Leslie Batchelor, chairwoman of the Oklahoma chapter of the Urban Land Institute, sees “Better Block OKC” as less of a guerrilla event (Bailey and Vails obtained permits Tuesday from the Oklahoma City Council) and more of a chance to show residents how they can transform their neighborhoods.
“It makes a statement that from building face to building, that it's public space,” Batchelor said. “It's about people. So by taking over the block for a day, making it a place where people want to be, we can create a vision of what people might want everyday.”
Bailey said the block of NW 7 west of Hudson Avenue was an ideal starting point with its wide sidewalks, buildings with storefronts on both sides of the street, and yet also it is a largely undeveloped corridor within walking distance of the Mesta Park and Heritage Hills neighborhoods.
They also hope the project will draw more people by coinciding with H&8th, which itself ran into code and ordinance complications when it was first started in August.
“By doing it when another popular event is going on, you can draw people who don't even know Better Block is going on,” Bailey said. “It's a fun night. It's a great group of Oklahoma City residents who come out to enjoy the event, and I think they'll enjoy Better Block.”
Vails, who has helped oversee the revitalization of the 16th Street Plaza District (NW 16 between Classen Boulevard and Pennsylvania Avenue), is hoping that residents and civic leaders alike will see that zoning changes and meager investment in street amenities can transform a neighborhood.
“We're wanting to invite council members, city staff and leaders to come and see how these projects are positive for areas — that maybe ordinances and codes need to be changed and that one-size-fits-all isn't always the best fit,” Vails said.
“If a group of 25 people can come together and pull this off, it can be done anywhere,” she added. “You don't have to spend a lot of money at first on buying a bike bench — you can create one cheaply and try it out, see how it works.”
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To learn more about Better Block OKC, visit www.better