On May 19, starting from 10:00 a.m., residents and community leaders will come together to implement our first “Better Block Project” for Market Square in Downtown Brownsville.
The “Better Block” project is a demonstration tool that temporarily redesigns an area to show the potential to create a great walkable, vibrant neighborhood center. The project creates a real life model for the community to actively engage in “complete streets” design concepts. Pop-up businesses are also developed to allow the community to see the potential for revitalized economic activity in an area.
This is part of a larger effort with Better Block projects now being performed throughout the country. The goal is to allow cities to rapidly implement infrastructure and policy changes that spur downtown revitalization.
“Brownsville has a historic downtown that is a real sense of pride and passion for our citizens.”, said Mayor Tony Martinez. “Better Block Market Square is an opportunity for our citizens to take a hands on approach to reviving our city center”.
Accelerating Brownsville’s downtown renewal will take various interconnected projects and concepts, many of which were reviewed during the Imagine Brownsville Comprehensive Plan process. One such interconnected concept is implementing “Complete Streets” standards. Complete Streets are designed and operated so they work for all users – pedestrians, bicyclists, motorist and transit riders of all ages. The City of Brownsville is hosting a public Complete Streets Workshop scheduled for May 16 at 6 p.m. at the Brownsville Event Center.
“For the last several decades, development in the U.S. has focused on cars, not people”, said Mike Gonzalez, Executive Director of United Brownsville. “Complete Streets designs puts the focus back on individuals and families by creating more enjoyable spaces balanced against the need for motorized transportation”. The Better Block Market Square project will transform Market Square for one day as a redesigned center with expanded retail amenities and “complete streets” concepts. This will include current restaurants with “cafe style” seating, new landscaping, expanded lanes for pedestrians and cyclist, and several new demonstrative retail businesses.
A key concept of Better Block is to move beyond artist renderings of what downtown could be, to actually taking action today by creating demonstrative changes to Market
Square. However, this project is beyond simply being a street festival or even a “beautification” effort. It actively questions outdated concepts and current development standards that may be stifling the very development our community wants to encourage.
“Planning for this project has been an exciting process with community leaders, city staff, business owners, historic preservation professionals and citizen volunteers all coming together to remake Market Square”, said City Commissioner Rose Gowen.
“This collaboration has allowed us to leverage resources and bring this demonstrative project to our citizens quickly and at very low cost.” Residents from Brownsville and surrounding communities are invited to visit Market Square during this time to interact with a redesigned city center and offer feedback. Bring a chair, chessboard, umbrella or musical instrument to help us revive our Market Square!