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Continued: Tactical urbanism: Citizen projects go mainstream, from DIY crosswalks to a 'pop-up 'hood'

  • Article by: ALLEN G. BREED , Associated Press
  • Last update: May 1, 2014 - 9:50 AM

Several major cities have embraced the concept — and even expanded on it.

Through its People St. program, the Los Angeles Department of Transportation offers kits and materials to help business and neighborhood groups transform sidewalks and even portions of streets into "parklets." New York has a similar program.

On a recent windy day in Brooklyn's Dumbo (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass) neighborhood, Wendy Bronfin took her 4-year-old daughter for a scooter ride in a park that was once a parking lot.

"There's a lot of families in this neighborhood and we use the outdoor space, whether it's for carnivals or different events," she said.

Not everyone is thrilled with these vigilante actions.

Last year, police in Vallejo, Calif., arrested Anthony Cardenas for vandalism after he painted diagonal stripes over an existing crosswalk to make it more prominent. The charge was dismissed earlier this year.

And officials in Hamilton, Ontario, ordered several crosswalks and sidewalk "bump outs" removed after Lydon and others held a workshop there last spring. The city later reconsidered and is now replicating the projects.

Some officials have argued that these projects, however well-meaning, can actually endanger people. Lydon says he's unaware of injuries resulting from one of these projects, and calls their track record "outstanding."

Memphians have adopted tactical urbanism in many ways.

On Main Street, a bocce ball court now beckons restaurant and bar patrons to regular tournaments. And hand-painted bicycle lanes are part of an effort to breathe life back into long-neglected Broad Avenue.

The latest and largest example of tactical urbanism here is "Tennessee Brewery Untapped."

Abandoned and decaying for a half century, the fortress-like brick building has become a home for pigeons and a canvas for graffiti artists. Tommy Pacello, a member of Mayor A.C. Wharton's innovation delivery team, says the owners have spent more than a half-million dollars in recent years just to protect the 124-year-old building from vandals.

"Since '97, there have been 14 feasibility studies done on this project," Pacello says. Abandoning the "old calculus" of trying to "build out the entire thing at once," he and a group of others decided to try a different approach.

For six weeks through June 1, organizers will operate a pop-up beer garden in the old courtyard. Volunteers crafted seats, tables and even a performance stage out of donated and scrap lumber, and food trucks are lined up to provide refreshments.

"It's intended to activate it," Pacello says. "It's to demonstrate that there is value in the structure, that people are compelled to be down here."

With demolition scheduled to begin in August, Pacello and the other tactical urbanists don't have long to demonstrate that a white elephant can become a cash cow.


Associated Press Video Journalist Ted Shaffrey in New York also contributed to this story. Allen G. Breed is a national writer, based in Raleigh, N.C. He can be reached at Follow him on Twitter at

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