Looking ahead

Better Block OKC essentially takes a block or two of underutilized or blighted streetscape and inexpensively transforms that area using art, culture, pop-up businesses and other methods.

For example, vendors set up shop in an urban section for a night, while the appearance of the area is transformed with transitory improvements, such as trees, benches or the temporary reconfiguration of street parking.

Although the transformation lasts for only a day or a few hours, the idea is to ignite inspiration and momentum for developers to make a long-term change possible, said architect and Better Block OKC organizer Matthew McLarty.

The first of Better Block OKC’s projects is scheduled to launch May 18 at N.W. Seventh Street and Hudson Avenue.

Similar Better Block projects have been done in Dallas, San Antonio and Tulsa, to impressive development results, McLarty said.

right The area at Hudson and N.W. Seventh Street will be temporarily transformed through Better Block OKC.

Better Block is coordinating with the H & 8th Night Market to be part of the event, McLarty said.

“We have a few ideas and we definitely have some direction,” said Allison Barta Bailey, co-chairwoman of Better Block OKC. “We also have some projects that we’re personally doing on the event, but we want the community to get involved as much as we are.”

Bailey said the temporary transformation is a working demonstration of development potential, with ideas coming from a host of designers, architects, business owners and community members.

“We understand that long-term comprehensive planning projects still need to happen, but this is a way to keep momentum going for an area and create a quick, inexpensive, high-impact change. It’s a way to see if something works or not,” Bailey said. “It’s a way to get creative and not have to worry about a lot of expense or complex functionality.

Construction work probably will begin the morning of the event, Bailey said.

Much like the demonstration will accommodate existing infrastructure, the event’s organizers are working around their own schedules to make Better Block happen.

“We all have full-time jobs,” Bailey said. “This is just something we’re passionate about doing.”

A volunteer night was scheduled earlier this week, but additional recruiting events are likely, said Bailey.

Photo by Mark Hancock