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CAM 2012 Preview

CAM 2012 preview: San Antonio's 'Better Block'


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When you create a nice environment, people will follow. That's the theory behind the Better Blocks project, led by a team of urban planning professionals helping communities around the United States realize the potential of their surroundings. The project works by taking a single underutilized or abandoned city block and temporarily turning it into an urban paradise. The San Antonio action began a week ago when 40 volunteers gathered to clean up a stretch of Jones Avenue west of Broadway (catty-corner from Maverick Park), cutting back trees and scrub dangling over the sidewalks. This Saturday and Sunday, the stretch will be turned into five pop-up galleries with cafés and flower shops. More than a quarter-mile of bike lanes will be built to encourage residents to enjoy a bit of the city without cars (perhaps even turning off of Broadway from the city's fortuitously corresponding combustion-less Síclovía event).

Better Blocks began in Dallas with an understanding of how difficult the process of obtaining all the correct building and construction permits can be; Better Block, spreading to cities around the country, knocks out the hurdles by taking care of all the paperwork for local projects.

"Everyone is frustrated with how long it takes to get things off the ground," said Jason Roberts, Better Block's creative manager. "This is a way to create energy in days and not years." The reconstructed Jones block will also include 24 new trees and works by local artists. And while it 's just a temporary demonstration, Roberts said many of the now more than 20 block projects, which have popped up in cities ranging from New York to Waco, have become permanent after their respective communities saw how much they enjoyed them. Free, 5-10pm Sat, March 3, 7am-3pm Sun, March 4, Broadway at E Jones, sanantonio.teambetterblock.com.

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