Let’s start talking.
Wednesday night marked a special moment in Downtown Dallas: the evolution of the Downtown Dallas 360 plan. Nearly 300 sat in the audience at the Pegasus Room in the Dallas Power & Light Building for a conversation about wishes, hopes, desires, vision and pragmatic needs for Dallas’ urban core. There were residents, business owners, corporate and civic leaders – an audience so diverse that it surprised even those of us who live and breathe the business of our city every day. Many of Dallas’ long-time visionaries who were urban-before-urban-was-cool mixed and mingled with the new voices who are speaking – and acting! – loud and clear about the future of Downtown. Another surprise: the room was energized, hopeful and cooperative, which in light of the many passionate and polarizing issues that face us today, could have become an airing of grievances and strong-armed debate. Instead, it was a showing of love for our city.
For those who could not join us, here are some key points:
The Downtown Dallas 360 plan was adopted by Dallas City Council in 2011, so why go back just four years later? First, Downtown Dallas 360 was created as a dynamic document meant to be nimble and responsive to our transforming urban environment. Rather than saying, “we need a new vision” or “we need a new plan,” we are instead working the existing framework, evolving the plan into strategies relevant to today through 2020.
In addition, we (meaning the collective “we” of public, private, and community interests) have just done a lot. Progress is evident in the Dallas Farmers Market redevelopment, Main Street district ground floor transformation and the Lamar Corridor. We’ve connected districts with projects like Klyde Warren Park and the Continental Avenue Bridge, 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. Just since spring of 2011, Downtown’s landscape has significantly changed. And there is an unprecedented amount of interest in Dallas’ urban core; from transformational projects like high-speed rail, D2 and CityMAP, to infill interest from developers, community organizations and the people who now call the center city home.
Wednesday night’s conversation was inspired. Daniel Iacofano, Chris Beynon and Alex Dupey with MIG stimulated dozens of comments from their presentation, articulated in one of their signature live recording exercises. Rather than recap it in exhaustive narrative, this is much more fun:
After the formal program, we broke into a neighborhood gallery exercise. Each of the 15 districts represented in the 2011 plan document were organized into dedicated space, exhibiting key recommendations and character sketches from the current plan. Through post-it note feedback, dialogue about the changing nature neighborhoods was encouraged: What’s new? What’s old? What do you want to see? What do you love? What do you wish? And if you could do just one thing … The responses were rich, personal and passionate (responses to each district will accompany this post):
In a debrief yesterday morning, Daniel, Chris, and Alex helped us begin to organize the conversation-starters, a process that will continue for the next several months. From the previous two days’ worth of meetings, it seems to boil down to two themes – mobility and livability. We want mobility principles that reflect the unique needs of urban Dallas, and for those principles to influence large regional transportation projects, as well as the local grid and its interface with the public realm. We want great street design that promotes multi-modal circulation, equalizing – or often prioritizing – access for pedestrians, bikes, and mass transit modes. We want to connect our districts and neighborhoods while preserving their authenticity, diversity, and character. And building a livable Downtown is critical. We heard a calling for more usable public spaces – places for kids to play, dogs to roam, and all ages to recreate – as well as building a smart city and integrating technology into urban life and design. Attention to urban design and preservation is a priority, and diversity of housing product and price is a clear need, responding to new demographics, like families, who are living (with more coming!) in the center city. With that comes attention to jobs, entrepreneurs, start-ups, essential services and schools. In fact, equal to the applause for comments related to I-345 were those calling for schools, schools – good schools – and more schools.
But rest assured, this is only the beginning.
Through October, the Downtown Dallas 360 project team will be reaching out through a coordinated effort with neighborhood organizations and community groups to continue the dialogue. We want to know what you already have in the works, what is needed and how 360 can help. How do you see your neighborhood defined? What is its relationship to adjacent areas? And what are the issues that are shared and tie us all together? Our friends at buildingcommunityWORKSHOP use the phrase, “neighborhoods are not static,” which could not be more true. So help us evolve.
In addition to workshops, charrettes, forums and other in-person conversation, this website is a key tool for participation. Email us your thoughts. Stay tuned for updates. And very soon, buildingcommunityWORKSHOP will unveil a new crowd-sourced neighborhood mapping tool that will launch in partnership with 360. For the past several years, they have been engaging communities around the city to identify, confirm and record neighborhood names and boundaries. Over 300 have been mapped thus far, recognizing that Dallas has shifted dramatically in recent years – its cultural, social, political and economic geography.
Here’s how it will work:
All of your input will then shape the technical work of the plan that will start later in the year. Rather than profess today what we think “needs to be addressed,” we are designing the scope of the project with all of you. So talk to us. Tell your friends to talk to us. Tell us if there are organizations or groups we aren’t reaching. Our list of neighborhood and organizational partners (to be listed on our website shortly) is meant to grow.
Finally, a word about this site and blog. The web site (still a work in progress, thanks for your patience as we work the kinks out) is where you can keep up with plan documents, presentations and find out about upcoming events. The blog will be populated with editorial posts by 360 project team members and guests along the way, and we hope you will talk with us here as well. This is our Dallas, our Downtown, and our opportunity to keep it moving forward.
Tag, you’re it.
Downtown resident and mother of two, Dallas Farmers Market District
Downtown Dallas 360 Project Team
EVP-Downtown Dallas, Inc.