Economic reality has produced a paradigm shift in development over the past few years, this is not a foreign subject. Developers, designers and everyday people have grown impatient with stagnant conditions. Many are no longer waiting around for dust collecting planning documents to spark action, nor can they sit around depending on the big developers to make a big splash in their communities.
Perhaps we are in a time when demonstration is necessary for change?

The before and after images from the Better Block Project in Oak Cliff, Texas

Guerrilla efforts such as Better Block started popping up in Dallas, Texas where the public right-of-way portion of the street was transformed into a place better oriented toward the pedestrian. The Better Block became wildly successful. Today, two years after its conception, it is being attempted in concert with the municipalities and with temporary approvals. I attended a meeting in Denver a few weeks ago to lend the assistance of CNU-Colorado toward this effort. It is being planned for the Jefferson Park Neighborhood in Denver in June 2012. I was both shocked and thrilled to hear that the City of Denver is working in cooperation to make this demonstration possible.
Better Block is not the only group doing this – not in the least. If you follow me on twitter, you may have seen the plethora of related tweets about the topic. pop-up libraries, guerrilla signage, lighter, quicker, cheaper and many other efforts have taken place on and near colleges and universities as an example. One of my favorites is the assembly of Tactical Urbanism from my colleagues in the Next Generation of New Urbanists and The Street Plans Collaborative. They have now produced two documents on Tactical Urbanism, volume 2 was recently released, documenting the efforts and providing ideas for others. Tactical Urbanism 2: Short Term Action || Long Term Change can be downloaded here.
These ‘tactics‘ are tremendous in the name of change in that they begin to demonstrate how a place can become so much more. It begins to show us that positive change does not have to come with a large amount of money.
I will post a follow-up post to this one describing how the incremental approach can be taken vertical, and in a less than desirable economic climate. The subject matter is not anything new, it is really going back to how we once developed our cities. More on that soon.