Thursday, November 18, 2010

Better Block Goes Viral

My 2nd column for D magazine is up here. You'll also see it in the December Issue of D due on newstands shortly.

It is about the Better Block Project and how it represents an entirely new form of economic development. One that is truly grass roots and, unlike most traditional forms of econ development, does NOT compromise community develompent. In fact, it increases it drastically. There is a lesson there and the likely reason why it has caught fire across the country.
The roots of the Better Block Project trace back to Jan Gehl’s transformative work in Copenhagen in the 1960s, when that city incrementally removed traffic from its car-choked medieval streets and replaced it with pedestrian space. Today, Copenhagen is one of the most livable and prosperous cities in the world. More recently, New York City hired a woman named Janette Sadik-Khan as its transportation commissioner. She overhauled that city’s streets literally overnight with a couple of cans of paint and some traffic cones, creating new bike lanes and plazas. What differentiates the Better Block Project, though, is that it’s not official public policy. It’s guerrilla DIY urbanism.
Let me add to this an anecdote Jason passed along yesterday. He said during one of the Better Blocks, a woman in her 70s walked up to him with tears in her eyes. Jason asked, "what is wrong?" She replied that it reminded her of the Dallas of her youth.

Which reminded me of something I thought about while writing the Greenville Ave post the other day, where the Schuessler brothers described the street they grew up on, with a full ecology of business types both geared to the needs of the neighborhood and a direct outgrowth from it.

It was the Dallas that locals are nostalgic for and newcomers yearn.