I just met an amazing and passionate architect, Gosia Kung this morning who is really moving Denver forward one building and one block at a time. Check out her blog and website. Not only is she a visionary, she is also a doer. She is working in her own backyard to improve the streetscape and help make the city a livable place again. After discussing what UrbanForward is up to and how it is seeking a unifying philosophy among urban planners, designers and public health professionals around the world to enable the creation of healthy and sustainable places, she led me to a community in Dallas, Texas that did it overnight!
This one block in Oak Cliff, a historic neighborhood in Dallas turned a four lane busy street into a complete street in only 24 hours. Almost instantly they had created a vibrant and healthy block. They called it the “Better Block” project and they have created a handy how-to-guide to make it happen, as well as a webinar on May 4 – which I will be attending. And the idea is spreading to Houston, Mount Rainer, Waco, Memphis, and Oyster Bay, Long Island….I think it is time for here in Denver!
The idea is to create a showcase of how creating more sensible streets will actually work. Most people, especially here out west, don’t like to hear about what east-coasters or worse, what Europeans are up to. They can always find excuses as to why their community is different from every other community for the past few thousand years. The “Better Block” project does not wait around for a lengthy planning process to gain community support – it demonstrates the benefits over a day or a weekend. The temporary changes in street design show just how simple the changes we are asking for are and how they are at the same time so powerful. In Jason Roberts of Oak Cliff’s own words:
It didn’t cost millions of dollars; we didn’t have to hire consultants from other far away places. It took us a day, and all we did was slow the street down and we made room for everybody, for cars, for people for bicyclists, that is all we gotta do. We changed the psychology of the street. We changed the economics of the area. These businesses can be successful now. That is all it takes.
Yes, this idea of complete streets, shared streets, living streets, or whatever you call them, can truly be a game changer for a local economy. Check out for yourself below and if you know of any other projects like this please let me know to help The Urban Forward Institute build a database of these great projects.