Video opinion: Bringing a block back to life

By Gosia Kung

People want to walk when neighborhoods are vibrant, when there is something to see and when sidewalks are full of other people and colorful spaces.

WalkDenver brought the first Better Block demonstration to Colorado in June. A brief video now showcases the transformation. (Click here to see it.) The project provides great lessons for how the built environment can promote better health.

The Better Block Jefferson Park focused on a potentially forgotten commercial district in northwest Denver near Federal Boulevard and West 25th Avenue.

Building on the history of the area as an original streetcar suburb, the vision for the Better Block included access to public transportation on Federal Boulevard as well as bicycle and pedestrian improvements to the street. The community also wanted to reinvigorate vacant commercial spaces and create pedestrian destinations in the neighborhood.

During the one-day demonstration, a team of nonprofit partners and volunteers filled vacant storefronts with pop-up shops including a restaurant, an art gallery, a bike shop and a pet store. The street came to life with a fresh market, an outdoor nursery, street music and public art. Temporary streetscape improvements filled the street with trees, flower boxes, benches and outdoor cafs. Free valet bike parking encouraged visitors from other parts of town to stop by while leaving their cars at home. Local residents came on foot and flooded the street with activity.

This live demonstration sprang to life with the help of volunteers who collectively gave more than 3,000 hours. Together we can create permanent change and embrace active transportation as a cornerstone to a healthy lifestyle.

As founder of WalkDenver, Gosia Kung was instrumental in bringing the first Better Block Complete Streets demonstration to Colorado. A native of Poland, Gosia has an inherent understanding and passion for the role of walkability in urban design. Gosia brings added experience as a licensed, practicing architect in the United States. Gosia has built a reputation as an advocate and spokesperson for walkability and its key role in building healthy communities.Click here to see a story about Kung and WalkDenver in the New York Times: Denver is Urged to Hit the Sidewalks.