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How Victory Park Can Get Its Groove Back

What do we know? Except for Mavericks games and Stars games and touring concerts or events, “nobody” goes to Victory Park. The project is generally seen as a failure for Ross Perot Jr. and his Hillwood development company. Why hasn’t it become Dallas’ version of Times Square (except for during Big D NYE)? There are a lot of theories:

1. A couple years ago, Wick wrote that the project hadn’t been constructed at a human scale:

Consider the activity: there are some 25 restaurants and bars on Henderson and Knox streets; maybe 10 within a block or two of Jake’s on McKinney; at least seven in the West Village. All these places vary in size and look, but they have one thing in common. They are human. They are humble. They want you to come in.

Now consider Victory, all glass and steel, cool and angular. The architects did their best work here. Professionally, they wouldn’t glance at the Jake’s building or at Fireside Pies. Some of them even sneered to me about West Village. I wonder, though, where they go to eat.

2. Patrick Kennedy blames our damn cars:

Real places don’t have hard edges. Rather, they blend from one to another. Unfortunately, every road between Victory Park and its neighboring hoods was built for uninterrupted, high-speed traffic flow. You can’t ring a place with a noose-like strand of cars and expect it to survive. Just ask downtown Dallas. Joe the venture capitalist doesn’t want to play live-action Frogger. Instead, he drives to the arena, parks his car there, then leaves at the buzzer. Or he just goes home and watches the game on TV.

3. Mitchell Schnurman opined that it was all just too much for the market and too expensive:

Development that may have worked on a smaller scale, at more modest price points, ended up overwhelming the marketplace.

From 2006 to 2008, Victory Park added almost 400 condos, 380 apartments, 250 hotel rooms, half a million square feet of office space, and more than 200,000 square feet of retail. Many Victory condos were listed at $500 a square foot, twice the going rate for residential space in Turtle Creek when the building boom started.

So what’s the plan to fix it? Building more apartments, adding density. (I’m guessing these will be pricy rentals?)  But first allowing $33 million in taxes to reimburse the cost of building a 1,200-car parking garage for the American Airlines Center.

Don’t know about you, but I get nervous when I hear claims that (in the heart of a high-end residential/retail project in the center of Dallas), “Market conditions do not support construction of a new garage in the district without public subsidy.” That’s what the city council’s economic development committee was told today.  Bunch of socialists running this place, I guess.

Anyway, I like the way the Morning News‘ Rudolph Bush put it this morning:

The plan has drawn criticism as a boost for a very wealthy developer whose play in Victory Park has been anything but a success.

But from City Hall’s perspective, doubling down (or tripling down) on Victory is the only option to spur it forward and hope that the population density needed to sustain it is forthcoming.

“Doubling down.” That’s about right. Feels like a gamble.

UPDATE: The council committee voted to make that gamble, though Mark Cuban’s company raised some concerns. The full council votes on it next week.

17 comments on “How Victory Park Can Get Its Groove Back

  1. I say we take off and nuke the entire site from orbit. It’s the only way to be sure.

  2. A Central Market Uptown would save it – provide people downtown/uptown a reason to go on a daily basis, gives downtown another grab-n-go breakfast/lunch/dinner location – just need to make sure parking is okay/accessible, etc.

    Alamo Drafthouse location would be cool in there too…..

  3. One of the reasons it has failed is because it is as sterile as it is…visually but it seems to be like most things in the Dallas area…devoid of anything really human.

  4. It is too sterile and the restaurants there are not good enough to make it worth the parking hassle.

  5. Rip out Victory Street and put in a park with shade trees.
    Make Victory area the “rail head” of bike trails in Dallas, and access to whatever Trinity river park emerges.
    Give free ultra-fast wifi access to residents (paid for by the city)
    Make every street 2 way

  6. A grocery store, bowling alley and movie theater, combined with middle-class residential and the upcoming Perot Museum, should fix all its problems.

  7. Victory suffers from 3 major faults that Perot Jr. and Company failed to acknowledge (and were told).
    1. Believing that a successful mixed-use development can be built upon the premise that a sports/entertainment venue can anchor it. A successful and lively mixed-use development needs to function in spite of said venue, not be reliant on it’s spotty attraction of consumers.
    2. Poor leasing strategy. Too much focus on high-end luxury shops and F&B tenants (which is completely counter to the people who show up to use your venue). They needed a much wider mix of tenant types to draw people for longer periods of time and maintain foot-traffic on “off” days when the venue is not operating (see #1).
    3. Fatal error on the master planning diagram. Don’t do on-sided retail/F&B that faces nothing on either side and expect it to be successful. You want cross traffic? How about a parking deck on one side, and a fence for an apartment complex on the other. Genius strategy.
    Again, from what I understand, this information was delivered to Hillwood and summarily ignored (obviously).
    Hard-headed developer is hard-headed, because these three faults should be part of mixed-use development 101.

  8. @Noah – Rich people are not bad people and they do have money to spend to support small businesses. Unfortunately, Victory Park was built to appeal to the tenants of the W or I guess the target tenants of the W which is not a large enough number of people. The average fan in the stands does not have the disposable income that the average player has – are their any tenants at the W that are not players, ex-players or somehow related to the development?

  9. All good points. The problem is now that this place has been built this way.. there is almost no way to fix it unless you do a MAJOR facelift or complete tear-down and rebuild. Building a new parking garage might help some, but still doesn’t address the street-level problems of this place. Further complicating the situation is the long term commitments they’ve made to the radio stations to fill places they had previously hoped would be filled with restaurants and far more populous office space.

  10. Has anyone ever occupied the upper floors of those two buildings between the W and AAC? The ones with the sliding video screens? (An insanely expensive toy that no one ever sees).

    Here’s the basic problem with Victory Park. There is no easy way to get down there, even from Uptown, and there is nowhere to park once you do. And no, mass transit isn’t the solution. When you build a train station two blocks from my house and run the trains every 10 minutes until 2:30 AM on weekends like other big boy cities, then maybe I’ll do it. Until then, I won’t park my car outdoors at Mockingbird Station and risk getting robbed on the platform while I wait 30 minutes for a train in the dark, nor will I ride that stupid clattering trolley down McKinney so I can get dropped off five+ blocks from the AAC.

    @Dubious Brother: “The average fan in the stands does not have the disposable income that the average player has — are their any tenants at the W that are not players, ex-players or somehow related to the development?” Yes, but many of the condo owners are hopelessly under water.

  11. I admit the layout is very confusing down there, but I go to Kenichi, Medina, V.O.D. and there is a free large uncovered lot right there. There is covered parking right beside it but I think it cost money. I don’t get the parking complaints, I would say the walking distance is shorter than at NorthPark and certainly easier to find a spot than Highland Park Village.

  12. Actually, the single biggest thing wrong with it is the one thing they can’t fix. They put it in the wrong place. That fact was made clear over and over again when AAC and Victory Park were being sold to Dallas and were developed. But because the developers wanted the cheapest land deal and wanted to ‘control’ it (i.e., make more money because traditionally, it’s the stuff AROUND a city-paid-for sports arena that brings in the revenue), they didn’t build the AAC or Victory Park near the West End nor Farmer’s Market nor anything else in downtown where their development would connect with an already existing commercial-retail-transit infrastructure. They wanted all that for themselves — and judging from the results, didn’t really know how to create them, nor care. Hence, its sterility. ‘Times Square’ exists as a gathering place because it actually IS a pre-existing traffic-transit-theater nexus. There would be people in it no matter what special event was going on. None of that applied to Victory Park.

    Thus, we’re left with another Dallas tradition: a vast, bewildering gulf of parking lots, roads and ramps isolating people from any urban experience. And this one, too: DART was essentially forced to build a track and a station to accommodate a sports-arena development that wasn’t near anything else.

  13. Victory Park is more like Victory Park(way/lot). Too great of focus on moving lots of cars really fast. I work in the small buildings next to the AAC. It’s human frogger every day to and from the parking garage and to and from lunch. Too much effort and danger.