February 27, 2014 AdminHBA Design

Better Block: Using Urban space Wisely

A recent trend has emerged in the realm of Design and Architecture to take back unused or ill-used areas within an Urban setting. Recently, Norfolk completed a study to redesign public use-spaces with Better Block, a group headquartered in Dallas, that seeks to reclaim areas for the public.

Taken from Better Block’s website, www.betterblock.org, “The “Better Block” project is a demonstration tool that rebuilds an area using grassroots efforts to show the potential to create a great walkable, vibrant neighborhood center. The project acts as a living charrette so that communities can actively engage in the “complete streets” buildout process and develop pop-up businesses to show the potential for revitalized economic activity in an area. Better Blocks are now being performed around the world, and have helped cities rapidly implement infrastructure and policy changes.

[…] 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.”

To view the Better Block Norfolk project (part one and two), click here or here.

One of multiple parklettes created during the Better Block

Similarly, with the recent snowstorms in the Northeast, This Old City studied traffic patterns and unused portions of the street, based on residual snow piles after cars created through-passageways.

This Old City is based in Philadelphia, and studies underutilized areas throughout the city that could be redesigned “To create a vibrant, safer, greener, healthier Philadelphia via better public space.”   “By re-envisioning our streets, parks, infrastructure and policy, This Old City creates new dialogue on Philadelphia’s urban form. We do this through design proposals, policy analysis, informed commentary, and advocacy.”

To view the study, click here.