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Better Block Bulletin

Happy Holidays! It's that time of year where we start looking back at all that you've helped us achieve, and count our blessings for getting to work with you to make the world just a little better. Before we recap the year, let's look at the past few weeks where we worked to reduce crime through design, designed with creatives and inspired new policies, and brightened up spaces with a yellow box.
Converting blighted space into a welcoming plaza in the matter of a few days. 
Fighting Crime With Design
We applied CPTED principles to redesign this space to facilitate community events instead of crime. 
In response to multiple murders in the summer of 2019 along a neighborhood block designated as one of the highest crime areas in the city of Dallas, the Department of Justice reached out to the Better Block Foundation about making a change.

After meeting and listening to community groups, nonprofits, school staff and students, property owners, and existing businesses, a 12-month concept plan was devised to study the effects on crime reduction via placemaking. Many principles of CPTED (Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design) overlap with the placemaking initiatives we have successfully implemented in cities, such as applying the Broken Window Theory, enhancing sightlines to discourage criminals from hiding, developing a lighting plan, and creating and creating a "community safe space" in the form of a public plaza.  

We worked with a team of volunteers and passersby who instantly joined our efforts in painting murals, assembling furniture, and surveying. We led workshops with students to paint decorative designs along crosswalks and green blocks throughout the space.

When the pumpkin patch was stacked, the swings assembled, and pop-up book shop lit up, music began to play from our stage to signal the beginning of the event. Children poured into the space, screaming and laughing. Some even cried. "It's just like Disney Land!" a little girl shouted, circling the swingsets that occupied a previous parking space. For the first time, neighbors gathered in this space to listen to live music, huddle around a fire, pick up free books donated by Half Price Books, and revel in the possibilities of their public spaces.

The Second Phase of the project was launched with a generous $65,000 grant from TBK Bank, providing the staffing and resources necessary for ongoing community engagement events within the space, as well as more infrastructure improvements to tackle crime spots in proximity to the plaza. View photos and learn more about the transformation from our blog and The Dallas Morning News. Upcoming events (as well as the ability to book an event) and information are displayed on TBK Bank Plaza page. 
The Hive Parklet, winner of People's Choice Award. 
The Spin Spot Parklet Competition Lives On
How Denver and Kansas City were impacted by our September Parklet Competition 

One of the most encouraging parts of our work is when we hear that our temporary demonstrations have either become permanent in the hands of locals, or that the ideas have taken off, laying the groundwork for a new movement. Spin Spot just published an article updating us on where things stand after the conclusion of September's Park(ing) Day competition. 

The international design competition featuring the six unique parklets created a stir in Denver as well as in the hometowns of our contestants, manifesting into the consideration of potential new city ordinances and developments. 

After Kansas City’s Urban Backyard took home the Judge’s Choice award, their City Council began discussing the legalization of parklets throughout Kansas City.

Denver’s City Hall is in a similar place after hosting their own Park(ing) Day, noting the many benefits of designing a future where streets are more people-oriented. 

In Spin’s article, On-Street Program manager for Denver Public Works Ryan McCann said, “Denver loves parklets because they provide opportunity to repurpose space in an exciting, engaging way. The public deserves to have more space that’s communal, aesthetically pleasing, and safer for all.” 

“In the future, Denver will continue to celebrate the international annual event, Park(ing) Day and explore a permit program that supports creative-new uses. We look forward to seeing what the community can imagine for parking spaces in the future,” he said. 

Downtown Denver Partnership’s senior manager Andrew Iltis couldn’t agree more. He told Spin that Park(ing) Day “fits right into that big vision of creating a downtown that is more human-scale and more accessible by active modes and micromobility.” 

After the September Park(ing) Day, Iltis reported the interest of several business owners in creating more permanent parklets outside of their storefronts. They saw the value of creating a space that invites pedestrians and others who use alternative modes of transportation a public space to gather and engage with their businesses.  

Burtonsville-Turning a Parking Lot into a Plaza
A group of volunteers turned a vacant shopping center into something so much more

Burtonsville is a town about halfway between Baltimore and Washington, D.C. The site that was chosen for a recent Better Block was the mostly vacant Burtonsville Crossing Shopping Center, a place with a lot of history in the hearts of older residents. To the younger generations, however, it’s simply a roomy parking lot that is good for burnouts smack dab in the center of town. 

Utilizing community input, we wanted to create a festival that would rally the community together around a common space for people of all ages. Creating a pathway for pedestrians through acres of space was an important starting point. We painted a large, geometric ground mural on the asphalt, creating nooks framed by pine and spruce and made cozy with fire pits. In order to create points of interest along the pathway, we placed a beer garden, performance stage, clusters of vendor tents and candy-colored Hollywood letters marking out various sport courts and games.

The Burtonsville Placemaking Festival was an unequivocal success. In the first hour alone, we  counted 562 attendees. Overall, around 3,500 Burtonsville residents turned out in droves to demonstrate the desire for activated public space in the center of town. Nearly every person we spoke with asked a version of the question, “What’s next for Burtonsville?” Although the ground mural washed away with the first rain, it is clear that residents all agree on their desire for “place.” Places to belong, to relax, to play, to celebrate, and to grow closer.

Better Block in a Box visits Chattanooga, Tennessee.
Better Block in a Box 
A glimpse at the progress and places of our mobile placemaking unit

This autumn, our bright yellow Better Block in a Box has touched down in several new places since its debut in Richardson, Texas.  
So far, the box has visited: 

  • Southside Bark Park in Dallas, Texas
  • Placemaking Week with Project for Public Spaces in Chattanooga, Tennessee 
  • A Better Block kick-off event in Allen, Texas (view video here)
  • An open-sourced Better Block in Lake Charles, Louisiana

Better Block in a Box is a colorful shipping container containing a plethora of placemaking elements (long tables, string lights, cafe sets, etc.) that moves around the country. Basically, it's a giant toolbox that can be utilized by communities working to reclaim their blighted public spaces. So far, the rental has been the successful centerpiece of many of its projects, and we are eager to see it continue transforming spaces. 

Here's what's coming up in December
San Jose Gateway Project
Dec 9-13
We will be in San Jose, California unveiling a gateway and conducting a community-led workshop.

Holiday Gathering and Crafting
Dec 12, 2:30 to 5 PM 
If you're in Dallas, you can find us at our TBK Bank Plaza activating the space with free hot drinks and crafts for students after school. 
TBK Bank Plaza Workshop  
Dec 19, 9 AM to 6 PM 
Pick up a paintbrush and join us in transforming Hemlock Avenue (behind our new TBK Bank Plaza) with brilliant color. If you're in Dallas, sign up here.
Featured Update
Visit us at to see our new website! 
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Visit us at
700 W Dallas St, Dallas, TX 75208

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Better Block · 700 West Davis Street · Dallas, TX 75208-0007 · USA

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