Last Chance: We Want To Hear From You!

Downtown Dallas is experiencing significant revitalization, but we have more work to do. If you live or work in greater Downtown, we want to hear from you!

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Photo courtesy of @missamandad.

This is your last chance to share your thoughts on living and working in greater Downtown Dallas!

All responses are anonymous and will be used in aggregate to provide insights on what people like about the greater Downtown area and what could be improved.

The following survey will ask for your feedback and opinions on living and/or working in greater downtown Dallas.

  1. Downtown Dallas Perception Survey (This survey will take about 15 minutes to complete)

The following survey is for residents living within the ‘freeway loop’ and will ask for your feedback specifically on retail and services you would like to see Downtown.

  1. Downtown Resident Survey (this survey will take no more than 10 minutes to complete)

We greatly appreciate your responses to both!

We Want To Hear From You!

Downtown Dallas is experiencing significant revitalization, but we have more work to do. We are seeking opinions about living and working in greater Downtown Dallas. If you live or work in greater Downtown, we want to hear from you!

All responses are anonymous and will be used in aggregate to provide insights on what people like about the greater Downtown area and what could be improved.

The following survey will ask for your feedback and opinions on living and/or working in greater downtown Dallas.

  1. Downtown Dallas Perception Survey (This survey will take about 15 minutes to complete)

The following survey is for residents living within the ‘freeway loop’ and will ask for your feedback specifically on retail and services you would like to see Downtown.

  1. Downtown Resident Survey (this survey will take no more than 10 minutes to complete)

We greatly appreciate your responses to both!

Downtown Dallas is the absolute best playground for families

Downtown Dallas may swell with professionals during the workday, but there’s more to the area than just business (eating and shopping, for example). Families can find an abundance of activities — most of them free — that are guaranteed to keep little ones entertained.

Museums are a great starting point, with the majority participating in Kids Club, which hosts six arts-and-crafts-based events a year. Nasher Sculpture Center encourages artistic exploration at Target First Saturdays, as does the Crow Collection of Asian Art with its Asian Adventure, also on the first Saturday of each month. Dallas Museum of Art mixes it up with First Tuesdays, which is aimed specifically at children 5 and under, while an extensive list of classes and workshops keeps everyone engaged.

The Art Lab at the Perot Museum of Nature and Science gives youngsters an extra hands-on experience during their visit, while Discovery Days is something the whole family can look forward to. You can even museum-hop, riding the free D-Link bus around downtown.

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Perot Museum of Nature and Science offers an Art Lab and Discovery Days for its younger visitors. Photo courtesy of: Perot Museum of Nature and Science.

 

The D-Link will also whisk you over to the Dallas Farmers Market, where you can enjoy live music each Friday while you shop. The student and volunteer-tended Mama Ida’s Teaching Garden makes nutrition, math, and science fun, and partners with North Texas Food Bank to donate its harvest to Dallas’ homeless population through Family Gateway. On the second Saturday of each month, Walkabout with a Chef lets an expert guide you around the market, sharing recipes and explaining how best to shop for ingredients.

Another free form of transportation around down is the M-Line Trolley, a nostalgic streetcar that links downtown and its Arts District to Uptown and the West Village.

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Ride the M-Line Trolley between downtown and Uptown. Photo courtesy of: Dallas CVB

Over at Old City Park, Dallas Heritage Village brings history to life, re-creating our city from 1840-1910 through authentic buildings and furnishings. Every second Wednesday of the month is Nip and Tuck’s Barnyard Buddies, a program for little historians where they read a story, do an activity, then explore the village.

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Target First Saturdays at the Nasher Sculpture Center combine artsy activities with fresh air (when weather allows). Photo by: Hilary Schleier

Reading is only one of the pastimes at J. Erik Jonsson Central Library, though sometimes that does come with a side of boogie woogie for kids six and under. Music classescrafts, and Sunday family movie matinees are all on the monthly calendar, ensuring that you and your family will never be at a loss for something fun to do in downtown Dallas.

Meet Winner Sarah: The Blogger Who Loves Dallas Experiences

This blog is part of a special series featuring winners of Downtown Dallas Inc’s Live Like a Local contest, which asked for locals to submit mobile friendly, self-guiding experiences on the Guidrr app that showcase their #mydtd journeys. Sarah Webb is featured today, along with a link to download her free, winning fitness/health experience: The Ultimate Guide to Deep Ellum

Successful blogger, sports fan and pizza lover Sarah Webb didn’t always live in Dallas but she’s really made the city her own with her recently launched Instagram called @dallaslovelist.

This Virginia native relocated to Texas for work about four years ago, from Knoxville, Tennessee, where she spent many years. She attended The University of Tennessee as an undergrad and then began working in marketing for a local company there.

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Sarah of @DallasLoveList is a downtown resident and marketing pro who loves to blog

 

“I decided I needed a bigger city, and narrowed it to Chicago and Dallas. Dallas won,” says Sarah. “But boy was it hard to meet people. It took me a full two years to make friends, I tried everything – meetups, events, bars, alumni clubs.” For her, the turning point was her move to a downtown neighborhood she sees as a small town inside the big city – Deep Ellum. While she no longer lives in the area (she since has moved to Oak Cliff), she credits the Deep Ellum community with finally making her feel at home in Dallas.

“Deep Ellum changed my life,” says Sarah. “I could walk everywhere. I had no problem going by myself to a bar for a cocktail. Ater that I had a lot more success with making friends.” What made it unique for her is the contrarian culture of the neighborhood. “The difference between Deep Ellum and the rest of Dallas is that it’s so casual and accepting – doesn’t matter what clothes, purse, shoes you have, and whether your hair is done or if you have no makeup. They welcome you with open arms, to listen to music, or have a beer. All walks of life come together and have one big party in Deep Ellum.”

This is why Sarah chose to make the neighborhood the subject of her entry into the Downtown Dallas Inc. Live Like a Local contest. “I loved that I could show off Deep Ellum. And, I feature the places I really enjoy in my guide to the neighborhood,” she says.

“All walks of life come together and have one big party in Deep Ellum.” ~ Sarah Webb

Her new Instagram account spins off a long term career as a successful spots blogger, around a site for which she already has a national audience. “I wanted to do something different in Dallas, something more local and relevant to people like me seeking authentic experiences,” she says. For me, the @dallaslovelist account is all about combining cool things I love like food and street art, or fashion and parks. I’m a lifestyle blogger at heart.” While she only launched the new account this June, she’s already seeing a spike in followers.

We asked Sarah how she finds her way around town, often solo. She admits: “Especially when I first moved here, I brought my two dogs (Veenie, a Jack Russell and General, a beagle) and my camera with me everywhere. This made me feel I had a purpose. My camera and my dogs were a crutch and my wingmen, I could start a conversation or just feel comfortable being somewhere on my own.”

Her advice to locals who want to have a better experience in Dallas: “Don’t be afraid to do something by yourself. Start a conversation. Just do it.” For those who prefer to explore with a boyfriend or girlfriend? “I tell everybody that my boyfriend is pizza,” she jokes. “I’ve never met a pizza I didn’t like.” (ps: One of her favorite pizza joints makes it into her Deep Ellum guide, available for download for free on the free Guidrr app.).

On her explorer’s histlist? Spending more time at the State Fair, and in Lower Greenville, while getting to know her new neighborhood Oak Cliff better. “Coming from two smaller cities, it amazes me there is something to do any night of the week in Dallas,” she says. “Sundays for Cowboys, Tuesdays for Jazz, Thursdays for happy hours and events. There’s something every night. I had never been in a big city with this many experiences before. There’s always somewhere to explore in Dallas you have never been.”
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Thanks for being a #mydtd ambassador, Sarah, and we look forward to more of your local experiences launching inside the Guidrr app.Download Sarah’s Deep Ellum guide here (inside the Guidrr iPhone app) to explore Sarah’s #mydtd

 

 

Meet Mai Lyn: The Millennial Small Business Owner Working (Out) & Eating Her Way Through #MyDTD!

This blog is part of a special series featuring winners of Downtown Dallas Inc’s Live Like a Local contest, which asked for locals to submit mobile friendly, self-guiding experiences on the Guidrr app that showcase their #mydtd journeys. Mai Lyn Ngo is featured today, along with a link to download her free, winning fitness/health experience: Downtown Workout Date.

Live Like a Local contest winner Mai Lyn Ngo (pronounced May Lyn No) is a Dallas blogger and small business owner working at the intersection of good food and a healthy lifestyle.

Since she travels around town in workout gear, and has a petite and youthful build, she is often taken for younger than her years. This is why it’s all the more cool what this Asian millennial entrepreneur is doing for the serious growth of fitness as a lifestyle business community in DFW.

 

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Mai Lyn (@deepfriedfit) found an engaged audience at the intersection of food and fitness

 

 

Born and raised in East Dallas, Mai Lyn grew up in an Asian household and was raised to focus on a great education and a stable corporate career. She attended SMU where she studied journalism and minored in Chinese and English and then began working a corporate job.

“But I always loved writing, and blogging was a creative outlet from my traditional role. A friend suggested I start a blog for fun and I would use it to sharpen my writing skills and get reacquainted with a content management system,” she says. “I’ve always loved both being active and good food so these topics were a natural fit.”

Fast-forward a few years, and Mai Lyn’s story started to make a turn toward her career today as a full time fitness influencer and event manager. “We’re the generation of the side hustle. I started blogging about fitness studios and my love of food. I wanted others to feel comfortable arriving at a studio for the first time, and know all the details, like the style, the level of intensity, even if they stocked water! Plus, I wanted people to enjoy fitness as a lifestyle, not feel they need to deprive themselves.”

At the intersection of food and fitness, Mai Lyn began building an engaged local audience with her popular @deepfriedfit account on Instagram and her blog, both of which feature her local experiences. “At the same time, I was looking for community around my interest in fitness blogging and food, and discovered others shared my passions and questions.” She decided to create a membership community around fitness enthusiasts and bloggers under the brand Dallas Fitness Ambassadors. Now more than 50 strong, the group is a big part of Mai Lyn’s professional life as she teaches and grows the community around successful ways to build online influence and a sustainable brand. “We share ideas on how to post authentically, how to work well with brands, and how to grow our communities while supporting each other,” she says.

 

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As the founder of Dallas Fitness Ambassadors, Mai Lyn creates community around local fitness options

 

As the founder of Dallas Fitness Ambassadors, Mai Lyn creates community around local fitness options

When Mai Lyn isn’t blogging and posting, she’s out there exploring Dallas and sharing her discoveries, making her a true #mydtd ambassador.

“I recommend taking the DART and getting off at St Paul or Akard, and letting yourself walk and get a little lost.” ~ Mai Lyn Ngo

“Downtown Dallas like a scavenger hunt; there’s so many cool unique spots – parks and coffee shops, random stairs, train stations – you can take 20,000 steps simply by walking somewhere … fitness and exploration go together,” she says. “I recommend taking the DART and getting off at St Paul or Akard, and letting yourself walk and get a little lost.”

Screen Shot 2016-10-17 at 10.37.10 AM.pngDon’t miss Mai Lyn’s winning free experience, Downtown Workout Date, on the Guidrr app, a perfect way to explore downtown, either solo or with a friend. Download it for free here on the free Guidrr iPhone app.  

 

Thanks for being a #mydtdcontest winner and #downtowndallas ambassador, Mai Lyn. We’re looking forward to more of your downtown fitness journeys hitting the Guidrr app.

Downtown Dallas: A Turnaround Built on Parks, Arts, and People

Full Urban Land article here.

Dallas residents called it Stonehenge. This Texas version of the English landmark, like a monument to unfulfilled dreams and lingering failures, was an arrangement of heavy concrete pillars constructed in the 1980s to support an ambitious pair of 50-story office towers in downtown Dallas.

But the Texas real estate market went south in a hurry in the 1980s economic crash, and the developer, Metropolitan Ventures, pulled the plug on the twin towers, leaving behind the support columns dubbed Stonehenge. The 50-story buildings were never built.

Companies left downtown Dallas in droves in the 1980s, and it went on to have the emptiest office market in the nation in the early 1990s. Stonehenge stood as a negative symbol for years.

But that era is over. Today, downtown Dallas is a different place. Stonehenge has been replaced by Hall Group’s new 18-story Hall Arts office tower—the first office project built in the central business district in years. In downtown’s Arts District, new performance halls and museums have been erected. The new Klyde Warren Park, a transformative downtown recreational haven built over a below-grade freeway, attracts scads of people every day of the week. And perhaps most important, dozens of older office buildings have been converted to residential use, giving rise to a more active street life.

After decades of efforts—and some missteps—the core of Dallas has been transformed. No single strategy or project is credited for the turnaround. But the emergence of residential development is widely acknowledged as having been a spark plug.

Downtown Living

“The major driver for the change was the residential component,” says John F. Crawford, chief executive officer of Downtown Dallas, Inc., a nonprofit advocate for economic development. “In the urban core we’ve got about 10,000 people who live there, and in the greater downtown area there’s almost 50,000.”

In recent years, developers created thousands of residential units, primarily apartments for rent, from old office properties that were largely obsolete for corporate use but which held tremendous value as dwellings for young professionals who thrive in urban environments.

One breakthrough was the redevelopment that transformed the landmark 31-story Mercantile National Bank building on Main Street, which was redeveloped as apartments in 2008.

The Mercantile building had been an eyesore for years. “The windows were falling out of it. It looked like Beirut after the war,” says Jack Gosnell, senior vice president with CBRE | UCR Urban in Dallas. Gosnell convinced representatives of Forest City Enterprises to tour the art moderne Mercantile building, and everything started to click.

Forest City Texas, with the assistance of tax increment financing obtained through the city, created a 213-unit residential rental community out of the Mercantile tower. It and three other buildings that were subsequently developed by Forest City now make up Mercantile Place, which has a total of 704 apartment units.

Downtown Dallas had seen smaller buildings redeveloped, but the Mercantile project made Dallas residents marvel at the transformation. The project demonstrated the possibilities for the future.

“Forest City took this black hole on Main Street and turned it into a really cool apartment building,” says Ian Pierce, vice president of communications at Weitzman Group, a Dallas-based real estate firm.

Another key redevelopment at a separate site transformed the 1926-vintage Davis Building at 1309 Main Street into 180 loft apartments. The developer, Hamilton Properties, a prolific real estate firm led by Ted Hamilton and his father, Larry, has tackled a number of redevelopment projects in and around downtown Dallas. Hamilton Properties is currently transforming an old Ramada Inn on the south side of downtown into a 237-room boutique hotel that will be called the Lorenzo.

One of the largest redevelopment projects underway is the $220 million transformation of downtown’s historic Statler Hilton by Dallas-based Centurion American Development Group. The 19-story hotel will become the Statler Hotel and Residences, with 219 apartments and 159 hotel rooms operated under Hilton’s Curio brand for historic hostelries. The Statler, which opened in 1956, in its heyday presented performances by Elvis Presley and Frank Sinatra on its ballroom stage before closing more than a decade ago.

But after scores of redevelopment projects, the game is changing in downtown Dallas, Crawford says.

“We no longer have any older buildings left in downtown anymore. They’ve all been converted to residential or some form of adaptive reuse,” Crawford says. “So we are now moving to new construction.”

Within walking or biking distance of the central business district, residential construction has been ongoing in full force in the districts and neighborhoods on the edge of downtown, such as Uptown, the Cedars, Deep Ellum, and Victory Park.

“That’s the big story in what’s going on in Dallas—the multifamily demand by the young urban professionals,” says Ken Reese, executive vice president of Hillwood Urban, part of the Dallas-based Hillwood real estate organization founded by Ross Perot Jr.

The 75-acre (30 ha) Victory Park, a mixed-use development started by Hillwood on a reclaimed brownfield site over a decade ago, is adding 1,800 units of new residential units to the downtown mix. Victory Park now has four new high-rise towers and a mid-rise apartment project under construction by a strong lineup of multifamily developers that includes Camden Property Trust, Novare Group, Greystar, Lennar Multifamily, and Genesis Real Estate.

Downtown’s residential boom eradicated that lonely, unpopulated feeling that had plagued the central business district for decades. “Our downtown used to evacuate at night. By 6 p.m. all the people were gone,” says Phil Puckett, executive vice president in the Dallas office of CBRE.

Downtown Dallas, like many downtowns across the country, lost momentum in the 1960s as new freeways and affordable homes for the middle class in the suburbs sucked growth out of the cities. Many businesses followed as office buildings rose on the suburban prairies.

Before the 1960s were over, the Dallas City Council tried to stop the outward tide by adopting the recommendations of urban planner Vincent Ponte, who designed a system of downtown tunnels and underground retail shops linking the major buildings. The city leaders were prodded along by Esquire magazine, which ran a headline on its cover in June 1968 reading, “Vincent Ponte Should Have His Way with Dallas.”

But Ponte’s way was the wrong way, city leaders later discovered.

Over the years, the tunnel system grew to more than two miles (3 km). It provided a convenient lunchtime amenity for downtown office workers but was blamed for choking off life and commerce on the street above.

“If I could take a cement mixer and pour cement in and clog up the tunnels, I would do it today,” said then mayor Laura Miller in a 2005 interview with the New York Times. “It was the worst urban planning decision that Dallas has ever made.”

In recent years, the downtown tunnel system has become disjointed and been deemphasized as some landlords closed off tunnel connections, breathing an extra measure of life into downtown streets and sidewalks.

“They have done a great job of turning it around,” says Dallas office broker Fletcher Cordell, a principal with the Transwestern real estate company.

A Spark from Parks

When it comes to the downtown turnaround, nothing has been praised like the catalytic Klyde Warren Park, which opened in October 2012.

Built over the Woodall Rodgers Freeway, the 5.2-acre (2 ha) park effectively erased the barrier between downtown and the bustling Uptown district’s multifamily, retail, and office markets. Not only has Klyde Warren Park made it easier to walk to downtown, but it also draws large crowds to its heavily programmed activities of yoga and music performances, as well as a dog park and a playground. The success of the park, designed by the Office of James Burnett, a Solana Beach, California–based landscape architecture firm, has prompted city leaders to discuss a proposed expansion that could cover more of the freeway.

Klyde Warren Park generated a real estate boom. Rents for office buildings near the park have gone up as much as 60 percent since 2014, and prices for development sites, such as surface parking lots, have recently approached $400 per square foot ($4,300 per sq m) in some cases, says Puckett of CBRE.

Along Pearl Street, which borders the northern edge of the park, two office projects are under construction. A partnership of Trammell Crow Company and MetLife is building the PwC Tower at Park District, a 20-story, 500,000-square-foot (46,500 sq m) office tower slated for completion in 2018 with PwC occupying 200,000 square feet (19,000 sq m) of space. The building is part of the partnership’s mixed-use development, called the Park District, which also will have a 30-story residential tower and retail space overlooking Klyde Warren Park.

Across the street from the PwC Tower, Dallas-based Lincoln Property is developing a 260,000-square-foot (24,000 sq m), 25-story office project at 1900 Pearl Street.

The Lincoln Property site is adjacent to the Meyerson Symphony Center in the Dallas Arts District. The symphony building, designed by I.M. Pei, opened in 1989 and has been a cornerstone of an impressive collection of performance halls and museums built in recent years.

Downtown’s 68-acre (28 ha) Arts District, with more than a dozen visual and performing arts institutions, has been a growth generator in its own right. Nearby, the Perot Museum of Nature and Science, designed by Pritzker Award–winning architect Thom Mayne, opened in 2012 and has been attracting 1 million visitors annually.

The buildup of the Arts District created a welcoming environment for new residential projects, such as the 42-story Museum Tower condominiums, which opened in 2013.

Dallas developer Craig Hall, chairman and founder of Hall Group, produced the Hall Arts Center, the first new downtown office tower built in years. The first phase was an 18-story, 500,000-square-foot (46,500 sq m) office project built on the so-called Stonehenge site on Flora Street. The office building, which opened last year, was renamed KPMG Plaza at Hall Arts after its lead tenant.

Hall expects to break ground next year on Hall Arts Center Phase II, a high-rise residential tower with 44 condominium units for sale and an adjoining mid-rise hotel. Hall owns another parcel of land for a yet-to-be conceived Phase III project in future years.

But Hall says his eye is truly focused on placemaking, not just erecting new buildings in the Arts District.

“We need to energize the street life. We need to get people to stay and walk around rather than just come in their car to a symphony event and then get back in their car and drive somewhere else,” Hall says. “That’s my personal goal.”

To that end, Hall created a half-acre (0.2 ha) sculpture garden featuring the works of Texas artists, which is located at the side of the new office building and easily accessible to the public. The Hall building also has a 30-foot-tall (9 m) glass-walled lobby that fosters engagement with pedestrians on the sidewalk, says Eddie Abeyta, principal and Dallas design director for HKS architects, which designed the Hall building.

Abeyta, a key advocate for urban walkability in downtown Dallas, is one of seven professionals on the city’s Urban Design Peer Review Panel, an advisory group that reviews proposals for new developments. “We try to put people first and automobiles second. Dallas itself is very auto-centric, like most big U.S. cities,” Abeyta says. “But we are trying to learn and we are trying to improve. We want to make sure developers, architecture firms, and landscape firms are responsible about how these buildings touch and engage with the public realm.”

The Art of the Skyline

Downtown Dallas goes above and beyond changing the city on the sidewalk level. The city’s skyline evolved significantly in recent years for those viewing it from afar.

New signature bridges, designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, are becoming highly visible landmarks for the skyline. The 400-foot-tall (122 m), cable-stayed Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge, spanning the Trinity River, opened in 2012. It will be followed by another skyline-altering structure by Calatrava, the Margaret McDermott Bridge, slated for completion in 2017. Some believe the new bridges will become Dallas icons equivalent to the Gateway Arch in St. Louis.

The Dallas skyline has been taken a step further toward distinctiveness with several landlords’ approach to lighting that has been gaining wide notice. The use of LED lighting on the exterior of a number of the city’s towers has gone beyond regular decoration to becoming a nighttime public canvas for commemorating celebrations, holidays, and social statements. For example, last year when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of gay marriage, the downtown buildings were lit in a rainbow pattern. Pink lighting supports breast cancer awareness, and patriotic red, white, and blue lighting comes on for the Fourth of July.

“I think Dallas was named one of the prettiest skylines of the world because of the lighted buildings,” says Linda McMahon, president and chief executive officer of the Real Estate Council, a Dallas-based nonprofit organization. “It’s beautiful. Every building is almost a work of art.”

In July, the downtown lighting conveyed a poignant message when the skyline turned dark blue as a sign of support for police after a sniper killed five Dallas police officers and injured seven others, plus two civilians. The racially charged killings wounded the soul of Dallas, but dialogue and healing are underway.

“It’s been a very emotional time,” McMahon says. “The police and the community are reaching out to each other. I think you’ll see positive things come out of it in terms of the strength of our community. We are a resilient place.”