I really dislike the sun. I only go outside from 9 p.m. to midnight in the months of June, July, and August. So when I signed up to help with the Build a Better Boulevard project and agreed to spend at least 12 hours in the sun (half of that doing manual labor), I knew I was in for trouble.
Though I got a very painful sunburn (trust me, I did put on sunscreen and reapplied multiple times), I wouldn’t trade yesterday for anything. Jump to find out why or check out the video by Robbie Curtis.
Our group (made of La Terra Studio, Dallas Engaged Professionals, and MasonBaronet) started working around 6:30 Sunday morning. Our plan was to use an old, cut up billboard as our main shade and use some of Better Block’s recycled arbors to anchor the other end. Then for the bus stop area, we used pallets and buckets for benches and umbrellas stuck in tubes stuck in buckets for shade. It was a great plan. Until the wind blew through. We lost a few umbrellas, but it was hard to complain about the breeze.
Along with Etsy vendors and Chill Bubble Tea, we had a chalkboard where we asked what you’d like to see from your Dallas. Some answers were: trees, connecting the trails, potholes fixed in East Dallas, and more bike lanes. My favorite response was “economic justice.”
At one point, a young man with overalls and a harmonica walked up with three of his friends and their guitars. They were The Great Earth Experiment, a band that plays a “fusion of Bluegrass, Country, and Folk music,” and they wanted to play in our shade. We told them, “go for it,” turned off the iPod, and enjoyed their music.
Across the street was the Las Ramblas market with shaved ice, painters, multiple vendors selling their merchandise, and a piano. Next to us was Jason Roberts’ son selling hot dogs (I have a feeling we’ll hear more about him in the future). Down the street was the Pop-Up Pooch Park and one of the biggest hits of the day, Fellowship Church’s dumpster pool. Past 75, there were two more bus stops (one with a great design by We Are 1976 and another very colorful stop by a group whose name I didn’t get), a food truck area (where you could make your own smoothie by pedaling on a bike), and a pavilion designed by UTA students with some bands playing. Though most opted to use their bikes, buses (such as the Three Sheets’ double-decker bus) were available to take people from one end to the other.
Overall, I thought it was a great day. Sure people were hot. But they were still standing out there. Shade was the greatest challenge of the weekend, and Roberts was happy to see people out.
“I loved seeing how that, even in 100 degree weather, people would still linger in the shaded areas,” he says. “That’s a huge win for us in showing how we should implement change in areas that we want to pedestrianize.”
He says that the enjoyed the project because his group was able to create a pedestrian and bicycle area in a space that is 90 percent for cars.
“One person I met remarked that it was kind of ‘boring,’ which I took as a major compliment,” he says. “Starting the project, so many people said, ‘You can’t put a market in the center of a street…people will get run over.’ The reality was that auto-traffic was calmed to a level that made the area safer for pedestrians, children, bicyclists, and transit users whoÂ hadÂ to enter in and out of the area. It also allowed for greater economic potential in a space that is void of retail, while creating aÂ vibrant street life.”
As with any project, we all learned a thing or two. I learned that I should use more sunscreen and that umbrellas are great if tied down when the forecast calls for 20-30 mph winds. Roberts wishes he would have lengthened the bike lane all the way from 75 to the market area.Â He also would have liked to have more trees. They brought in 15, but he says they could have used at least 100.
I asked him how many of the 72 hours he worked during the challenge. His response? “I think we went well over our 72 hours for this build out.” I’m betting he didn’t’ sleep this weekend.
I was impressed with the number of people who came out and the relatively few complaints. I was a bit concerned when we had a meeting a week before in the area around Ross and Pavillion and the cops and tow trucks were called on us. Â I don’t think anyone was complaining yesterday when they could walk out their door and get a delicious taco from Ssahm BBQ.
The UTA students won the competition with their creative use of pallets as benches. I have to brag a bit about my group and tell you that we got second place. Not bad for a bunch of umbrellas and buckets.