Measure Public Life: Frenchtown

The first steps to get more people counting with Public Life Diversity Toolkit are already underway. Gehl is collaborating with Better Block Foundation to develop a prototype training program, by evaluating a project in Frenchtown, Tallahassee, Florida. Better Block Foundation is a recently formed organization that works with residents and local stakeholders and decision-makers to physically create an ideal neighborhood block experience, using temporary design and events, all of which shows people what is possible.

Better Block teams have been launching creative block projects in mid-sized cities across the United States, garnering well-attended events and even capital investments in the places they’ve worked. However, the social impact of their work has been more difficult to quantify.

Over a weekend in November, Better Block brought its flash-mob style urbanism to the Frenchtown neighborhood. Gehl was on the ground to support and teach, as well as learn their own lessons from the well-attended two-day event. Pop-up design elements like a new bike lane, street trees, art crosswalks, and pedestrian islands facilitated activity invited by programming elements like local food and product vendors, music and dance performances, a bicycle repair station, and an educational greenhouse.

A crowd enjoying the new design and programming elements


Employing the Public Life Diversity Toolkit, the team sought to find out more about the social interactions at the event, especially about one that may not have existed prior to Better Block’s efforts. They asked about people’s interest in participating or leading activities in future events. Overall, the team was interested in how Better Block’s design elements and public programs helped ease social interactions and a sense of civic commitment to the space. With this information, the Better Block team could communicate more clearly the impact of their project on a community’s social health.

We’re just crunching the data now and look forward to sharing more about this developing process and what we learned from counting in Tallahassee. We’re also excited to share the training program with other groups, and expect that we’ll roll it out during the summer of 2017.