Afford-A-Bail Urbanism

The emergence of “pop-up urbanism” and temporary interventions in planning and urban design is certainly a refreshing trend, as more people are seeing the value and flexibility inherent in underutilized spaces. That said, it’s nothing new though, right? Parking lots have always given way to tailgating and flea markets and I can’t think of a time when yard sales didn’t spill onto sidewalks. It’s nice to see it being embraced by the planning discipline as a transformative practice, but let’s hope it doesn’t become formalized to a degree that takes the strangeness out of it, the occasion for the everyday landscape to be transformed.


So, it was exciting to see what this bold, opportunistic individual has done with a vacant lot in Hartford. On a walking tour recently, we turned a corner to see an RV oddly out of place in this empty lot on the outskirts of downtown. Walking a bit closer, with bated curiosity, we saw this sign pointing to the trailer. What you don’t see is the public safety complex to the left. Here was someone who saw an untapped market, deciding to set up shop as a bail-bondsmen right across the street. This is a person of exemplary ambition and stupidity. He was tapping into the city power grid illegally, and we’re not so certain that sign was authorized, much less operating a business on this property. The City has taken action and the business has moved on.

Still, it was strangely encouraging to see that temporary use strategies are still born out of windows of opportunity and demand, no matter how clouded the judgement of such action might be.