On February 27th, more than 1,400 business, civic, and community leaders joined us for our Annual Meeting and Luncheon at the Omni Dallas Hotel. Despite the snowy weather, it was another great day Downtown as we were joined by presenting sponsor Oncor, and Southwest Airlines made a special announcement about new nonstop flights from Dallas Love Field and gifted the entire audience with $100 LUV vouchers! The 2015 Board of Directors was voted in and Jim Greer, Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of Oncor, took the helm as the Chair of the Board of Directors. Downtown Dallas, Inc. (DDI) honored Jack Matthews of Matthews Southwest with the Chairman’s Award and John Crawford, President & CEO of DDI, talked about the progress of the Downtown Dallas 360 plan’s implementation over the last four years. The audience also welcomed Daniel Iacofano, Ph.D., FAICP, FASLA, and CEO & founding principal of MIG, Inc., who spoke about ideas around a competitive 21st century, including the importance of Millennials, transformative infrastructure, technology, innovation space, and energy.
Downtown Dallas, Inc.
Downtown Dallas, Inc. works every day to ensure continued growth of the core of our city. Our efforts are based on three foundational principals – clean, safe and community – all of which are the essential building blocks of economic development. In addition, DDI has historically served as a voice and facilitator for coordinated planning that leverages individual efforts for the benefit of the whole of Downtown.
Enter Downtown Dallas 360
Adopted by Dallas City Council in 2011, 360 is our strategic development plan, built in partnership with the City of Dallas by workgroups of property and business owners; large corporations and small businesses; real estate and transportation experts; residents; and community organizations. 360 is a true culmination of what Dallas wants to see Downtown, and how we can all work together to achieve these goals.
360 has been one of the greatest influences and inspirations for Downtown development in the last four years, and the most important project for Downtown going forward. In fact, DDI’s priorities are set up to directly align with 360 strategies and implementation. The Plan has guided investment, development strategies, and the activation of our streets in a tangible way.
So, why are we talking about an “Update”?
Downtown Dallas 360 was created as a living document, so the update planned in 2015 by DDI and the City of Dallas will be more of a process of “working the plan,” evolving it into strategies relevant for the next five years.
Phase one of the plan provided a framework based on vision, five transformative strategies, and focus areas. These strategies then culminated in a tactical implementation matrix consisting of eight priorities and 67 action items, including timeframes, estimated costs, and responsible entities for each.
At the end of 2014, many of those 67 boxes were checked as “complete.”
Downtown Dallas 360: Progress
Downtown Dallas 360’s vision describes the future of Downtown Dallas as a complete urban center composed of distinct yet interconnected districts linked by an accessible multi-modal transit network, each offering a unique and diverse combination of places to live, refreshing open spaces, bustling street activity, successful business and retail, and dynamic urban experiences for residents, workers, and visitors alike.
“INTERCONNECTED” AND “DISTRICTS” are two key terms throughout this process. Through Downtown Dallas 360, we have shifted the mindset to one that understands that Downtown Dallas is no longer the “Central Business District” – it is a collection of neighborhoods that are (and should be) unique, but part of a symbiotic whole. And we are connecting those neighborhoods through projects like Klyde Warren Park, the Continental Avenue Bridge, Deep Ellum Urban Gardens, bike lanes, a trail network, public transit, and work through the Connected City Challenge.
We then come to 360’s focus areas. Progress is evident in the Dallas Famers Market redevelopment, Main Street District ground floor transformation, and the Lamar Corridor. 360 outlined visions, and in some cases, specific site plans and ground floor urban design treatments for the areas, all of which are coming to fruition.
The residential increase Downtown is astounding. With over 40,000 living in the greater Downtown, as defined by 360, and more than 5,000 units under construction today, there is little doubt that the center city is fueling Dallas’ growth. We’re diversifying the market as well with more affordable projects coming online, something we will continue to strive for in future development.
Projects defined as catalysts by 360 like the Statler, 1600 Pacific, One Main Place, and 1401 Elm are underway, taking almost all of our remaining large vacant building stock off the market and activating it with hotel, residential, and retail use. In addition, great projects like Mid Elm Lofts are restoring our smaller building stock and infilling with great uses like restaurants and coffee houses to complete blocks and create an authentic human scale experience.
Helping to guide these projects and ensure, as 360 says, “Great Urban Design,” we worked in partnership with the CityDesign Studio on the launch of the Urban Design Peer Review Panel, a remarkable group of design professionals advising projects so they engage and interact with the public realm in a meaningful urban way.
We’ve also integrated parking technology, gone on road diets, and impacted policy change to improve street activity with revisions to ordinances that encourage street vending and outdoor cafés. D-Link continues to increase ridership, the MATA extension will open this spring, and bike lanes are expanding. Zipcar is in the market, and the first leg of our modern streetcar will be operating this year.
And don’t forget about those little things that make a big difference – streetscape enhancements, new sidewalk furnishings, and incremental improvements to sidewalks, streets, and parks.
Yet it is also time to address those boxes that aren’t checked yet and ask, “why?”
Downtown Dallas; Forward Momentum
There are a few issues we know are necessary to address in the next phase of 360. One is to simply reaffirm the vision. At its core, the 360 vision is about Downtown Dallas as a collection of distinct, authentically urban districts, connected by accessible transit, diverse housing, open spaces, and vibrant streets, which is still very relevant. It comes down to livability and connectivity.
This next phase of the plan will be hyper community-centric. In the coming months, each district and neighborhood will be deeply engaged to assess needs and ask how the 360 vision translates today. Each area of Downtown is at a different point in its development with unique conditions necessitating an understanding of already moving efforts, community desires, and neighborhood relationships. The priorities, strategies, and tactics of 360’s evolution will be shaped collectively from there.
What we suspect is that the next phase of 360 will use its existing framework to address several key issues that apply to and connect all neighborhoods. One is mobility. Another is housing. A third is parks and open space. In addition, Downtown has matured to a point where a focus on growing opportunities for education, particularly preschool and K-12, is imperative to retaining and growing a strong resident base; and this is tied in intimately to the rising innovation, tech, and startup communities diversifying and strengthening the city’s economic base.
Those are all connecting and common issues to the entirety of the city’s center. In addition, we anticipate the need will surface for a series of neighborhood efforts, primarily focused on urban design and public realm, walkability, and activation. In several areas of Downtown, related work is underway, so we will spend time auditing and recognizing that work, incorporating and leveraging it for mutual benefit. It will also be important, as we did with the focus areas in 2011, that areas of catalytic energy are identified to maximize current activity. The high-speed rail corridor, Trinity/Riverfront, Cedars, Design, and Reunion districts are great examples that present substantial investment with opportunity left to realize.
The most important point to note is that Downtown has been realized into a place. It is no longer a “9 to 5” office park, but instead, we are realizing the 360 vision, and working with the community, stakeholders, and policy makers — all of you — as we continue to work the plan. The evolution of 360 will protect our progress and continue forward momentum.
In order to do that, our partnership with the City of Dallas is imperative. DDI and the City work cooperatively every day, and advancing 360 is a large part of that mission.
The best is yet to come.