Better Block – Ross Avenue (Dallas)

Last Sunday I went down to Dallas to observe the latest in the Better Block initiative, a grass roots collective intent on subversively reforming blight in the urban fabric.  The theory is to take a section of a city and impose a temporary installation that personifies the untapped urban potential of that site.  It is an initiative that is pedestrian, bike and green friendly and tries to help transform our mindset away from an automobile based culture.

I first heard about the effort when they instituted a similar project in Oak Cliff last year.  While I didn’t get to see that event, as soon as I found out about the Ross Avenue study, I was immediately intrigued.  Ross Avenue ranks as probably one of the most neglected yet important streets linking downtown to the hinterlands beyond the highway loop.  It extends several miles Northeast and terminates at Greenville Avenue which is a very popular part of the city with historic residences, pubs, retail spots and mixed-use developments.  Currently, Ross itself has very little character, other than as an arterial motorway feeding commuters into the downtown.

The notion here is to re-envision Ross avenue as Dallas’ version of the Champs-Élysées in Paris, or La Rambla in Barcelona.  While this might be a vision teetering on the edge of overoptimistic, it is certainly true that the roadway has enormous opportunities that have yet to be exploited.

In short, it appeared that the project sought to personify use over form, so one must take the rather transitory, ramshackle nature of the tents, seating areas and other installations as merely a sketch upon the urban landscape.  This is a physical massing model of how we might utilize the space, link areas, and allow for new modes of transit.  They did a few very interesting things, and where even referenced in a recent New York Times Article.  It was a well done event and I’m hoping to get more involved in the net iteration.



06 2011