Plan to hear some flamenco music flittering through the parking lot of Forest Audelia Village this October.
It’s one of many activities planned for the monthlong demonstration for the Better Block park being built in the parking lot. Daily programming, including homework help, fitness programs, free meals, yoga, and theater and creative writing workshops, has been scheduled for Oct. 15-Nov. 14.
The ideas don’t stop there. About 40 more pop-up food vendors, bands and other arts and culture activities are making their way onto the list, says senior project manager Kristin Leiber.
Each of these activities will fit into the roughly 50 feet by 70 feet temporary park space being built leading up to the opening. Within that area is a basketball court; open green space with shade, lights and seating; and a children’s play area with play blocks and rubber play tiles. A pedestrian track lines the perimeter, and a crosswalk connects the demonstration to the surrounding shopping center.
The design was molded around input by residents and community leaders over the last few months.
“I think some people are still wondering how to use a space like this. And that’s sort of what this one-month demonstration is for, is testing a lot of different things,” says Leiber.
Better Block’s goal is to help brainstorm and execute temporary builds across Dallas and to encourage the community to rethink how a space can be defined. This, in turn, is meant to empower neighbors to make changes and builds of their own in the future. For Forest Audelia Village, this demonstration is supposed to drive ideas for what a park might look like on that corner.
The length of this project is different than some of Better Block’s earlier work, where activation and building takes less than two weeks.
“I think we’re seeing the benefits of longer, more measured approaches where we’re able to gather some more statistics that are meaningful, work with partnerships longer term, and then really turning things over after we leave so that they can kind of keep that good work going.”
This has proven true with the MLK Food Park on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard in southeast Dallas, which has remained an active food park since its temporary installation this spring.
Placing a temporary demonstration at Forest Audelia Village is a move toward more positive energy in the area, block captain and local activist Denita Jones says. Jones has lived in the area for the past four years and is excited to see actionable steps being made there.
“We’re often left out of the conversation and we’re also left out of economic development,” says Jones. “It’s important for people to feel included in things … to bring the community here and let the community have something to be proud of.”
In Jones’ eyes, it’s also about bringing Lake Highlands together and making clear both sides of 635 are part of the neighborhood. The Lake Highlands Area Moms Against Racism, a group Jones runs and helped to create, is planning to host its weekly meetings at Forest Audelia Village while the demonstration is up.
“It’s only fitting to be involved in that, and to bring the … playdates that typically happen at White Rock Lake… and bring it over here to this side of 635,” says Jones.
Creating a space for the community to gather and learn helps fulfill those who participate, says Rosanne Messineo Mills, a block captain and new urbanism expert. As a block captain, she determines what neighbors need — activities like self-defense classes, health clinics and library programs.
“The thing that is so extraordinary that organizations like Better Block, is that from nothing, there is something created that is responsive to the community’s needs and desires,” says Mills.
Building will begin in the upcoming weeks, and neighbors are welcome to join the community build starting Oct. 11.
“It started with just getting a bus stop moved,” Councilman Adam McGough said at the launch event for the project. “Step by step, it’s getting better … We’re driving a stake in the ground. And we’re gonna do each and everything we can do to improve this area.”