Bridging the Opportunity Divide

These Towns Show What Even Temporary Urban Renewal Can Bring

June 10, 2014
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These Towns Show What Even Temporary Urban Renewal Can Bring
The Golden Moon Speakeasy and Distillery on Miner's Alley, Golden, Colorado, May 31, 2014. Kent Kanouse/Flickr
You just might find an impromptu cafe where a blighted block once was.

Have you ever passed by an uninspiring stretch of your city and thought, ‘What this place needs is a beer garden?’

The citizens of several cities in Colorado did, and now they’re taking urban renewal into their own hands, creating temporary spruce-ups of blighted areas to show what is possible — and perhaps inspire permanent changes in the future. In Golden, community members zeroed in on a couple of blocks of a street named Miners Alley. That particular stretch was just steps away from downtown, but the spaces weren’t being put to any inspiring use. As Colleen O’Connor writes for the Denver Post, the street is “mostly used for deliveries to businesses that front bustling Washington Avenue.” But during the first weekend of June, citizens threw a street party called Better Block Golden there.

The volunteer-run event featured a pop-up beer garden, bands, art projects for kids, new landscaping, a vibrant Aspen tree mural, café seating and plenty to eat and drink. “If we like it, we can start making some permanent changes,” Golden’s Mayor Marjorie Sloan told O’Connor.

The project was inspired by The Better Block, a website that tracks and encourages such local improvements to urban landscapes across the country and around the world. Elsewhere, Street Plans Collaborative, an urban planning firm, offers a free guide on how to pull off quick city transformations like “guerilla gardening” and “pavement-to-parks” on its website.

Several other Colorado cities are getting in on the block-improvement movement, including Colorado Springs, where the group Colorado Springs Urban Intervention is hanging signs pointing the way for pedestrians to find easy and safe urban places to walk. They also transformed an ill-used block into the site of Curbside Cuisine, a gathering of food trucks.

“We wanted to change the dialogue on Colorado Springs,” co-founder of Colorado Spring Urban Intervention John Olson told O’Connor. “Instead of dreaming about things, let’s do it. Stop the chatter, and show that it will work. We heard too many times that Colorado Springs isn’t Portland, and it won’t work. But it’s doing fantastic.”

So the next time you walk past a blighted block, don’t be surprised by the transformations yet to come.

MORE: Cycling Tourism Has the Potential to Transform this Hardscrabble New Mexico Town

 

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