Main Street Gets a Makeover

See how a weekend transformation made downtown Bethel, Vermont, pop!

Bethel Better Block

In 2016, the planning group Team Better Block partnered with AARP Vermont in the town of Bethel (pop: 2,030) to demonstrate how placemaking and community design influence successful aging, health, economic vitality and overall livability. 

Photo courtesy Team Better Block

The Roadmap

The event took place over a weekend in early October and featured temporary "pop-up" businesses, street modifications, new public spaces and many other small interventions aimed at improving livability in the downtown corridor. 

Photo courtesy Team Better Block

Bird's Eye View

Bethel was a great place for a Better Block demonstration project because it featured a good street (suitably named Main Street) that could be made better. 

Photo courtesy Team Better Block

Closed for Business

Among the reasons Bethel benefited from a Better Block intervention was that many of its downtown buildings, including this historic one at 257 Main Street, were vacant and in need of a facelift.  

Photo courtesy Team Better Block

Open for Business

During the Bethel Better Block weekend, pop-up shops and services took upoccupency in the building's street-level spaces. 

Photo courtesy Team Better Block

Take a Closer Look

This bird's eye view image shows three demonstration projects that were added to improve Main Street's walkability.

Photo courtesy Team Better Block

Pedestrians Crossing

Stripes added to the crosswalks and curb extensions enhanced by landscaping bulb-outs helped alert drivers to the presence of pedestrians and reduced the crossing distance from one side of the street to the other.

Photo courtesy Team Better Block

No Parking

Two parking spots were taken over for the weekend and transformed into spaces where people (rather than cars) could spend the day.

Photo courtesy Team Better Block

Sidewalk Dining

The floorspace within the two parking spots provided room enough for both a pop-up taco stand and a dining area.

Photo courtesy Team Better Block

Sidewalk Stories

Sidewalk seating and dining brings activity and activities to Main Street. The food stand generated $900 in revenue during the three-day event. 

Photo courtesy Team Better Block

The Blue Lane

The most noticable change to Main Street was the addition of a dedicated, 700-foot-long walk-bike lane. (The lane borders were created by using straw wattles.) The Blue Lane concept originated in Denmark. Bethel was its first use in the U.S.

Photo courtesy Team Better Block

Street Signage

A volunteer is shown spray painting an image of dancers, which was one of the several icons used to indicate that the Blue Lane welcomed all kinds of non-motorized means of getting around.

Photo courtesy Team Better Block

Before and After

Small, seemingly discarded spots of greenery can be opened, tidied and shared as outdoor public spaces.

Photo courtesy Team Better Block

There was Transit, Too

After the weekend event, the private transit operator that was used to get visitors in and out of the downtown decided to add a permenant route through Bethel. 

Photo courtesy Team Better Block

A Parklet for the People

When the weather is nice, it's nice to have a place for sitting outside. 

Photo courtesy Team Better Block

Welcome to the Video

See more scenes from the Bethel Better Block weekend and learn about the damage caused to the town when Tropical Storm Irene swept through in 2011. Watch the video or read more about how the demonstration came to be.

Photo courtesy Team Better Block

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Published January 2017

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