Watch as Jason Roberts Spreads the Gospel of Building a Better Block on the OU Campus

Categories: Local Hero


Whilst browsing through the YouTube moments ago I stumbled across the video you see above, which was just posted by the TEDx'ers: Jason Roberts on the OU campus talking, at times breathlessly, about how to build a better block on January 27. It's but the first in a long line of similar presentations Roberts is giving this year; he did TEDxAUSTIN just a couple of weeks later.

I asked Roberts this morning about the reactions to his presentation. Following the OU talk, he said, "A ton of people came up afterwards and were excited about this idea of communities coming together and creating solutions rapidly. The frustration we have in Dallas is the same frustration everywhere: We're meeting to death, we're planning to death, we're just talking. They can't move fast enough to make these changes permanent."

In coming weeks the gospel will spread -- to McComb, Mississippi, and Wichita, Kansas, and San Antonio. In all of those places, says Roberts, "streets have been widened so much, and regulations restrict how they can be used. One thing I've learned is: We're not in this alone. This process is revealing that to a lot of people. And this isn't about the paint, the pop-up shops, the cafe seating. It's getting everyone in a room to talk about problems and put together solutions in days, not years."

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24 comments
OhMy
OhMy

Who the f uses the word whilst? What a douche nozzle.

Ohmy
Ohmy

If you want to place uncomfortable, yet unattractive furniture made from splintery wooden pallets along with an array of rusty old shipping containers highlighted with an ample supply of sidewalk chalk littering your streets for a few hours to demonstrate how the fringe hipsters would “transform” your city then Jason is your man. Oh, and lots of people in silly hats hanging around pretending to be artists is a nice touch. Make sure to wear your finest tweed pants, they help with the splinters.

las
las

Greatness! Love the enthusiasm!

The Real Oak Cliff
The Real Oak Cliff

 "Gentrification" has become the new Godwin's law term when debates occur over improving neighborhoods: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/G...

My family has been in Oak Cliff for 100 years and the idea that it's changing for the worse because more people are moving back to the area with higher incomes and building new businesses is ironic. My grandmother will tell you how Oak Cliff was always the upper crust side of town and a drive through Kessler Park and Winnetka Heights shows she's right. Jefferson Boulevard was filled with ritzy theaters, department stores, and restaurants. Now that this is occurring again, you feel it's going the wrong direction? What era of Oak Cliff are you wanting to lock us into? 1985?

Guest123
Guest123

Jason continues to take credit for his community's successes and dodges his community's failures. What has he done that has had any lasting impact? Nothing.

Anon
Anon

The reason that (theoretically) permanent infrastructure changes take time is because politicians need cover from the people who don't like the changes. There are plenty of people who will be angry if Roberts' ideas are implemented on a permanent basis. What politicians need is a big time window to point to and say "look, we told you about this and gave you a really long time to think about and communicate your objections to us - the fact that we didn't hear from you and/or we heard more from the people on the opposite side of the argument made me believe that this change was widely accepted". And in any case, what if the people who have the opposite vision from Roberts for infrastructure were able to accomplish their goals in "days" and leave the rest of us trying to figure out what was going on? 

Case in point is that Roberts came down in favor of the new Bishop Davis zoning plan and lots of people are still very angry about that because they feel like it was a bait and switch for developers to make money (a prediction that has mostly come true so far).

ts
ts

Does he sleep in that damn hat?

Travis Rex
Travis Rex

Jason does good work!  We need more problem solver/opportunity makers like him.

Anon
Anon

did you just create an argument so that you could disagree with... no one? who said gentrification is bad? I said it is responsible for a lot of the positive things that are associated with N Oak Cliff. I'm the type of person that people opposed to gentrification hate. and this conversation is not even remotely similar to Godwin's law. improving neighborhoods owing to people with high incomes moving in and displacing lower income residents is, in fact, called gentrification. that's just the term for what is happening in North Oak Cliff. two people on differing sides of an argument can take that term and spin it as either something negative or something positive. doesn't change the fact that there is a term for what is happening. if you want to invent another term for it, I'm all ears.

Bob123
Bob123

He's taking credit for his own work, you blithering idiot. He's the leader and founder of all this, for a while he was the ONLY person in the street car project. And he's not in any way responsible for past failers of the community. Furthermore, everything he's done has had a lasting impact, do you think he would be in the Dallas Observer if he hadn't done anything to change the community? Get a life.

Merlin
Merlin

Anyone criticizing Jason needs to look inward and ask themselves what the he'll they've done to help their community. It's easy to point fingers and make stupid remarks. Give the guy some credit for actually making something positive happen.

Anon
Anon

Come on - I'll be the first to say that I am not always on board the Go Oak Cliff train, but let's get real here. He has done something, and most of the problems are not of his making. There are plenty of legitimate criticisms to be made without resorting to the fiction that he has had no impact at all.

Andrea
Andrea

Art Conspiracy, Bike Friendly Oak Cliff, Oddfellows, the streetcar...

Walk Dallas
Walk Dallas

New York's Times Square was converted through a demonstration project that took days without years of forewarning and discussion. I'm a fan of Jason's work and think that any infrastructure work that places people in priority over cars is worthwhile, regardless of zoning plans. Do you disagree?

Anon
Anon

just be careful when you say "all this". gentrification is responsible for most of the changes taking place in N Oak Cliff. that is way outside his scope of influence. yes, he has contributed meaningfully to certain aspects of the FUTURE of Oak Cliff (the trolley, most notably), but for now most of the changes that people associate with all the positive things in N Oak Cliff are the result of that gentrification.

cp
cp

Whatever. There are MANY people in Dallas, in marginalized neighborhoods "actually making something positive happen". Why this guy gets so much press by the DO is puzzling. 

Anon
Anon

Some of us who "criticize" are just trying to make sure our voices are heard because of the attitude that you've conveyed right there. If we don't agree with him, we somehow are not dedicated to our community? He has a strong vision and a strong voice, and I commend him for what he has done. I just want to make sure he takes the dissent to heart (which frankly, he does better than most). Just trying to keep everyone out of our respective echo chambers.

MidCenturyMaddness
MidCenturyMaddness

Wow! You mean that the sreetcars that we currently have running in the Cliff are all due to Jason?! That's awesome! Oh, and I guess the other 15 or 20 or plethora of the numerous people that co-own Oddfellows have nothing to do with it's success. That can be contrubuited solely to Jason. Of course his wife thinks so!

Anon
Anon

The Times Square project was implemented and considered "temporary" for a year before it was made permanent. 

I think some of his projects (other than support for B-D Land Use) are worthwhile, but I think we need to be very careful and thoughtful about how we implement any that have merit. I also don't think that infrastructure that places people ahead of cars is inherently superior. I think there are tradeoffs for each, which is why you can't just implement things in the blink of an eye.

Some of his one-day installations are things I could support on a permanent basis and others I couldn't. I'd no sooner give him carte blanche than I would someone else with a competing vision for the neighborhood.

Anon
Anon

well it's not really puzzling - he's in the PR business, so what he knows is how to promote himself. the DO just loves what he's offering

icowrich
icowrich

Merlin's point was that people who criticize should advocate for alternative policies rather than just oppose change.  Some people do that.  Others couldn't be bothered.

icowrich
icowrich

I've heard Jason credit the community of Oak Cliff in general.  Still it took someone to get it started, and those business owners are the first to credit Jason with getting the ball rolling.  The "lasting impact" criticism emerges from the fact that his early projects were temporary installations, many of which didn't last.  Despite all the naysayers, however, the temporary installations proved that a different kind of block design can work...and the permanent changes are now happening.Now we have Bishop Arts, which members of the community are literally helping to build by hand (the brick donation project is a great example of this), a successful grant for a permanent streetcar route, and a burgeoning biking culture (with new lanes to support them).I would challenge you quote any times when Jason ever claimed that any of this could be "contributed solely" to him.

Anon
Anon

RPO was a foreseeable side effect of the zoning change so I am not sure why it should come as a surprise to anyone. My neighborhood was talking about the potential need for it years ago. It was a flaw in the zoning from the beginning, not some thing that has taken over from out of nowhere.

As for the temporary to permanent concept for infrastructure, I do prefer that to 1,000 studies that waste tax dollars and go nowhere. If it's a failure, take it down.

Jason Roberts
Jason Roberts

 @d26ffa8dde6cc82ccb805e2a20a4978c:disqus

I'm actually a fan of using the exact model you noted in the NY Times project...demonstrate over a period of weeks (we do days now because most cities don't allot us more time), so that a community can see a real picture of the effect infrastructure changes will have on neighborhoods. Permanency should be developed after a trial period has vetted real/assumed problems. I don't like to specify people over cars, or bikes over people, etc, but rather look at what makes a block (or blocks) safe for all modes of transit.  If we focus on safety for everyone (from ages 8 to 80), we'll automatically create better blocks that are economically active, healthier, and conserve energy.

Also, for the Bishop/Davis Land Use Study I supported (and still do) the public space changes (everything between the buildings, and bicycle parking mandates) and have no comments on the use of the buildings themselves. I will say this though, the recent "Resident Parking Only" initiative will be the catalyst for tearing down historic buildings throughout North Oak Cliff as private business owners attempt to develop parking lots to make up for the lack of public ROW. I understand the concerns of the neighborhood (it happens to be my neighborhood), but I'm afraid that this is an instance of the medicine potentially being worse than the disease.

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