Coming (Slowly, As Usual) To An Oak Cliff Intersection Near You: The "People's Plaza"

betterblockkingsrow.jpg
Photo by Danny Hurley
At the very first Better Block, way back in April 2010. Will it also become the first to go permanent? Again, wait and see.
Way back last April, the energetic, civic-minded hipsters over at Better Block turned the area around King's Highway, W. 7th St. and N. Tyler St. in Oak Cliff into a nice little plaza space where it was entirely possible to sit without being, you know, repeatedly run over. That was the very first Better Block project, in fact, and now, a mere year and a half after we thought it would happen , that plaza is on its way to becoming permanent. The Davis Garden TIF District Board of Directors voted unanimously yesterday to allocate a little more than $400,000 to create that plaza for keeps. That proposal will now go to the city council for final approval.

"We're happy to come back to our first project and say, 'Let's make it a reality,'" Andrew Howard, Better Block construction director, told the board. "We have the potential to have another Bishop Arts district here." The temporary demonstration last April, he said, gave people the opportunity "to see what living in a walkable place would look like."

But a permanent plaza isn't going to happen all at once. There'll be another demonstration period first, this one for 90 days, Howard and Jason Roberts, Better Block founder, said in their presentation to the board.

"Cities are generally nervous about commitment and permanency," Howard said. A 90-day demo period, Roberts told Unfair Park after the vote, gives everyone involved time to test out different ideas and "see how people use the space" before committing to anything permanent -- the same idea, he said, that was used in the New York City Plaza Program to create the only place in Times Square where you might ever want to actually sit down. The final product here will involve some combination of crosswalks, bicycle facilities, planters, lighting, public art and shade structures. The Better Blockers will be working with the City Design Studio to come up with a firmer concept for just how the finished plaza will look. Howard sent along a sneak peek that follows.

"We basically just started that New York plaza program here," Roberts told us. "And part of the process is to mitigate fears."

One property owner, Roberts said, is still a bit concerned about how a more pedestrian-friendly area with fewer parking spaces might impact his business. But, he insists, other cities "have found that in these areas it's actually better for business," something he hopes will be borne out here too.

Roberts and Howard also reminded the board that parking in the area won't go away completely; instead, angled parking will be created on the north side of Davis. The goal, Roberts said, is to create a "green-way, similar to Berkeley or Portland," a "pedestrian-prioritized area" where cars are still allowed -- but with traffic islands and other "calming" measures to make the car/person co-existence a bit safer.

Though she supported the proposal, board member and Oak Cliff real estate agent Jenni Stolarski had lots of questions about implementation of the plaza and how the final product will look.

"This is a monumental moment for us as a board," she told Roberts and Howard after the vote. "But its true impact will be felt in 10 years, not in a month or two. The reason I asked intense questions is because I don't want it to just be something we hoped would do something."

"We know it works," Roberts replied. "We've seen it happen in other cities. We think it's going to be a big success."

Roberts adds via email that the demonstration period will begin after final approval from the city council. "My guess and hope would be in the spring," he writes. He also sent along a little video showing a plaza conversion project in New York. Feast your eyes. King s Summary Report (1)


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12 comments
Oak Beds
Oak Beds

The zero can explore the possibility of pieces of bedroom furniture items in the number of white bedroom furniture. Can use the first choice of comprehensive list of portals containing white bedroom furniture or trading decisions.

MLK
MLK

Good gawd I hope that's not taxpayer money either!  If so, can this tax money buy me four new tires I need from all the potholes that have ruined my tires????!!!!

AG
AG

I sure hope that's not 400K of taxpayer money.  I'd really like to have some stripes on my streets, some pot hole and sidewalk repair before I get "street furniture".  But hey, that's just me. 

Anon
Anon

I am very supportive of this project, but where did the submissions with ideas come from? The business owners I've talked with at the Tyler/Davis intersection wanted additional parking in that space for customers, if any changes were to be implemented. Did fewer than 4 people ask for additional parking, or were those results omitted from the report?Pedestrian areas are often better for business, but the question is, which business? I tend to think that many of the existing businesses at that intersection will do well with a pedestrian plaza, but we still do need to make sure not to casually dismiss the fears of existing businesses.Any chances of combining this effort with efforts to slim down Tyler to fewer than 4 lanes between Davis and 8th? This plaza will be half-baked unless you can reasonably get to and from the plaza from the existing strip of businesses on the east of Tyler (both N and S of Davis).

Smy2k
Smy2k

Narrowing Tyler would concern me. You've got a lot of traffic going North through there at all times of the day.

Oak Cliff Townie
Oak Cliff Townie

I don't see how they would have missed that unless it wasn't  looked at by the consultants because no one asked them to .

Imagine that ?

Some of these ideas are either half baked or formulated by folks who have been out in the sun to long.

400,000 grand ?

Anon
Anon

that's why those of us who live nearby are concerned. people drive like they're on the highway but we're just trying to live our lives. slowing the traffic SHOULD happen automatically during peak travel times (people going N in the morning) because there is a school zone right there. even when it's not a school zone the speed limit is 30 but try and find someone who respects that and I've got a prize for you.

Jason Roberts
Jason Roberts

$400k is less than a quarter of the costs of the 2000 Bishop Arts improvements that included bulb-outs, lighting, landscaping, and shared parking. This project would have all that and a plaza. It might sound like a high figure, but moving curbs, electrical, irrigation, construction, street furniture, and more on a two block area (with 10 corners to treat) that is 20 times the size of the average house would typically cost millions.

Rangers100
Rangers100

Exactly. Keeping the road wider makes it MORE dangerous.

elbueno
elbueno

IF you narrow the street, people have no choice but to slow down. Jason and crew showed that with the Better Block.

Smy2k
Smy2k

I live in very near this intersection and know and respect what you are wishing for. Not at all trying to argue with you.  But it's a major thoroughfare and has been for the 20+ years I've lived there. I think it will be a tough change was my point. 

Jason Roberts
Jason Roberts

@anon

With the concept, we've added substantial parking with angled spaces on the north portion of kings. it's being developed as a demonstration, the community will not only have a say in the ultimate design, but will help build it.

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