing in the midst of his island among skyscrapers and facing the street marketplace as he posed for a photo. (This morning, incidentally, he posted a comment in Sunday's item responding to some who thought the event was a little on the "boring" side: "This was really an exercise to show we could safely and realistically implement something that is seen in other cities around the world." He also posted this video showing how the open-air market radically altered traffic along Ross.)

To his left was The Shirt Girls tent selling screen-printed totes, aprons and baby onesies and run by Allison Drake, whose business is sustained by foot traffic at outdoor markets. "I don't know that I would still be in business if it wasn't for stuff like this," said Drake, a regular vendor at the Deep Ellum Market.

"It's a lot busier than I expected," she said of the day's business.

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Alexa Nunez worked on her art in the shade.
About a block east of Drake's tent, children sat in a shaded area stocked with colored paper, glitter glue, crayons, and chalk. That's where Robert Nunez brought his daughter, Alexa, who was adorning construction paper with shapes and glitter glue. "This is filling a void," Nunez said of the event. He said active streets are more common in other cities, and that Dallas is lacking places for families to spend the day without spending a lot of money.

A bit farther east on Ross, children lined up to slide down a blow-up water slide in the parking lot of Fellowship Church, while adults cooled off in a dumpster pool lined with recycled vinyl billboards, the same material the UTA students used to create the giant awning over the area with tables and chairs near the mobile food vendors.

The dumpster pool is where Robert got himself into trouble. The afternoon sun was scorching, and an opportunity for our overheated blog editor to dip his head in the pool proved an even better opportunity for Andrew Howard of Better Block to give him a swift shove into the vat of cool water.

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Robert took an accidental dip in the dumpster pool.

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20 comments
Jessica Nunez
Jessica Nunez

We came downtown from North Dallas for this event (that's my daughter in the pic!). I love it when big cities like Dallas create opportunities to be social and residents can connect with each other. Hats off to Jason Roberts and the Build a Better Block team. Keep it going!

Marko
Marko

Well, if you were slowed to a crawl/mired in traffic because of a handful of adult teeny bopper utopians while on your way to the Dallas Aquarium with your 6 year old in the car... the whole thing was bulsh.  Major bulsh. Please go peddle your fantasies elsewhere. 

Anonymous
Anonymous

Apparently I'm the only one who was completely underwhelmed by the whole deal.

Andrew Corey Howard
Andrew Corey Howard

No cell phone, but RW road his bike home with some wet Chuck Taylors on! 

Wylie H.
Wylie H.

It's stuff like this that makes me hopeful for the future of the City.

Juan Valdez
Juan Valdez

The one street in Dalllas that should be next on the list...is Lemmon Avenue. There's apartments, businesses waiting for a little kick in the behind to push it to the next level. I sometimes think of the possibilites of Lemmon Avenue. If there is a place to build a trolley (a modern one!! and decrease those 6 lanes to 4 is Lemmon. BTW, tons of gays that would welcome this type of initiative as well as straighties from HP and UP.

jimrain
jimrain

It demonstrated that you can inject some life into the street without a huge investment. If the city really is interested in following up, they should proceed with regular weekend markets and event venues in consistent locations that reclaim some of the street from cars. They need to start with installations that won't disrupt commutes, etc., but that show that the city is a better place if it's not given over wholly to the automobile. If those weekend events can convince a lot of people of the need to balance cars with other uses, that can lay the groundwork for more permanent revisions to the city's infrastructure.

Amy S.
Amy S.

Don't assume North Dallas wouldn't like this very same boulevard - please consider making Hillcrest 2 lanes from Northwest Highway to Forest! It should NOT be a commuter street, but a neighborhood boulevard.

matt
matt

was fun.  they do need to take a cue and plant as many trees as possible downtown. 

Gabe
Gabe

If you think of it as a street fair or festival (like a Taste of CityNameHere or Octoberfest or Wildflower) then yeah, it was low-key, maybe even boring. It was spread out, so it took a relative lot of time and energy (and heat intake) to get from site to site. 

But it really wasn't a festival. It was a in-situ lab for urban experimentation (with a side of urban habituation for those uncomfortable with putting tents and people in the middle of the street). And by those measures, it was pretty successful. 

Wylie H.
Wylie H.

I'd love that as well, but the volume of traffic that Lemmon Ave carries is simply unbelievable.... it's one of the few streets in Dallas that really does need to be that wide (unfortunately).

Of course, if the street was narrowed, maybe some of that traffic might start finding other routes... hmmmm..... maybe not such a bad idea, after all.

Wylie H.
Wylie H.

I was thinking the same thing.... Wilonsky's one bad MOFO! Scary....

Robert Wilonsky
Robert Wilonsky

Not quite, no -- a combination of air and water from having just been pushed in. But, really, I may have to make that photo my new profile pic. That, or my headshot for the Wet Hot American Summer sequel in which I try out for the role previously played by Christopher Meloni.

Alexander
Alexander

There's no retail on Hillcrest

Noah Jeppson
Noah Jeppson

Yes! Trees or awnings (and anything to create shade) would go a long way to making the streets more walkable and the city more liveable. Barren boiling plazas are hardly the environment people want to hang out in.

Bill Holston
Bill Holston

I walked up Katy Trail at lunch today. Walking along McKinney is just unpleasant, but the section of Katy Trail from Fitzhugh to Cole was really nice actually. I walked Friday down to the Nammi Truck, got a Banh Mi, took it down to Turtle Creek and ate lunch. Quite pleasant in the shade. It makes all the difference.

Bill Holston
Bill Holston

I do like your current profile pic, cause I remember that whole shot, which is just the most heartwarming photo really. Very cool

Robert Wilonsky
Robert Wilonsky

No -- fortunately, fearing I might fall in, I took it and my wallet out just before I dunked my head in the pool.

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