• Sarah Gifford

Our Favorite 2019 Moments


Some of our favorite moments throughout 2020, see more on our Instagram @betterblock.

"Every year for our organization has rolled out new and exciting initiatives that have helped us grow and take on challenges I've always dreamed of. This past year has been focused on semi-permanent and permanent installations that take us out of the world of light materials, and into more substantial and robust builtouts. Specifically, we invested in welding equipment, commercial road striping machines, and established relationships with advanced fabrication groups and shipping organizations, which led to the buildout of our Better Block in a Box, our Macon, Georgia, and Richardson, Texas bike lane installations, and hexagonal bench + planters that we'll be installing in projects from here on out. Watching the work transition from small pallet furniture to solid and robust commercial-grade public furniture has been an exciting area of growth, and it's allowed us to make the change from temporary Better Blocks to permanent city block transformation in what we've dubbed as "Days not Decades" planning. The next year has already lined up a handful of projects that will continue that growth, and hopefully solidify the permanent change that communities have always dreamed of." — Jason Roberts, Founding Director 


"We had an incredible year at the Better Block in 2019 with many moments that stood out. I especially enjoyed watching David from 8 80 Cities hoist the long-fought-for permit into the air for Canada’s first-ever pop-up Vision Zero event. I loved seeing Robert, Molly, and Devon from Trust for Public Land admire the newly formed park they helped create from a vacant lot popular for dumping tires. I also loved seeing artists bring their visions to life through Spin’s design competition. And it was an exhilarating moment watching our Better Block in a Box be shipped away for the first time. 


But I think one of the biggest moments was at the Vickery Better Block here in Dallas. For this project, we collaborated with the Department of Justice to apply CPTED (reduce crime through environmental design) principles. It had been a rough couple of weeks: a tornado had ripped through Dallas just a couple blocks from the project site; it was hard to convince property owners to remove the bars from their store windows; and as always, time and budgets were short. We were racing to get everything finished, and at 6 pm, a group of about 100 neighborhood kids descended on the site. I have seen many incredible moments when a project is officially unveiled, but this one was unlike any other. Kids were squealing with delight as they (stress) tested out the swings, explored the renovated shipping container, and found their self-portraits on the tile wall. Several of them hugged us. One of them exclaimed it was like Disney World. 


In that moment, nothing else mattered. This project was for these kids. And we will continue well into 2020 ensuring that they get a place they can play, perform, and take pride in." — Krista Nightengale, Managing Director 


TBK Bank Plaza opening weekend festivities

"I have a really clear memory from my first project in Burtonsville, Maryland. As it goes when you fall in love, fall asleep, and evidently, manage Better Block projects, things happen slowly and then all at once. The moment I realized that the project which I had worried about and worked on for months had, in a split second, grown legs and had walked off without me was stunning. It was a wonderful lesson on the power behind determined communities and on letting go enough for things to beautifully unfold."  — Kristin Leiber, Project Manager 


"My most memorable moment of the year was our 8 80 Streets project in Toronto, Ontario. Toronto is a beautiful city with already robust cycling and pedestrian infrastructure, so viewing it through the Better Block perspective was a really interesting challenge. Lucky for us, we had great local partners in 880 Cities and the community itself is full of active, passionate residents who worked hard right along with us throughout. The project had an immediate impact and we are excited to see how these ideas will progress. Meanwhile, we'll all be dreaming of the beautiful Toronto streets and neighborhoods. " — Dylan Adams, Architectural Designer 

"2019 was full of powerful moments for me. My favorite came unexpectedly. Through a partnership with Trust for Public Land, my team and I spent about a week working to transform a once mosquito-infested dumping ground across the street from a high school into a public park. After assembling play elements and moving, painting, and stacking dumped tires into pastel planters and benches, I found myself standing in a circle with my team and the local volunteers, holding hands. 


Head bowed, a community member led us in prayer. In it, he explained that this project was the dream-come-true of community members who had spent the last twenty years fighting to have a public park like this one in their neighborhood. He thanked us and everyone involved, reminding us that to them, we were a part of their miracle. The gratitude and hope we shared in this moment leaked onto me and has served as a constant reminder for me of the value of what we do." — Sarah Gifford, Development/Programming Coordinator 


"My favorite moment of 2019 was during my first project at Better Block in West Allis, Wisconsin. The outpouring of help from both the community and the city was overwhelming and unexpected in my eyes. Before I knew it, the block itself started to transform into the renderings I had made weeks before. During the event, kids ran along the unique natural playscape, adults gathered around listening to music, and people milled about, enjoying the atmosphere. On the second day, a musician Jim Madritsch, sat on our stage and played easy jazz. I sat in the adirondacks that volunteers had helped build just days before, and finally took a breath and watched the activity around me, in awe of the capability of what a single community can achieve."  — Amanda Bagwell, Project Manager 


"I really enjoyed the gateway project for Bloomhouse. The design was complex; the challenge was making templates so that it could be installed quickly. My favorite part was how excited the volunteers were to use power tools. They all lined up for a turn with the nail gun, and commented how that made it feel permanent for them." — Rick Fontenot