The Better Block project started in April, 2010, when a group of community organizers, neighbors, and property owners gathered together to revitalize a single commercial block in an underused neighborhood corridor.
The area was filled with vacant properties, wide streets, and few amenities for people who lived within walking distance. The group brought together all of the resources from the community and converted the block into a walkable, bikeable neighborhood destination for people of all ages complete with bike lanes, cafe seating, trees, plants, pop-up businesses, and lighting.
The project was developed to show the city how the block could be revived and improve area safety, health, and economics if ordinances that restricted small business and multi-modal infrastructure were removed. Since that time, Better Block projects have been developed throughout the World with many of the temporary infrastructure
improvements and businesses made permanent.
The Better Block is an open-sourced project that is free to re-use and build upon. This site is developed to provide help for communities who wish to build their own Better Blocks complete with news, tools, and other resources anyone may need to help rapidly revitalize neighborhoods.
We’ve found it’s best to address the following four areas when developing a Better Block, which we will break down in greater depth.
Safety (Real and Perceived)–
First and foremost, if an area feels unsafe then everything breaks down. Whether it be businesses, schools, or neighborhood revitalization, the key to changing a place is addressing its perceived safety. When approaching blocks, we ask the questions:
Does it feel safe to cross the street?
Does it feel safe to stand on the sidewalk?
Does the area have hidden corners or large obstacles that reduce open sightlines?
Do the businesses have bars on the windows or opaque windows?
Our goal is to address each of these questions and find ways to improve the area rapidly.
Shared Access – The next goal we focus on is looking at ways to bring more people into the area by various modes of transportation.
We ask the questions:
Do pedestrians have easy and clear access to the area?
Do bicycles feel welcome in the area?
Is the area easily accessible from neighborhoods?
Are there way finding signs that direct people into and out of the area?
Are there amenities that allow people to linger in the space (seating, tables, etc.)?
Stay Power – How can we encourage people to visit the area and have them linger, and invite their friends?
Are there food options on the block?
Are there places to eat outdoors?
Are there maps, bulletin boards, games, or other amenities that encourage people to linger?
Is the identity of the area prominent (arts district, cultural district, historic area)?
Lastly, we look at amenities that create invitations for children, seniors, and dog owners on a block. These groups tend to be indicators of a healthy environment that feels welcoming and attracts other people.
"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world.
Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has"
Margaret Mead, Anthropologist
(used with permission)
"If you don't like the news .... go out and make some of your own !!"
Wes "Scoop" Nisker, Newscaster
Government is a slow and tedious process. While it often includes citizen and neighborhood involvement, non-governmental, private organizations have created movements and interesting groups which can create positive change in our cities and towns.
I am fascinated by the way groups are created and how they influence public decision making. This blog merely recognizes them and forwards the description of these groups from their own websites.