360 Meeting Window #2 Recap: What Comes of Simply Sitting around a Table

This week, the 360 team had another intense round of meetings focused specifically on coordinating with a long list of concurrent projects that have overlapping impact that will ultimately shape Downtown.  These projects hold tremendous opportunity, and if leveraged – if translated from their inherent macro scope into to the micro issues that impact the livability of our neighborhoods – could move us beyond just striving to be  a “21st century city” to an authentic physical and cultural shift that will place Dallas as one of the great cities of the world. Where to begin? The proverbial family dinner table, of course.

We started with CityMAP. The depth and wealth of information being gathered by the CityMAP team is remarkable. Facilitating over 60 community input meetings thus far, themes of what Dallas wants to be are emerging. In our goals for the final 360 product, we talk about the need for urban mobility principles to inform transit projects of all modes, from regional highways and the local street grid, to light rail, streetcar and trolley, integrated seamlessly with pedestrian, hike and bike paths and trails.

Exclamation point number one: CityMAP and 360 have the ability to gain this intelligence from Dallasites and work together to apply it to future projects at the local, regional, and state level. 360 provides a mechanism by which values and scenarios that come from CityMAP can be applied to the urban core, integrated through a public-private partnership already established in our planning process. Visions for “Expanding Transit and Realizing TOD,” “Creating Vibrant Streets and Public Spaces,” “Ensure Great Urban Design,” street classifications and a circulation framework are already established and adopted from the 2011 plan; it’s time to expand the principles into all fifteen districts and apply them to our regional system based on the values we deem a priorities for Downtown.

Exclamation point number two: Let’s work together to do some stuff now. Early in both planning efforts we’re already hearing about, say, guardrails that are too low on the Ervay bridge over I-30 between the Farmers Market and the Cedars, making what is otherwise a natural pedestrian connection,  a frightening experience (I personally used to jog Harwood north from Corinth to Uptown back in my pre-children-Cedars-loft-living days. Not much better.) Another note: There is a gap in the sidewalk along Canton from the Farmers Market to Deep Ellum. This list of “quick wins” is growing; and sure, even pouring some concrete costs real money, but as we sit around the table it begins to become apparent that there are collective resources to leverage and will to make progress happen now.

It is a clear, and as @WalkableDFW pointed out to me, “obvious” alignment, for 360 and CityMAP to continue to work in tandem on a number of points –  interface of regional and local traffic, urban design, and the relationship of mobility to housing, jobs and neighborhood development. So right now: so far, so good at the table.

Time was also spent on the Neighborhoods Plus Plan and Dallas Bike Plan, both city-wide efforts that will be incorporated into 360 as they relate specifically to Downtown. For example, related to Neighborhoods Plus, how do we preserve affordable and middle class housing in high density urban development, particularly as we approach an era of new construction (good problem: we’re running out of vacant buildings that can grab tax credits and other incentives)? Where is there opportunity to build nodes of neighborhood services? 360 calls “Diversify and Grow Housing” a transformative strategy, with a long list of how-to-get-there’s. We’re eager to continue that path and evolve it into today’s needs and economic conditions.

With regard to the bike plan, as far as 360 is concerned, we can’t get bike lanes in fast enough. Yet, there is an appreciation for yet another paradigmatic shift in the way Dallas thinks about cycling. According to Ashley Haire, the commuter cyclist is still a rare species; we are dominated with the spandex-wearing enthusiast and a sprinkle of weekend cruisers. That is shifting, undoubtedly, as we at DDI know firsthand from the demand for bike share, but it is hampered by our (un)willingness to trade on-street front door parking for a safe cycle lane.  And side note, this is cool: Strava Heatmap .

A great deal of time, after highways, bikes and housing, was spent on high speed rail, quite timely given this week’s news, and related development interest along Riverfront.

But let’s save that for a few days and talk for a bit …

  • What are some “quick wins” in your neighborhood that could be addressed with an alignment of volunteer, public, and private resources?
  • Bike lane vs. valet and “in front of my house” parking? Go.
  • For Downtown dwellers, what services are you missing? And how far are you willing to walk, ride (bike, public transit), or drive to satisfy that need?
  • For non-Downtown dwellers who love Downtown, what is keeping you away? Housing type? Price? Services?

Finally, stay tuned to more on the last few weeks’ worth of work, as well as dates for upcoming 360 District Workshops. More opportunities to chime in.

Want to know how you can be involved? Join us at one of our upcoming 360 District Workshops or drop us a line to tell us how you’d like to be involved. You can sign up to be a volunteer, host an event or simply help us spread the word!

Kourtny Garrett
EVP, Downtown Dallas, Inc.
Downtown Dallas 360 Team Lead
Downtown Dallas Resident

Downtown Dallas 360 + The Challenge

Downtown Dallas 360, the 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 which spurred Downtown Dallas, Inc.’s (DDI) interest in, and commitment to, the Connected City.

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 which 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, spurring social and economic growth. The same opportunity, magnified one-hundred-fold, lies ahead when we connect the core of Downtown with the Trinity River.