Summit Keynote Speaker Jason Roberts’ 3 Steps to Neighborhood Transformation

mug_jason_robertsJason Roberts, whose keynote will close out the 2014 EcoDistricts Summit, has figured out the secret to reviving neighborhoods, re-energizing communities, sparking economic growth and improving the environment, and he wants to share it.

  1. Show up.

  2. Give your project a name.

  3. Set a date sooner than seems possible and publish it.

That’s it: so simple. But before you dismiss Roberts as a wide-eyed optimist, take a moment to consider what he’s accomplished with this no-nonsense approach.

In 2006, Roberts wanted to bring the streetcar back to a community in South Dallas that was best known for its abandoned storefronts and empty streets. He created a website and called it the Oak Cliff Transit Authority. The local paper covered it, and people in his community contacted him to see how they could get involved. His website quickly became an established nonprofit with strong ties to the city government, starting a movement that has gone on to secure $23 million in federal funding and the imminent return of the streetcar.

Roberts also famously transformed inhospitable blocks into community vibrant gathering spaces through a kind of guerrilla urban planning. His “Better Block Project” rallied the community to come together and publicly break every zoning law that was preventing sidewalk cafes, awnings, bike paths and cross walks. They announced a party and invited city hall.

The results have been stunning, and we think that there is no better way to close out a Summit dedicated to collaboration and urban happiness.