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John F. Crawford
President & CEO
Downtown Dallas, Inc.
It is imperative that we make the right choice about who to hire as the next city manager. This is a critical time for our entire city, most certainly including Downtown Dallas, and without the right leader; we will not be able to continue the momentum we’ve worked so hard to achieve over the past decade. We need a leader willing to challenge the current way of doing things and to work closely with those making change. The Dallas Morning News has recently finished a series of viewpoints about what is important in the search for the next city manager. Below is my entry – to review all entries submitted for this important series, visit www.dallasnews.com/viewpoints
To define what qualities will make a great city manager for Dallas, I first ask: What makes a great city? Planners and sociologists often use terms like permanency, density, social and cultural heterogeneity, creativity, innovation, cosmopolitan, cross-industry and global as criteria by which to measure a city’s growth and success. And Dallas is measuring up – a fact making it even more critical that our next city manager is particularly right for the Dallas of right now, and the Dallas of the next ten years, potentially one of the most transformative decades in our history – as we become a great city.
The last decade has foreshadowed what’s next. The completion of landmark projects like the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge, Klyde Warren Park, the AT&T Performing Arts Center, Dallas City Performance Hall and Perot Museum of Nature and Science brought years of vision to fruition. Our intown neighborhoods have been brought to life by a new base of urban dwellers, creating wonderful indigenous growth in areas like the Bishop Arts District, West Dallas, East Dallas and Downtown. Dallas’ art, music and cultural scenes are thriving, and when coupled with the stability of the North Texas economy, investment and corporate relocations are ripe.
Our city is changing because we are changing. The demographic composition of our growth over the last decade indicates the diversity, the ‘social heterogeneity’, with which we are maturing. According to census data, Dallas’ Hispanic population is growing closer to the 50% mark each year, nearly 40% of Dallasites claim Spanish as their primary language and more than one-quarter of the population is foreign-born. Dallas is 50% female. Nearly 65% of Dallas residents are between the ages of 18-65, with a median age of 30. Therefore, it is imperative that our next city manager not only understand, but embrace the growing complexities of the citizens of Dallas and have the prowess to use this to our advantage – to cultivate new economies that will emerge and nurture the richness of a multicultural city.
Such shifts in our demographic makeup are a significant factor in creating the demand for Dallas to become an authentically urban city. 2010 census data shows the highest growth areas were in intown neighborhoods, particularly in and around Downtown. Downtown Dallas, Inc.’s own statistics show 200 residents living in the Central Business District in 1996, whereas today more than 40,000 live throughout Downtown. City of Dallas Office of Economic Development data provides additional urban growth indicators: 49.5% of our population from 2007-2011 lived in multi-family housing and the mean travel time to work was 25 minutes, a correlation with urban housing types and inner-city commutes. And these trends are reinforced by what is happening across the country. According to CEOs for Cities, young adults with a four year degree are 105% more likely to live in close-in neighborhoods, approximately three miles from a central business district, than are other Americans. 85% of Millennials say they prefer urban living and 63% of college-educated 25-34-year-olds say they choose where they want to live first, then they look for a job.
The next city manager must respond to such demand by not only supporting the type of urban development that is the future of Dallas, but also by sending a message throughout City Hall that the traditional ways of city planning, administration and operations is no longer relevant. Policies and practices should balance spatial growth with promoting population density; create efficient transportation systems while enhancing walkability; and cultivate the amenities that improve quality of life inherent in areas like education, recreation, art and culture. Economic development will follow.
Dallas’ next city manager must understand the monumental transformation upon us. The next decade means moving forward with great tenacity to advance the Trinity River project, Valley View redevelopment and a city-wide trail network. It means creating innovative public-private partnerships like that planned to revitalize the Dallas Farmers Market, and fostering a burgeoning start-up economy, the success of which is evidenced by projects like the Dallas Entrepreneur’s Center and Trinity Groves. It means nurturing the arts in all areas of the city, and leveraging the 30 years invested in the Dallas Arts District. There is no more critical time than now to ensure continued implementation of Downtown Dallas 360, Forward Dallas, the Dallas Bike and the Complete Streets plans. And the next ten years should look to building a diverse economy, from recruiting a broad base of corporate relocations to ensuring success of industrial, manufacturing and distribution projects like the Inland Port.
Throughout Dallas’ history, we have learned that neither the public nor the private sectors can go it alone. The magnitude of projects on the horizon requires leadership, innovation, transparency and a willingness to push the boundaries at City Hall by not accepting what is, and instead looking forward to what could – what can – be. Challenge staff with the freedom to move beyond boundaries. Respect and preserve this city’s rich history, while introducing new programs and ideas that will move us forward on a global scale.
To determine the right fit for our next city manager, let’s look at the person it will take to make Dallas a great city.
Jamie Fox is the Commercial Real Estate Banking Texas Market Executive at Bank of America Merrill Lynch. He leads a team of real estate professionals, who provide comprehensive financial solutions, including project and corporate finance structures, for commercial real estate development companies, private Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs) and funds.
Based in Dallas, Fox joined Bank of America in 2003 as a Credit Products Officer in Global Corporate Banking focused on the insurance industry sector. In this role, Jamie was responsible for structured finance solutions such as term loans, revolvers, treasury management lines, derivative limits, equity derivatives and collateralized debt obligations, which helped insurance companies improve working capital and meet their business objectives. Fox further developed his banking career in 2006, when he joined the Commercial Real Estate Banking team as a Senior Client Manager. In that role, he was responsible for advising real estate merchant builders, REITs, military housing developers and other clients on capital needs and delivered such products as senior and mezzanine debt, treasury, derivatives, FX, public finance and investment banking.
Before joining Bank of America, Fox served in the U.S. Army for eight years as an engineer officer serving in several leadership roles to include Company Commander, Platoon Leader, and Battalion Civil Engineer, achieving the rank of Captain. While in the Army, Jamie planned and managed military construction projects throughout Asia and the Pacific. He also served as a combat engineer with the First Cavalry Division.
He earned a Bachelor of Science in civil engineering from the U.S. Military Academy, a Master of Science in engineering management from the Missouri University of Science and Technology, and a Master of Business Administration from Vanderbilt University. He holds the National Association of Securities Dealers (NASD) Series 7, 63, 24 and 79 licenses, and is a Registered Professional Engineer.
Downtown Dallas, Inc. (DDI) welcomes Joe Groves and Chef Russell Mertz of Ellen’s Southern Kitchen as the soon-to-be new café operators at Main Street Garden. The café will reopen and expand under the new team by mid-October.
Joe Groves has a long history in Downtown Dallas, as a Main Street resident and former operations director of the technology team who had a hand in the development of Main Street Garden. Joe is also very active in the West End as a part of The Haunt in the West End Marketplace and an active member of the West End Association. Chef Russell Mertz is also no stranger to Downtown, having come from the kitchen of long-time West End anchor, The Butcher Shop (newly renamed as South Fork Texas Steakouse).
Groves and Mertz are taking on Main Street Garden inspired by a vision to create a space that feels like “Downtown’s backyard”, serving great food and drink while also providing a place where residents, employees and visitors will want gather, put their feet up and enjoy the surroundings. The two plan to extend service further throughout the park beyond the café’s current patio boundary and will work closely with DDI to provide items like picnic baskets and wine and cheese trays during events. They also intend to bring their own programming. Look for trivia nights, game watching parties and Bingo to return to the café deck.
The menu will consist of upscale “picnic-style” cuisine: all-day “lunch boxes”, sandwiches, salads, wraps and other seasonal items (i.e. snow cones), all with the quality and richness expected from Chef Russell. Also look for items with a bit of a creative flair, like an all-day cereal bar. Groves describes, “We see this in some ways as a food truck without the wheels, so we’re having some fun with the menu.” Operating hours will be 7:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., Monday – Sunday, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner, as well as afternoon and evening beer and wine service. The name is still to be determined.
DDI is working with both operators to ensure a smooth transition with as little impact on food and beverage service at Main Street Garden as possible. During high demand times while the space is being turned over, DDI will program food carts and other mobile concession options, as well as ensure full service at all upcoming events.
“DDI and the City of Dallas opened Main Street Garden in October 2009, and over the last four years, we have watched the space grow and change along with Downtown’s maturation,” said Kourtny Garrett, DDI’s Executive Vice President. “Pedestrian traffic has increased exponentially, awareness is becoming more widespread and events are becoming a regular occurrence. People are using the space. As such, we believe we have found an operator with a vested interest in the community who will contribute back to a great experience. We are grateful to the Rusty Taco team for their partnership over the last year and wish them well in their other ventures.”
As the region’s greatest natural asset, the Trinity River Corridor has the potential to transform Dallas like virtually no other project in our history, or our future. Though a long-term vision, tangible progress on its redevelopment is evidenced by the Margaret Hunt Hill bridge, Audubon Center, Santa Fe Tressle Trail, Great Trinity Forest Gateway and Horse Trails, Moore Park Gateway and Pavilion, 10K Levee-Top Trail, Trinity Overlook, and the ongoing work on the Standing Wave. In addition, ancillary development has been catalyzed: Trinity Groves and west Dallas have become one of Dallas’ emerging neighborhoods, and significant land plays have been made along Riverfront Boulevard. As the front yard to the core of downtown, how the Central Business District connects to, and interacts with, the Trinity is critical, to say the least.
Downtown Dallas 360, our strategic development plan guiding the collective vision for the future of downtown, identifies the “Reunion/Union Station” district as one of five key focus areas. The stated opportunity: “Establish a landmark mixed-use office and residential district that connects the Trinity River Corridor to the downtown core.” Yet, as the plan also presents, it is an area faced with great challenge: “Although it has many acres of developable land, the [area] is challenged with topographic changes, two viaducts, and a freeway interchange that prohibit the site from functioning as a contiguous district.”
So how do we reconcile the opportunity with the challenge in order to connect downtown with the region’s greatest natural asset? That is the question that spurred DDI’s commitment to the Connected City.
The Connected City Design Challenge is an open call for urban design strategies to connect the core of Downtown Dallas and the Trinity River. Run by the Dallas CityDesign Studio, in partnership with The Trinity Trust, DDI, and The Real Estate Council, the Challenge seeks bold solutions from professional designers, students and citizens. With two streams of entries, professional and open, a “no boundaries” approach is encouraged. Thus far in the process, the professional stream submission process in under way, with over 30 entries from across the globe submitted, narrowed down to three finalists who will be in Dallas this month for further work.
The process of first-round qualification review was fascinating. In addition to logical criterion like project team experience, diversity, and relevant work, two key benchmarks arose in the context of our mission at DDI and implementation of Downtown Dallas 360.
Can this team balance innovation with context? This is a challenge that will require a grand solution, a “bold move,” per the 360 directive. We have entertained planners from throughout the world over the years, and many have commented that they’ve never encountered obstacles of such proportion. A traditional project approach just won’t do. However, the grand gesture must also fit within the context of those things that define us as a city—a place that exudes great bravado while opening its arms with a warm, southern welcome. The final solution must also communicate between two highly contrasting environments, the intensity of the Central Business District’s built environment and the organic softness of the Trinity River.
Can this team create people places? To us, as the management entity of downtown Dallas, the actual use of the space is critical. Too often we have seen form trump function, leading to aesthetically stunning structures that are … lifeless. Downtowns, by definition, are about bustle, activity, community, and the convergence of neighborhoods and culture. One of the transformative strategies presented in Downtown Dallas 360 clearly addresses this principle, “Create vibrant streets and public spaces.” The tactics contained therein include: programming parks and plazas, enhancing streetscapes, increasing street vendors, and putting an outdoor café just about anywhere there is opportunity. The vision for the Trinity River Corridor certainly creates these vibrant places—many of which are beginning to come to fruition—therefore, its connection to downtown must do the same.
We’ve witnessed what the mending of two urban neighborhoods with an activated public space can do in the short time since Klyde Warren Park’s opening. People have been brought together, not just to visit the attraction, but to integrate experiences on both sides of the former chasm between the Central Business District and Uptown, spurring social and economic growth. The same opportunity, magnified one-hundred-fold, lies ahead when we connect the core of downtown Dallas with the Trinity River.
For more information on The Connected City, including upcoming lectures and related events, visit http://www.connectedcitydesign.com.
John F. Crawford is president and CEO of Downtown Dallas Inc. Contact him at email@example.com.
Downtown Dallas was recently featured in a special insert in the Dallas Business Journal. Click the link below to read about updates on Downtown Dallas 360, the fifteen districts, the Downtown retail market, entertainment districts and economic development.