Better Block goes to Washington, Venice, revisits Tyler/Davis

Photo of Jason Roberts by Elliott Muñoz

Oak Cliff’s own Jason Roberts was honored as a Champion of Change at the White House this week for his work on the Better Block. It’s a busy month for Roberts and business partner Andrew Howard, who are exhibiting at the Venice Bienniale of Architecture, starting Aug. 29. When they return, they plan use $500,000 they found in the city budget to make certain aspects of the original Better Block a reality at Tyler and Seventh streets.

Roberts’ post explaining the Better Block, “Becoming the Change,” tells the story of his journey from IT guy annoyed by certain aspects of our neighborhood to full-time urban planner and innovator.

Here is his TEDx talk about Better Block:

 

Photo of Andrew Howard by Elliott Muñoz

From Oak Cliff to Venice

The Venice Bienniale of Architecture, which runs through November, is sort of like the Olympics or World’s Fair of design, where the Better Block will exhibit inside the American pavilion.

A friend told Roberts about the 2012 Bienniale theme, Common Ground, and he contacted the curator, Cathy Ho. The Better Block was already on her list, and Roberts and Howard got in without so much as an application.

“Big architecture firms are dying to get into this thing, and we’re just these two guys from Oak Cliff,” Roberts says.

How the Better Block team found $500,000

This fall, the team begins work in the Tyler/Davis district, the site of the original better block, but they won’t have a triple digit budget this time. Roberts and Howard found $500,000 in the city budget to make bikeways at Tyler and Seventh and Davis and Rosemont.

The half mil came from an agreement the city made with the now-defunct developer Incap Fund to improve a median on West Davis at Rosemont. For the price of one fancy median, Roberts and Howard plan to close motor traffic on three Seventh Street blocks — from Tyler to Davis and from Montclair to Rosemont to Davis — and create plaza-like bikeways.

Here are some preliminary plans:

Seventh from Davis to Rosemont to Montclair

Seventh from Tyler to Davis

This paragraph, from Roberts’ post about the White House honors, explains what motivates Mr. Oak Cliff, Jason Roberts:

“Prior to the project we were told Dallas was too hot and lacked the culture to support a pedestrian environment. What we found was that we were no different than any other great city in the world. We just needed the chance to create an irresistible place that embraced people and promoted walking, bicycling and lingering with friends and family.”


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