This Could Be Phoenix | Better Block Phoenix
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Better Block Phoenix

Better Block PHX

On Saturday, September 27th 2014, Downtown Phoenix experienced the very first Better Block project. A collaboration between Downtown advocates and advocacy groups like Phoenix Spokes People and This Could Be PHX, Better Block activated two blocks in Downtown Phoenix for a single day – until the storm of the century shut it down, blowing down trees and power lines and nearly blowing away tents and public art. But even still, the Better Block event was a complete success. Why?

Because for three hours, two blocks along 1st Street between Pierce and Garfield represented a complete street, drawing in people and activating nearly the entire stretch of blocks. Pedestrians walking along the street were drawn in by a number of activities and people driving by had a reason to park their cars and get out and experience the city. All of this was done by simply engaging people.

The Better Block movement began in Dallas as an attempt to renew a block in an underused neighborhood. This grassroots demonstration proved extremely successful and its founder, Jason Roberts, turned it into a national movement. Learn more about the original Better Block here and watch our video recap below of what took place in Phoenix.

THE BETTER BLOCK PHX EXPERIENCE

Over here in Phoenix, 1st Street was transformed into a place with restaurants, bars, shopping, yoga studios, public art, bike lanes, benches and street performers. One dirt lot was activated with retail and food vendors from the Public Market. Another dirt lot had a bike shop, public art demonstrations and more retail. A vacant building storefront was turned into a flower and jewelry shop. Another vacant building was activated by hanging historic maps of the 1st Street blocks. This helped people see what the block looked like before historic buildings were torn down to become the empty lots and parking lots that are such a detriment to the block. Over at one of the many parking lots, a 50’ long strip of Astroturf and large tent provided the basis for transforming the lot into a yoga studio and afterwards, a hula hooping class.

Beyond the empty lot and parking lot activation, temporary bike lanes raised awareness about the importance of sharing the road with cyclists. On street corners lawn chairs provided a place for people to sit and relax and to people watch. Fun president statues were created to provide historical information about the presidents and the naming of the streets. At the southwest corner of 1st Street and McKinley, a large ficus tree provides ample shade for pedestrians, yet there are no benches for people to sit and utilize the space. Better Block provided two large benches at this location and immediately after the first bench was completed, people took the opportunity to sit down and enjoy the day.

Other fun things activated the streets like street performers, sidewalk chalk for children and a photo booth.

A COMMUNITY TAKES CHARGE

And so, with a little bit of planning and some dedicated community members, 1st Street was transformed into a bustling block with activation all over. It was a place where people wanted to go, where they could hang out and meet new people, where they could shop, eat, people watch or take a yoga class. It was a place that community members want 1st Street to be, a place that it deserves to be.