If you are a follower of Downtown Area Plan progress, listen up!
First, the Plan has a new name – Downtown Dallas 360. For those naming enthusiasts out there, the “360” is representative of a complete circle which translates to several of our missions.
Completing our vision for a vibrant and sustainable Downtown. Many would argue, myself included, that revitalization efforts as we know them today really began in the late 1990’s. Since then, we’ve seen catalysts like the Intown Housing Initiative, TIF’s, and support of our retail, restaurant and entertainment growth begin to turn Downtown from solely a commercial office center into a place where people are living – and yes – visiting as an “after 5” destination. In addition, there was this little thing called DART light rail that really picked up speed (bad pun intended) during this time. In my 7+ year tenure with DOWNTOWNDALLAS, I’ve watched the Merc go from a million square foot vacant vacuum to the iconic residential hub it is today. The land where Main Street Garden will sit (just one month from now!) was once lined with derelict buildings. The idea that something like the opening of Aloft hotel that we celebrated on Friday night was only a part of the “vision” – a pretty artist rendering that ten years ago looked much more like Chicago or Seattle than Downtown Dallas. But here we are with these projects complete, or just weeks away from opening (hello, AT&T Performing Arts Center!). But that’s not to say we’re done, I’d say we’re halfway there. Hence, completing the circle, the vision…a complete 360 degrees.
The idea of the “circle” also applies to the theory of districting, as we now define Downtown to include much more than the Central Business District. No, the boundaries of each district aren’t perfect circles. But in many of our planning documents you will see hovering “bubbles” over the nodes/neighborhoods/areas that are emerging with their own flavor and identity. The Dallas Farmers Market, the Arts District, the Cedars, Deep Ellum, The Main Street District – all different, all with unique offerings, but all a part of the greater whole.
We can also talk about several transportation initiatives under the “circular” theory. Prime example – the Downtown streetcar, a modern system based on models from cities like Portland and Toronto. Thanks to City Councilmember and Transportation Committee Chair Linda Koop and the advocacy efforts of Councilmember Angela Hunt, funding has been secured for an initial study that will determine the alignment and engineering needs for this critical connector. A task force is currently at work (meeting weekly, in fact) to come up with recommendations for operation and management. It’s often also been called a “circulator” – connecting several Downtown districts through a looping pattern to give residents, employees and visitors another alternative to move about Downtown with ease.
Someone posed the question to me, “shouldn’t it be called Downtown Dallas 180”, if we’re really looking at turning things around? Aside from all of the circular references I’ve outlined above – I paused on this for a moment..logical comment. However, head over to the library and check out photos from, say, 1950. Theater Row was thriving on Elm Street. We all know the laundry list of department stores that drew people Downtown from miles away (via bus, I might add – even ladies dressed in their white gloves and hats for tea at Neimans). A streetcar buzzed down Main Street. Hmmm… I’d say we’re coming full circle – with a little 21st century modernization in the mix.
So there you have the name.
In addition, we now have the details for the Downtown Dallas 360 Community Forum. We hope any and all who care about the future of our Downtown will participate!