Renderings courtesy of Better Block Foundation.
Additional reporting by Sally Wamre.
For a few weeks in October and November, the parking lot of Forest Audelia Village will transform into a park exploring a long-term vision for the space.
Project Safe Neighborhood is funding the demonstration featuring daily fitness classes, cultural music, food, drinks and resource-based initiatives such as pop-up clinics and homework help.
During the past few months, the Oak Cliff-based Better Block Foundation solicited input from residents and community leaders to determine how the project should be developed.
“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, testing a lot of different things,” says Kristin Leiber, Better Block’s senior project manager. “This is just version one in a multi-step iteration. We will see several park life cycles here.”
Better Block’s goal is to brainstorm and execute temporary spaces throughout Dallas that encourage neighbors to rethink how places can be defined and empower them to make changes of their own in the future.
Forest Audelia Village is a central point in the neighborhood, where many diverse communities converge: apartment complexes, single-family residences, a refugee population and low-income housing.
“This park is an opportunity for people of different cultures to coexist in a meaningful way,” Leiber says.
Each activity fits into the roughly 50-by-70-foot temporary park space. 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.
One supporter of the Better Block project is Jamie Coleman, the pastor of Nexus Community Church, which serves more than 100 families in the neighborhood’s refugee and immigrant populations. Coleman says the park will help newcomers learn about life in the United States and share their cultures with the community.
“Refugees who manage to escape unthinkable violence in their home countries don’t want to encounter the same things in their new backyards,” Coleman says. “Who wants that? This park is intended to reframe others’ perspective about what this space can be, and this is the first step.”
Jake Finch is a single-family homeowner and five-year resident of the Woodbridge subdivision at Forest and Audelia, where he lives with his wife and their four children.