John Crawford: The Connected City—A Design Challenge

D Real Estate Daily: Blog

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 crawford@downtowndallas.org.Image

Downtown Dallas Featured in Dallas Business Journal Special Insert – July 19, 2013

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.

Downtown Dallas2013_LowRes FINAL reduced

Save the Date – DDI Spring Forum

Please mark your calendars for the Downtown Dallas, Inc. Spring Forum. Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings will be giving a State of Downtown Address on May 24th at the Sheraton Hotel. 

He should have plently to say as we continue to celebrate a monumental year for Downtown. As you may recall from our Annual Meeting, 2012 is set to be a big year with the openings of the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge, Belo Garden, The Park and more.

We hope you will join us in the celebration by again “Investing Yourself” in Downtown. How will you “Invest Yourself”? 

Have You Seen our new Vehicle Wraps?

DDI worked with a local vehicle wrap company to create custom graphic wraps for its 2 pickup trucks, 1 large water truck and fleet of 7 sidewalk/street sweepers. These custom graphics reflect the new DDI brand and reinforce that the Clean Team is a DDI program.

Over the past month, crews removed mistletoe from trees throughout the Downtown. A majority of mistletoe removed was along Young from

Ervay to Houston, Griffin from Ross to Woodall Rodgers and areas throughout the West End. Mistletoe is a type of parasite.  Mistletoe grows on a wide range of host trees and commonly reduces tree growth and can kill them with heavy infestation.

We want to thank the Dallas Citizen Foresters for helping us trim all the trees at Main Street Garden. We will continue to work with these folks and we’re already planning a second pruning event with them in the spring.

Finally, we are working with the Dallas Park and Recreation Department in a citywide effort to keep parks clean. It’s My Park Day will be Saturday, March 31st from 9 a.m. – noon. We’ll plant new ground cover, shrubs & seasonal color at Pegasus Plaza. Please bring your own work gloves. All other tools & supplies will be provided, including bottled water! Volunteers rsvp today: www.facebook.com/events/330796720289106/http://www.facebook.com/events/330796720289106/

Downtown Takes Its Message on the Road

Downtown Dallas, Inc is booming and people want to hear about it.

The North Texas Chapter of Certified Commercial Investment professionals or NTCCIM hosted our very own DDI President and CEO John Crawford at a luncheon on February 16th.  Crawford gave the group an update on status of Downtown Dallas’ revitalization and how it will help the region as a whole, allowing Dallas to be on a level playing field with other great American cities.  The audience consisted of executives in the Commercial Real Estate industry.  photo left to right: John Crawford, DDI, Janice Peters, Hudson Peters Commercial & Jeff Boykin, Boykin Partners

Crawford also moderated a panel discussion on The Future of Downtown. The panelists included Jack Mathews, Jack Gosnell and John Sughrue. The discussion is part of a very successful series of real estate related panels and discussions that are hosted by Bob Voelker, a Partner with the law firm of Munsch Hardt.  < photo left to right: Jack Matthews, Mathews Southwest, Jack Gosnell, UCR Urban, John Sughrue, Brook Partners & John Crawford, DDI

Thanks Bob Voelker and Janice Peters for the invitation.  We love talking about our booming Downtown.  If you would like to have us come speak to your group or organization drop us a note at info@downtowntowndallas.org

Season Greetings to Members & Friends of Downtown Dallas, Inc.

2012 is set to be another monumental year for Downtown and Downtown Dallas, Inc. (DDI), as we celebrate the completion of a number of significant projects. Dallas has been leading much of the nation in economic progress, and the trend is most apparent Downtown; from the construction and recent opening of the Dallas Omni Convention Center Hotel to our world-class Arts District. Openings like the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge, Belo Garden, The Park and completion of the Perot Museum of Nature and Science will add even more recreation, greenspace, culture and iconic architecture to our Downtown. Cranes will continue to fly high on new residential projects such as Museum Tower, Lone Star Gas Lofts and the Continental Building, as well as pivotal mixed use developments such as the Grand Ricchi at 1600 Pacific, 1401 Elm, 500 S. Ervay and the Statler Hilton.

After just over a decade since the creation of the first Tax Increment Finance district in Downtown, which signified a common vision of the public and private sectors of a revitalized city center, today we are celebrating the realization of urban life. It is a reality of employees living where they work, and working where they play; a reality of entrepreneurial restaurants, a vibrant night life, a resurging commercial office market, and landmark projects that have moved beyond “planned” to groundbreakings and openings. There is a new heartbeat in the center of our city—a new generation of employees, residents and visitors that are changing our environment. Downtown has shifted from a one-dimensional commercial office center to one of many facets – living, shopping, dining, working, arts, recreation and public transportation. We no longer gaze at Downtown through a rendering of the future – instead we can see and feel tangible successes on the streets every day.

For several years now, the change Downtown has been most noticeably pronounced in its residential community. Historic structures, mid-century office towers and new construction have become home to thousands of new residents in the City’s core. Looking back to 1995, the Central Business District (CBD) was home to only 200 residents. Today you will find more than 7,000 urban dwellers in the CBD, and more than 37,000 who call one of the other 15 Downtown districts that comprise Dallas’s city center their home. All of this has created an exciting vibrancy Downtown that is now attracting major companies as well.

There is no question Downtown is growing by leaps and bounds, and this is just the beginning. Downtown Dallas 360,  a new action-oriented strategic plan for Downtown, is in full implementation mode creating new public-private partnerships, focused heavily on activating our streets, developing transit oriented development (TOD), housing and parking.

One of the real joys of the Holiday Season is the opportunity to say “Thank you” and wish you the very best for the New Year. Happy holidays from all of us at DDI. As goes Downtown, so goes Dallas!

P.S. Mark your calendar for January 24 to attend our Annual Meeting & Luncheon. Go to http://www.downtowndallas.org for details.

John F. Crawford

President & CEO

Downtown Dallas, Inc.

Museum Tower Tops Out

The Museum Tower topped out as the construction reached the 42nd floor progressing toward a late 2012 completion date. The 42-story Museum Tower condominium building has been under construction for more than a year in the Arts District. The luxury residential tower won’t open its doors until next fall, but the high-rise has already made a big change to Downtown skyline.

The project’s General Contractor is Austin Commercial; designer is LA-based architect Scott Johnson; developers are Brook Partners principals Lyle Burgin and John Sughrue, with Turtle Creek Holdings partners Dan Boeckman and Gregg Greene.

The $200 million tower will have about 110 condos, starting at more than $1 million. Museum Tower is the tallest Downtown building constructed since the 55-story Chase Tower was completed in 1987. And it’s one of the tallest buildings under construction in the country.