Urban planning may be easier than once thought, after an insightful and quick look at rapid revitalization projects presented by Jason Roberts, founder of The Better Block at the Mayor’s 2013 Community Event on Sept. 25.
Quick revitalization demonstrations have become a breakthrough technique that has cut through red tape, and transformed many towns and city infrastructures across the U.S. and overseas to Australia and Tehran, Iran.
The concept is simple — residents rally together to pick a block or street they think needs to be updated, and then pick a weekend to “remodel” the area using cheap materials to demonstrate how they think the street should look. It is similar to playing dress up, but instead, you temporarily dress up a street.
“It just takes someone standing up and kind of mobilizing the community a bit,” Roberts said. “If you’re passionate about something, you have all it takes to be a leader.”
Roberts has been successful in turning blighted areas into functional, colorful and profitable locations. A former IT consultant, and member of a local rock band, he now travels all over the country from his hometown Dallas, TX to educate others about taking hold of their community by stepping away from city hall and into the streets.
But he still discussed the importance of inviting local government leaders to view the projects to help speed up discussions and processes. Roberts has sped up the renovation and political process in a given area by months as opposed to years.
“By us showing what it could be temporarily, it made things change rapidly,” he said about his Norfolk project which sold a building for $1.1 million before the project was finished.
Councilor Marcie Miller for district two said the better blocks project helps to provide a pathway for development and renovation.
“We have rules and regulations for very good reasons but sometimes I think we could suspend them for two days while we test drive a new vision,” Miller said. “It’s paint, its chalk; it doesn’t have to be permanent.”
For more information about better blocks go to www.betterblock.org.