CRE Opinion: Why Modern Streetcar is Important for Downtown and the City

As reported by D CEO here.

By: Kourtny Garrett and Dustin Bullard

This month, we will be faced with many critical choices related to public transportation in Dallas. Routes, funding, and priorities will be discussed and debated, ultimately making decisions that will have generational impact. Among these is the proposed next phase of Dallas’ modern streetcar system, currently operating from Oak Cliff to the southwestern edge of Downtown. Continuing to expand today’s system is a top priority for Downtown Dallas Inc. (DDI) as we plan for the future of our center city and its connectivity to all of Dallas.

Current Status

The current modern streetcar line, the “Dallas Streetcar,” was envisioned to be the bud of a comprehensive system that would better connect the urban neighborhoods of our city. Modeled after many great cities with aspirational qualities for our future, it also evokes Dallas’ past, a time when streetcar added to the depth, density, commerce, and experience in downtown—growing and connecting neighborhoods in Oak Cliff, Fair Park, South Dallas, East Dallas, and what is now Uptown and Knox-Henderson.

Today, an immediate opportunity exists to take the next step toward recreating that fully expanded system by connecting the Oak Cliff line of Dallas Streetcar through the core of downtown to the McKinney Avenue Trolley. Called the Central Dallas Link, the proposed line provides the necessary connections for further extensions, and with a $90M price tag comes a sooner-rather-than-later (est. 2019-2020) funding potential from the Federal Transit Administration and matching funds from DART. This is in addition to the benefit of expanded transit access to some of the highest job and housing concentrations in Dallas in the midst of unprecedented growth, catalytic development potential, and opportunity to enhance a sense of place in downtown.

The Central Dallas Link has four potential alignments undergoing study [see graphic] with ultimate decisions made by the Dallas City Council and DART Board. Of the four, DDI has previously supported the “Elm-Commerce” alignment, but with the recent emergence of a stakeholder-supported preference for a Commerce Street subway for the DART second light rail alignment (D2), factors related to construction, service coverage, and ridership are important to consider. Comprehensive planning is imperative with the many unique opportunities in front of us, from highway tear-outs to bike plans, however regardless of the specific route of the Central Dallas Link, two things are important: one, we must seize this immediate opportunity to advance a project that is long overdue and essential to advancing a larger system, and two, we must start planning future phases of that larger system now.

Vision and Value

In 2011, The 360 Plan, our strategic plan for Downtown and its connected neighborhoods, emphasized the importance of streetcar and introduced desire lines for a fully built-out system:

As the center of the city and one of the region’s most prominent employment centers, downtown is the place where freeways, arterial roads, commuter rail, light rail, bus lines, and trolley cars all converge. However, despite this range of transportation, most of the emphasis is on the automobile and there is a lack of connectivity between these different modes of travel…A modern streetcar network can be the glue that binds downtown’s established destinations together and the framework along which new development can rebuild the fabric of the central city.

The update to The 360 Plan, due out this fall, builds on this vision and provides a framework for further mode diversification by enhancing pedestrian, bike, and public transportation options, and stressing localized, high capacity, frequent, and reliable service.

The value of streetcar has been proven throughout the country, from established systems like Portland’s to new systems like Kansas City’s, which according to reports, has generated more than 2.4 million trips since its opening in May 2016. In Dallas, streetcar will similarly support existing and future growth. Since 2010, the central area of Dallas, including downtown, has continued to drive the highest rate of population growth in the city and remains the largest employment center in the region. Sustaining and amplifying this base of jobs and housing is greatly dependent on a robust multi-modal transportation network that creates inter-area connections that deliver equal access to housing, jobs, entertainment, education, services, amenities, and recreation.

Furthermore, streetcars are a proven transportation option that can reduce dependence on auto usage, especially for those making “short trips” within the central Dallas area or looking for complementary service to bus or light rail. In fact, in a recent study focused on a 2.5-mile radius of downtown (the geography of The 360 Plan), GPS data showed that nearly 20 percent of all trips never left the study area, instead moving between neighborhoods like Main Street to Deep Ellum, West End to Dallas Farmers Market, the Cedars to the Arts District, and so on. Streetcar gives an alternative to making these trips by car, thereby reducing automobile dependence, lowering congestion and parking demand, and improving walkability.

Finally, as a locally serving system, streetcar has tremendous placemaking potential. The investment in streetcar infrastructure can have transformational impacts on the public realm, creating more humane corridors that are proven to spur additional private investment and street life.

Economic Impact

Current study of the four proposed alignments includes a Comparative Economic Benefits Assessment conducted by HR&A Associates, commissioned by DDI. In cooperation, operations, maintenance, ridership, and cost recovery models are being led by DART and the City of Dallas. These studies will inform alignment preferences by all parties to be determined in concert with D2 LPA determination over the next 30-60 days. Regardless of the route, preliminary analysis of the economics proves streetcar as a net positive, as any of the four alignments:

  • Increase the number of blocks with transit adjacency by more than 100.
  • Deliver ¼ mile or less new access to rail transit to more than 62,000 current employees.
  • Better connect our entertainment districts and benefit tourism, serving more than 3,100 hotel rooms and 800,000 visitors, with a spending potential of over $136 million yearly.
  • Equal a commercial real estate premium. Projections show streetcar could have a positive net impact on leased office space, ranging from 0.5 million square feet up to just over 1 million square feet, depending on the alignment, with a corresponding increase in jobs, and an average $50 million increase in value.
  • Positively impact residential growth by stimulating more units and greater assessed value at a possible $17 million high, building Dallas’ tax base.

The Time is Now

For more than a decade, DDI has continued to advocate for the establishment and growth of a streetcar network. Strengthening multi-modal mobility options in our center city will enable us to be economically competitive, attracting new residents and talent who expect and are accustomed to high quality, well-connected urban environments. The importance of moving forward with the Central Dallas Link now cannot be stressed enough, with immediate attention also paid to the full network—north, south, east, and west—that will deliver a vibrant and robust system in the future that reconnects us with the past, for downtown and the city.

Kourtny Garrett is president and CEO of Downtown Dallas, Inc.

Dustin Bullard is vice president of public space and design at Downtown Dallas, Inc.

Downtown Dallas, Inc. Welcomes New Hire Matt Thomas

Matt Thomas Headshot 2017

Downtown Dallas, Inc. (DDI) warmly welcomes Matt Thomas to its team as Communications Director.  In this position, Matt will oversee the organization’s content creation, communications, media relations programs, and community relationships.

Matt Thomas has worked as a broadcast journalist in Dallas/Fort Worth for more than a decade.  His career started right out of high school with internships at two radio stations.  He then moved to New York City, where he attended college and spent time interning at some of the biggest radio stations and network news operations in the country.  Matt returned to North Texas, where he continued his broadcast career as an airborne traffic reporter and news anchor at local radio stations.  In 2005, he accepted a position as a full-time street reporter and anchor at the NewsRadio station in Houston.  There, he covered several high-profile stories, including all of the Enron fraud and conspiracy trial, the Andrea Yates murder retrial, and Hurricanes Rita and Katrina.  Matt spent weeks covering the aftermath of Katrina by providing live reports to listeners from New Orleans.

He returned to North Texas in late 2006 to accept a position at KRLD radio and the Texas State Network.  Matt’s street reporting, anchoring, and leadership skills in his more than a decade at the station resulted in numerous Texas Associated Press Broadcasters and Regional Edward R. Murrow Awards for excellence in journalism.  Most recently, he was named “Best Reporter” by the Texas AP Broadcasters and he received the prestigious Charles E. Green award by the Headliners Foundation of Texas for his on-scene coverage of the deadly attack on police officers in Dallas in July 2016.

Matt is now transitioning to his new role as Communications Director for DDI. “I can’t think of a better way to continue to share stories that have an impact than joining the DDI team and using new media platforms to highlight the great things that are happening in Downtown Dallas and the surrounding districts,” Matt said.

Matt produced and hosted more than 200 original shows in conjunction with DDI and former CEO and current Vice Chairman John Crawford during a critical period of transition for the city’s core.  Each Sunday on KRLD, Pulse of the City highlighted an area of Downtown Dallas experiencing new development and activity.  “Downtown Dallas and the neighboring districts have come such a long way in my time here, and it is absolutely thrilling to be here to help DDI and this tremendous staff share all the great things that are happening now and are yet to come,” Thomas said.

Matt grew up in the Denton area, and has always had a great love for the buildings that make up what USA Today has named the “Best International Skyline.”  In addition to storytelling and Downtown, Matt is passionate about golf, the Texas Rangers, and animal rescue operations in North Texas.  For the past several years, he has helped emcee the annual “Basset Shuffle” event benefitting North Texas Basset Hound Rescue.  In addition to his three rescue dogs, Matt has a wife and toddler who are the joys of his life.

Get to Know: City Tavern

Dallas is known for its flashy atmosphere, glamorous population, and rowdy bar scene. While everything is bigger and better in the Big D, we also like to crack a cold one at the original neighborhood hangout known as City Tavern.

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While Dallasites flock to glitzy nightclubs and lush lounges for ear-piercing electro music and overpriced vodka sodas, City Tavern is the foundation, free of frills, where locals gather for a good time.

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Dallas entrepreneur Josh Florence took over Downtown Dallas’ City Tavern in 2006 and has watched his communal pub grow over the past 11 years.

Florence explained that City Tavern is an all encompassing space, which is of utmost importance to him.

“I genuinely and sincerely love people and love bringing people together,” said Florence. “This is the most welcoming, open-arms bar I’ve ever seen or been a part of. Gay, straight, ethnicity, it doesn’t matter… race, color, creed, political preference, or college football team doesn’t matter. As long as you love the Dallas Cowboys and Texas Rangers, I think we’ll be good.”

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Florence landed his first job in the hospitality business at Hula Hut in Austin and explained he was hooked on the business ever since.

“I like being in a business where the overall goal is to make people feel good,” said Florence. “Whether that be through food, or through music, or through service, I like that people choose to come where I work when they get off of work.

While City Tavern is beloved by the Dallas community, the bartenders and staff add to the welcoming aesthetic.

When questioning if the Tavern should open on Christmas and Thanksgiving, his staff volunteered to work holidays and it hit a special place in Florence’s heart. He explained that City Tavern is the place where Dallasites gather to celebrate with their family, whether they’re blood-related or not.

“This is where they meet up and it’s a special deal,” said Florence.

Not only does City Tavern have a unique charm that attracts locals and visitors, the neighborhood hot spot serves as one of the prime places to enjoy live music. Before Dallas earned a marker on the music map, City Tavern was a magnet for guests who wanted to come rock out.

“The music scene speaks to me,” said Florence.

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Florence, who appeared on the MTV reality show Road Rules respects and takes pride in local talent. After buying City Tavern and booking weekly live shows featuring local musicians, Florence took ownership in Club Dada in Deep Ellum, Off the Record, Independent Bar & Kitchen, the Homegrown Music & Arts Festival, and the Old 97’s County Fair.

“All are very different but the common thread is the music, the live music” he said.

Club Dada features touring Indie shows, Off the Record sells vinyl records, Independent Bar & Kitchen showcases local jazz artists, and City Tavern gives status to the rock n’ roll bands in the city.

Florence’s favorite memory at City Tavern burns vividly in his memory. About five years ago, the Tavern was packed, rocking out to King Tuff and Natural Child, when the roof caught fire during the show. After over an hour of putting the flames to rest, the audience stayed enjoying their beers on Main Street, and doubled in size after the fire truck was long gone.

In a world where bars come and go, the success of the quaint bar known as City Tavern could rely on a number of things… Is it the positivity and energy owner Josh Florence brings to the table? Is it the staff that values each other as family? Or is it the original D-Town vibes the Tavern holds that draws eclectic crowds in a warm atmosphere? There’s no right answer, but we know where we’ll be at happy hour!

For a chance to win a $100 gift card to City Tavern, click here: City Tavern’s Downtown Giveaway and make sure you follow us (@downtown_dallas) and City Tavern (@citytaverndfw) on Instagram! For more information on City Tavern, visit www.citytaverndowntown.com.

For more information on all things to eat, see, and do Downtown, visit www.downtowndallas.com. And for a comprehensive list of Downtown events, visit events.downtowndallas.com.

City Tavern is located at:

1402 Main St

Dallas, TX 75202

Remembering July 7, 2016

Today and through this weekend we will commemorate the tragic events of July 7, 2016, remembering those who were lost and express gratitude to those who dedicate their lives to keeping us safe.

Here is a list of opportunities to participate:

We continue to hold our fallen and wounded officers and their families in our hearts and are grateful to the Dallas Police Department, Dallas Fire-Rescue, DART Police Department, and El Centro Police for their diligence, courage, and strength.

We also express tremendous thanks to our own field teams, the Downtown Safety Patrol and Clean Team, to whom keeping Downtown safe and clean is always the number one priority.  They are led in an outstanding way by Martin Cramer, Dustin Bullard, and Jordan Jay who are never shy to go “above and beyond.”

Our community will never forget, we will not move on.  But we will move forward, carrying with us the strength and courageous spirit of our fallen officers and inspiration from those who remain dedicated to the quality of life of the citizens of Dallas.

We appreciate all of you and your support of our Downtown community.