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

John F. Crawford is president and CEO of Downtown Dallas Inc. Contact him at

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.

Downtown Dallas, Inc. Annual Meeting – Save the Date

On the heels of the debut of the new Omni Dallas Convention Center Hotel, 2012 will prove to be a monumental year for Downtown. Openings like the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge, Belo Garden and The Park will add even more recreation, greenspace and iconic architecture to our city.  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. Downtown Dallas 360 will be in full implementation mode, focused heavily on activating our streets, creating new public-private partnerships and improving transit, housing and parking in the core.  There’s no better moment in time to Invest Yourself in Downtown.

On January 24, 2012, Downtown Dallas, Inc. will hold its annual meeting and luncheon, the only event dedicated solely to the development and success of Downtown Dallas.  This year’s theme, Invest Yourself, will carry through the year, encouraging the dedication of the corporate community and Dallasites as a whole to the continued momentum of the center city.

We are thrilled to announce the 2012 keynote speaker will be Carol Coletta, former CEO of CEOs for Cities, and current head of ArtPlace, a new national initiative to accelerate creative placemaking across the U.S. ArtPlace is a collaboration of the nation’s top foundations, leading banks and federal agencies and the National Endowment for the Arts.  At CEOs for Cities, Carol led a national network of urban leaders building and sustaining the next generation of great American cities, while also hosting a nationally syndicated public radio show, Smart City. Her vast experience in city advocacy and development also extends as the former executive director of the Mayors’ Institute on City Design, U.S. Conference of Mayors, and American Architectural Foundation. Carol is a dynamic and engaging speaker who advocates across the globe for the health of center cities.  In the end, her mission is simple as she sets out to answer the question:  What makes cities succeed?

In addition to the keynote address, as always DDI has a special surprise in store – the announcement of a new initiative aimed at carrying out the Invest Yourself mantra.  Be the first to get the details!

For more information and sponsorship opportunities please call 214-744- 1270.

DDI Sponsors Park(ing) Day Dallas



C.C. Gonzalez-Kurz

Community Relations Manager




Dallas, Texas, September 13, 2011 — Downtown Dallas will have dozens of new community spaces this Friday, September 16, as Downtown Dallas, Inc. and others transform parking spaces into temporary “PARK” installations. More than 20 metered parking spaces along Main Street will be temporarily transformed, creating re-envisioned public spaces for Downtown employees, residents and visitors to enjoy.

“It’s all in an effort to create these Quick Wins,” said John Crawford, President & CEO, Downtown Dallas, Inc. “We are working with the Dallas Arts District, Earth Day Dallas and others to help transform these public spaces, allowing the community to experience a more livable, workable, and enjoyable Downtown.”

A series of parking spaces spanning three blocks will be reserved for participants. Organizations, private companies and volunteers will form teams to transform spaces into areas for socializing, networking and some will offer entertainment. These temporary public spaces will come down after a few hours and the space will revert back to metered parking. Teams are encouraged to use sustainable construction materials and partner with local charities to extend the impact beyond the event.

“We’re proud to show support for PARK(ing) Day Dallas by being part of the inaugural event,” said Trammell S. Crow, Earth Day Dallas thought leader. “Like Earth Day Dallas, PARK(ing) Day Dallas is another way to show Americans the importance North Texans place on the environment.”

PARK(ing) Day is an internationally recognized event celebrated annually with the mission to call attention to the need for more urban open space, to generate critical debate around how public space is created and allocated, and to improve the quality of urban human habitat. Started in San Francisco in 2005, the project has blossomed into a worldwide grassroots movement: PARK(ing) Day 2010 included more than 850 “PARK” installations in more than 180 cities in 30 countries on six continents.

For more information:


Downtown Dallas, Inc. Receives Top Honors from International Downtown Association

DDI wins IDA Merit Award for Downtown Dallas 360 Plan & the Retail Activation Strategy 

Downtown Dallas, Inc. (DDI) is being honored by the International Downtown Association (IDA) after receiving a Merit Award for its work on the Downtown Dallas 360 Plan and the Main Street District Retail Activation Strategy. 

Every year IDA Achievement Awards features innovative best practices projects from Downtown Associations around the world. These projects are creative, diverse and present the best and brightest in leadership, public space and economic development. 

“It’s wonderful news and well deserved based on the time, effort and results we are already seeing with 360,” said John F. Crawford, DDI President & CEO. “This is the perfect example of what can occur through public/private partnerships.” 

DDI collaborated with the City of Dallas to create Downtown Dallas 360. This strategic, action –oriented development plan addresses public spaces, transit and transit oriented development, a long-term parking strategy, creating housing for all income levels, adding retail to the city’s core and making stronger physical connections between Downtown’s fifteen Districts. The plan focuses in large part on how Downtown should look and function in the future, and specifically how to get there. 

DDI will be honored next month at an award’s ceremony at this year’s IDA Annual Conference and Tradeshow to be held in Charlotte, NC.  DDI has won IDA awards in years past in Community Development for the Universities Center at Dallas; Business and Economic Development for the original Main Street District Retail Plan; and Marketing for the Where’s Your D Spot Marketing Campaign.

DDI’s Newest Addition Doesn’t Mind Getting His Hands Dirty

Dustin Bullard was selected as the Cityscape and Urban Design Manager for Downtown Dallas, Inc. in March 2011. The first position of its kind within the organization, it combines both Dustin’s efforts and his passion concerning Downtown’s revitalization, which he has been actively engaged in since 2004.

Prior to his appointment, Bullard served as a Landscape Architect with La Terra Studio, a downtown-based design firm. Within this role, he actively engaged with his clients in order to successfully execute designs from his drawing board to their ribbon cutting. Primarily tasked with the design of municipal parks and public spaces, he quickly learned the importance of balanced budgets, forward thinking and the formation of relationships with clients along with construction and park staff members.

As Cityscape and Urban Design Manager, Dustin is tasked with the active cleanliness, maintenance and improvement of Downtown’s public spaces.

An active member of the Downtown Resident’s Council for the last six years, Bullard has advocated for the requests of his neighbors; recently, he lobbied for the implementation of a litter and waste public campaign to help improve their space. In addition, Dustin served on two input committees, starting in 2010, to establish the Downtown Dallas 360 Plan and Main Street Retail Activation Strategy. The experience gave Dustin an understanding and familiarity that will help him settle into his new position.

Dustin graduated Cum Laude with a Bachelor degree of Landscape Architecture from Texas Tech University in 2004, where he also served as Student Chapter President of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA).

A Message from the CEO: Quick Wins and Bold Ideas will Shape the Future of Downtown Dallas

Members, supporters and friends of Downtown Dallas, Inc.,

What was presented to this year’s sold out, record breaking crowd at our Annual Meeting on Februrary 16 was Downtown Dallas 360 – a roadmap for the next phase of Downtown revitalization, shaped with Quick Wins and Bold Ideas.  However, before we were given this glimpse into the future, I spent some time looking at the state of Downtown today, and reflecting on the last decade’s worth of momentum in our city’s core.

Close your eyes and imagine Downtown just ten years ago.  Our first adaptive re-use residential projects were just opening.  Our city center residential population was just beginning to climb into the thousands.  Nodes like Stone Street Garden were emerging.  Planning efforts such as the Parks Master Plan, the CBD Transportation Plan and the Inside the Loop Committee initiatives were just commencing.  It was a time, similar today, full of vision, strategy and promise.

Now open your eyes to the reality that exists today, to the community that has been built in Downtown Dallas.  More than 2 billion dollars has been invested in the heart of our city.  We have witnessed the residential population grow in the Central Business District to over 7,000.  Throughout all of Downtown we have more than 35,000 people living. Our employment population holds strong at 135,000, and we continue to be the largest workforce in North Texas.  Kicking off in 2007 with announcements by 7-Eleven and Comerica Bank, followed by AT&T in 2008, we’ve seen more than 60 companies relocate back to the city center, absorbing more than 2 and a half million square feet of space.

Landmark projects with decades of promise are now complete or underway.  The AT&T Performing Arts Center brought us one step closer to completing the Dallas Arts District master plan.  Woodall Rodgers Park now shows visible signs of progress with beams stretched across the canyon freeway.  The first Calatrava bridge is complete, changing the Dallas skyline forever, and the Omni Dallas Convention Center hotel is within just a year of opening, putting Dallas back on the map as a top tier convention destination.  And the Perot Museum of Nature and Science, a spectacular showcase, is well underway.

Residents, employees and visitors relax and recreate at Main Street Garden.  Belo Garden is under construction.  First Baptist Church of Dallas is in the midst of a $130 million renovation. The Dallas Arts District drew more than one million visitors last year.  Have you visited Main Street on a Thursday, Friday or Saturday night lately?  The District is buzzing with traffic with people from close and afar visiting our restaurants and entertainment destinations.  And we’ve recently hosted three major national sporting events – the NBA All Star Weekend, the World Series and Super Bowl XLV.  Though the games were played miles away, the spotlight was shining on the Downtown skyline.

DART opened its Green Line in 2010, making it now the largest light rail system in the U.S. And MATA is extending – already underway is the Arts District extension, with funding secured for future expansion to Federal – ultimately connecting Uptown, the Arts District and the Main Street District.

Educational opportunities are increasing Downtown.  With more than 30 schools of varying levels, some of our prized facilities include the University of North Texas System and the Universities Center at Dallas; El Centro Community College and their School of Nursing and Allied Health in the West End.  Booker T. Washington High School continues to turn out record numbers – in 2010 more than $12 million worth of scholarships were awarded to their students.  The Pegasus School for the Liberal Arts and Sciences continues to be ranked by US News and World Report as one of the top ten high schools in the nation, and last year we welcomed Laureate Prep charter school to the West End, a prestigious Uplift Education program.

Indeed, there is much to celebrate as we look back at accomplishments over the decade and Downtown Dallas, Inc. is committed to remaining aggressive and continuing with resolute focus on the betterment of the area.

It is with this commitment that we come to Downtown Dallas 360.

Downtown Dallas 360 has been a full year in the making.  Built by workgroups of property and business owners; large corporations and small businesses; real estate and transportation experts; residents and other 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 is also a prime example of a public-private partnership.  The City of Dallas’ vision served as the catalyst for the project, and since the launch we have worked hand in hand.  I’d like to particularly thank Theresa O’Donnell, Peer Chacko and Karl Zavitkovsky with the City of Dallas, and Kourtny Garrett and Jim Wood with the DDI TEAM for their leadership and guidance of the plan’s creation.  Literally, every city department and DART have been involved, along with the outstanding leadership of the Downtown Dallas 360 Steering Committee.  Our City Council, Mayor and City Manager have been instrumental in providing the support and guidance needed from the public sector to bring such an ambitious city-changing project to fruition.

360 is arguably the most important project for Downtown going forward.  The Plan will guide future investment, development strategies and the activation of our streets in a tangible way for years to come.  It will bring together the vision of the public, private and community sectors under one common goal – to fuel the creation of a 21st century Downtown Dallas.

The future is bright.  All of the statistics, economic and quality of life indicators bode well for Dallas.  According to the Dallas Federal Reserve, Texas is rising above the national average in payroll employment growth, we sit well below the national average in unemployment, construction contract values showed growth at the end of 2010, home sales are beginning to rise, and Texas exports are raising while the rest of the nation experiences declines.  With over-regulation and increasing taxes to our north, east and west, the market is funneling toward Texas, and even more so toward Dallas…and Downtown.

With Quick Wins and Bold Ideas, Downtown Dallas 360, along with the daily stewardship of the Downtown environment by our organization, we will move into the next year (and next decade!) with strategic, thoughtful development.  Our ultimate vision will continue to develop into reality – a thriving, vibrant and sustainable Downtown Dallas.

As goes Downtown, so goes Dallas!

John Crawford