Building a Better Block, setting the stage for reimagination
It’s a funny thing in life when you have those rare moments where timing, talents, resources, people, and energy converge to create something that is truly amazing. We’ve all felt it before and we know to cherish and nurture it because it is special. So why can’t businesses and the development of places use that as a driving force? It makes sense. Wouldn’t prosperity, sustainable commerce and public wellness follow? We think so.
This is a story about a group of people who believed in the power of doing and finding an answer to the question, “why can’t Fort Lauderdale be better?” On June 16, 2012, we built a Better Block and the community showed up to enjoy it. Cadence partnered with local businesses, University organizations, property owners, non-profits, residents, students and neighbors to transform nearly 600 linear feet of dull warehouse lined streets into a bustling urban-living environment.
Setting the stage
As Landscape Architects we know the importance of creating an experience. It is not a complicated list of elements that make for successful places – seating, shade, food/drink, elements to engage conversation, a comfortable scale, inclusion of local businesses. Yet somewhere along the way, development patterns shifted and this simple list was forgotten. It became a norm to ignore the spaces between buildings, the scale of our streets and importance of sidewalks. These are all vital factors to the overall success and connection of our cities. Think of us as setting the stage for a great performance to take place.
Here’s a sample of some of the questions we began to ask:
How will seating arrangements be set up to encourage lounging and interaction?
Where will we provide bike parking?
What about dog owners?
How many food options should there be?
What art exhibits will compliment the businesses?
Where should the music be located?
Which retailers should be highlighted that offer unique goods?
All of the answers above along with dozens more “props” were then produced to deliver a vibrant environment that was neighborhood specific and reflected the personality behind Flagler Village. Each prop helped to set the stage for the community to interrupt their own experience for the day.
Dear Fort Lauderdale, meet the connection economy
As we’ve experienced, Fort Lauderdale is taking its sweet time in rebounding from the booming years it experienced right before the Great Reset. What Better Block FTL demonstrated to our community was the power of connection. We believe that the connection economy offers a sustainable and enjoyable solution to climbing out of the recession. If you are waiting for business to return to what it was, you may be waiting for quite some time. Instead, why not reimagine what business as usual can mean.
Better Block was built on time. Each and every person that helped bring it to life volunteered their time. For this project, money was not the driving factor. This kindred spirit built connection and gave us all ownership in what was achieved. The businesses that were highlighted as pop-up shops were all locally owned, South Florida and primarily Flagler Village entrepreneurs. The introduction of these small businesses and people to one another now creates a level of connectivity that makes the fabric of our local commerce even stronger. Designers and businesses owners are the linchpins to connect goods and services with a more sustainable approach. In turn, what is delivered to the public to consume directly strengthens their local community.
Small + Local + Creative = Authentic Impact
Anyone who appreciates a deliciously crafted meal knows that the quality of each ingredient defines the dish’s final outcome. That too, is the key to effective collaboration. Better Block FTL was the result of people caring about what was served to the public on June 16th. Each ingredient we decided to add was carefully considered to ensure the event reflected the unique vibe that Flagler Village represents for our city. It celebrated the creative souls that want to make Fort Lauderdale a better place to live, engage with their neighbors, work, invest, raise a family, go out with their dogs, experience art and play. This is what it took to deliver that authenticity. Money alone could not have created that impact.
As we’ve said so many times, we could not have embarked upon this effort alone. Better Block FTL collaborators included FAU School of Urban and Regional Planning, FAT Village Arts District, Flagler Village Civic Association, C&I Studios, Radio-Active Records, Public Image Vintage, Helium Creative, Iron Forge Press, Artist Luke Jenkins, Zahn Development, Urban Matters, Fort Lauderdale DDA, Fort Lauderdale Northwest CRA, City of Fort Lauderdale