For more than eight months, residents and business owners in the West End’s Parkland neighborhood have been working together to throw a summer block party. And while the block party will last for a week, neighborhood leaders and planners of Better Block Parkland are hoping the impact of their work will last much longer.
“The Center for Neighborhoods really acts from a theory of change, where neighborhood residents have to lead the way for their own improvement for the places that they live,” said center planning director Jess Brown.
“And we also know that places really matter. They affect our health outcomes, our access, our economic mobility, all the things that make life awesome.”
Better Block Parkland is more than a block party with food and live music. The project aims to prompt change in the neighborhood through community-driven improvements around the Parkland town center at the 1200 block of South 28th Street.
Last year the project took place in the Beechmont neighborhood. The first Better Block program in Louisville was in Shelby Park on Logan Street in 2017.
The Better Block Foundation was started in Texas by Jason Roberts. Brown said it was Roberts’ speech at the Center for Neighborhoods’ annual neighborhood summit in the fall that inspired community members to bring Better Block back to Louisville for a third year.
“He just really inspired all of us and a lot of community members to take change into our own hands and just kind of experiment with testing out new ideas and a really grassroots approach to neighborhood improvement and neighborhood planning,” Brown said.
From Saturday, June 8 through Saturday, June 15, people in the community will be able to enjoy live music, an open air market with food and shopping, and several events for children to celebrate the community’s work toward Better Block Parkland.
While the party is temporary, some of the changes are more permanent. Physical changes of the area were designed and executed by community members, including new lines and marking for better parking along the streets, a new bike network in partnership with the city that created a loop from 28th to 23rd streets for safer biking, and improvements to the Parkland Community Garden.
The stop bar on the corner of 28th and Dumenil streets was also moved back to prevent frequent accidents involving trucks at the intersection.
“There are some things that are permanent now, there are some things that will be permanent within the next six months to a year, and then there’ll be other things like economic development and fixing up some of the buildings or whatever the residents choose,” Brown said. “That will be long-term, permanent initiatives that we take up.”
Some of the other low-cost initiatives Brown and her team are pursuing for Better Block seek to activate green spaces and help local businesses and restaurants grow.
Parkland restaurant owner Antonio Garrison said he thinks Better Block’s work will resonate within the community.
“I feel like them being in the community is going to force others to have to help,” Garrison said. “They’re coming down here in our community to rebuild it and the people in the community, I feel like they’re going to look towards them and be like, ‘OK, well, it’s time for us to step up, too.’”
Garrison opened his restaurant, Irma Dee’s, on South 28th Street just over a year ago. He quickly noticed the changes the community was making through Better Block when the work began in September.
“It puts a smile on my face to see them happy and see them smile because I feel like everyone has it in them to give but a lot don’t,” Garrison said.
“The way that they are giving back to this community, and some of them not even growing up in this community, it’s even a better view of how their hearts are. So I think that it’s a blessing.”
The relationships between local businesses and the community are the kinds of connections Brown said Better Block strives to build.
“There’s lots of amazing neighborhoods here and Parkland is one of those gems that we just don’t necessarily pay attention to like we should,” Brown said.
The block party kicks off Saturday at 1 p.m. The full week’s schedule can be found on the Center For Neighborhoods website.