The Better Block Foundation is a 501(c)3 nonprofit that educates, equips and empowers communities and their leaders to reshape and reactivate built environments to promote the growth of healthy and vibrant neighborhoods. Founded in 2015, the organization’s work has “turned empty lots into beautiful plazas; overbuilt streets into markets, and given run-down, vacant buildings new life.” Around the world, Better Block has transformed neighborhoods in places such as Charlotte, Detroit, Melbourne and Tehran.
The organization held an open call for Mesa neighbors to nominate their blocks for the project. After an application and evaluation process was completed, Southside Mesa was selected.
“During the selection process, there are three core elements we look for in a project,” explained Krista Nightengale, Executive Director of the Better Block Foundation. “First, we want a space that has commercial activity or the ability to host commercial activity so we can work with local entrepreneurs; secondly, we often look at spaces where we can demonstrate what it means to put people over cars (road diets, parking lots to plazas, etc.); and lastly, but most importantly, we look for an engaged community, super volunteers, and people who love Mesa. We found all three in Southside.”
Mesa residents say this venture will support momentum started in 2021.
“It will provide the opportunity to build on the neighborhood and business engagement that’s been ongoing since 2021,” says community organizer Augie Gastelum. “It will become the center for the voice of a heavily BIPOC, immigrant and low-income community whose voice is often neglected and ignored.”
The official ribbon cutting will take place Friday, March 25 at 6 p.m. at Guerrero Rotary Park, 205 W. 8th Ave. From March 23-26, the intersection of 8th Avenue and MacDonald Street in Southside Mesa will be transformed by street murals, digitally fabricated furniture, local artists and programming.
“I’m honored and excited that Better Block has chosen to come to the Southside Neighborhood in Mesa for their next block demonstration,” says Vice Mayor Jenn Duff. “As our community continues to grow, it’s necessary that we do so in a mindful, strategic way. The Better Block Foundation’s commitment to revisioning the built environment within communities and uniting neighborhoods is in line with the City of Mesa’s values and priorities.”
“Working with Better Block and what they are doing to help transform neighborhoods is a rewarding opportunity to support Mesa’s rich heritage,” said Suzanne Massey, Vice President, Santander Consumer USA Foundation. “We’re excited to share in the development and revitalization of a neighborhood in Mesa where the local community can come together over a short and intense time to shape and create a new future for underutilized spaces.”
Vendors or entertainers who are interested in being a part of the ribbon cutting should indicate their interest by sending an email here. Volunteers who want to help with the transformation can sign up at here.