Better Block, PARKing Day and Cities for People

On Saturday September 20th I’m helping put together a Better Block event at the corner of 42nd Street and 28th Avenue. September 20th is also PARKing Day and Max Musicant at the Musicant Group is planning a large PARKing Day event in southwest Minneapolis. Both events are one day, and use public space on sidewalks and streets in a different way to encourage people to come out, mingle, enjoy themselves, lobby for change, and most of all to see and enjoy their city in a new way. Come and join us!

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Better Block (sometimes called Tactical Urbanism) is a grassroots effort to demonstrate how to better use our cities by calming traffic, adding amenities and bringing people together. For example, Better Block events may create temporary bike lanes, trees, traffic calming, even pop-up businesses to provide a physical example of what can be, and to show how our cities can be more pleasant places for people of all ages. Sometimes these raise awareness about how institutional rules and ordinances work against livable cities. A Better Block event can be measured in real time to help make the case for permanent changes. PARKing Day is an international guerrilla urbanism project that uses a simple idea – occupying a parking space with a park rather than a car. It is quite elegant in its simplicity and, similar to Better Block, is a way to demonstrate to the neighborhood we can use our streets to add greenery, social and economic activity.

Why Better Block at the intersection of 42nd Street and 28th Avenue? For starters, the corner is at the heart of the Standish-Ericsson neighborhood. With several long-time businesses like St. Mane Sporting Goods and A Baker’s Wife, the commercial node has also seen turnover and newer businesses like Buster’s and Angry Catfish have added to the retail mix of the corner and reflect the evolving tastes (literally) of the neighborhood. Perhaps more importantly, they have outdoor seating that greatly improves the attractiveness of the corner. More people hang out there and it is a “better block” as a result.

Still, there is more to do. A key retail space at the corner sits vacant, and moreover, the corner lacks trees and greenery and traffic calming to make it more pleasant for neighbors and customers. In two recent posts, I addressed the testing of a four-way stop sign at the corner and the aftermath of scuttling the test after folks complained. While I still believe a four-way stop sign makes the intersection safer, even if it caused congestion during rush-hour, in the overall big picture it was one part of an effort to make the corner a better place for people. If the intersection can become a four-way stop sign again, just for one day, I’m all for it. But in the meantime, with Better Block on September 20, business owners, neighbors and I will be providing temporary street trees, an on-street bicycle rack, live music, a parklet, a space for children’s storytime, games, sidewalk chalk, a Tai Chi class, and more!

At the end of the day, the goal is to make the corner a more pleasant place for people of all ages. Even if people arrive by car, they complete their journey on foot. Therefore it is critical that the area is attractive for people. Otherwise, what reason is there to bother visiting? Making the corner more pedestrian-friendly and pleasant draws people and acts as a glue that bonds all businesses together. The goal is that these temporary items lead to permanent improvements, like street trees, bicycle parking and perhaps even additional shops or restaurants…a Better Block.

Join us on September 20th!

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2 Responses to Better Block, PARKing Day and Cities for People

  1. Boris Kaganovich August 27, 2014 at 2:42 pm #

    Good luck and a shout out from Better Block Portland!

    We’ll have a Better Block project the week after September 26-28, so it’d be good to compare notes.

    Also, if you want to discuss project materials, I’d love to swap ideas.

    • Sam Newberg
      Sam Newberg August 27, 2014 at 4:18 pm #

      Boris, Thanks! We’re still deciding on materials, but basically need some stuff to occupy an on-street parking space. So far we have a table and two chairs. I’m seeking a bookshelf and other greenery to frame the space as well. A couple industrial sized spools would be nice as well.

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