Architect Thom Mayne (whose firm is designing the Museum of Nature & Science in Victory, unveiled yesterday) made this statement in the latest issue of D Magazine which solely covers the downtown Arts District and specifically the opening of the AT&T Performing Arts Center.
So waiting, yes, but what for exactly? The citizens of Dallas, actually.
For over 50 years, DOWNTOWNDALLAS has continuously worked on the operations leg of Downtown from maintenance and capital improvements to public safety and marketing that Downtown is somewhere worth coming to. New initiatives within the past 10 years include items like retail recruitment and retention, urban planning, and transportation as well as a residential mix, now complete with affordable housing.
Here’s the catch, there is accountability among the citizens of Dallas and the region. You have to discover Downtown. When was the last time you were down here and tried to find something new?
We hear day in and day out how everyone wants this cool, hip, urban core of Dallas just like Chicago or Ft. Worth (PS. Downtown Fort Worth is Sundance square, which is essentially half the size of ONE of our districts and is largely funded privately through the Bass Family – we don’t have that luxury). We agree, this is important, otherwise we wouldn’t be here. Something we all have to take a deep breath and accept is that we are not San Francisco, Chicago, Fort Worth, NYC, Denver, Seattle, fill-in-your-favorite-city here…and that is okay.
An analogy, if you will: Downtown is Manhattan with its districts like the Upper East Side and Soho and we have Deep Ellum, the Main Street and Arts Districts – which none are dead, actually full of restaurants, bars, residents and shops. Oak Cliffand Lakewood are the boroughs, Staten Island, Bronx and Brooklyn…all making up NYC and Dallas, yay. The districts in the inner city have their definite environments, atmospheres, demographics, culture and even architecture – and there is pride and distinct ownership in that. DOWNTOWNDALLAS is trying to make something bigger without changing any of these unique distinctions…just connecting the pieces through lighting, parks and greenspace (Woodall Rodgers Park and Main Street Garden, further bridging that gap), streetcar systems, for example.
As long as people in Dallas don’t give Downtown a chance, it won’t have a chance to grow beyond what it is. Retail will continue to not come, the residential movement will cap out, and we’ll continue to have valuable land taken up by parking lots as long as the majority of us are still driving (another piece King noticed during his time here – the large number of parking lots). Parking lots are a major eyesore when it comes to connecting/walking the districts of Downtown, even worse than a vacant building. No, I am not saying we don’t need parking options period – hello I drive a car, too. It’s more of an effort to accept new ideas, like DART is not scary.
“These places don’t happen unless the community on some scale understands the role that culture plays in the larger sense of what a community really is – an identity of who we really are,” said Mark Nerenhausen, Executive Director of the AT&T Performing Arts Center in another article in D Magazine by Peter Simek.
I hope that the jewel we have in the Arts District as we have in that of our other districts, people will give it and Downtown, a chance – that they come down and go to Dinner at St. Pete’s or Campisis before they catch a performance at the Wyly from the Dallas Theatre Center and decide to have a nightcap at the Dallas Fish Market before heading to bed in the Joule Hotel.
So at the end of the day, if it comes down to the fact that Downtown Dallas is the best it’s ever going to be in the Dallas consumers eyes, that’s okay too. Let’s just stop trying to make us into something we can never be and enjoy what we have – which ain’t so bad either.