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How Many New Cities Can Dallas Afford? Fewer Than We Can Plan, I Bet.

As Jason and Christine mentioned earlier, Beck Ventures made a big announcement today regarding their plans for the redevelopment of Valley View Mall. It features ICONIC! buildings, and TROLLEYS!, and PEDESTRIAN FRIENDLY! retail. It will also feature a big box Sears and JC Penney, all set to the musical equivalent of a dentist’s drill in the eye.

The Beck project has all the markings of how seemingly forward-thinking urban design trends of the 21th century – it has to be walkable, feature public space, mix uses and transportation – turns real estate development conceived with a 20th century financial model – big box anchor, destination shopping, no real access to public transportation – into a scarcely more desirable hybrid, Frankenstein sprawl.

But here’s where I get confused. Yesterday evening, while Beck Ventures was proofreading today’s Power Point, the Trinity Trust made another urban development announcement. It will sponsor, along with the CityDesign Studio, an international call for design proposals to rethink how downtown and the surrounding areas connect to the Trinity River. It’s a good idea, addressing one of the major oversights of the Trinity River Corridor Project. But when those touted architectural plans are finally submitted and we’re all excited about the prospect of building a new city in between downtown Dallas and the Trinity River, who’s going to actually build it? And is this all going to be built while West Dallas Investments is changing their fiefdom into the “new Dallas?”

The question is this: How many “new Dallas” projects can Dallas’ economy and growth actually support?

The answer, I suspect, is a little bit of all of them. After all, look around you. We live in the half-ass realization of a hundred year old stack of urban plans and boisterous developer hullabaloo. Whenever one city building project grew stale, we moved on to build another one. Because ultimately it is easier to redevelop Valley View Mall into a palm tree-dotted Victory Park dream city on steroids than it is to figure out how to direct those same lending dollars and retail and business investment to spur on infill redevelopment in the city center and surrounding neighborhoods that would make the Dallas that actually exists today more livable. Maybe that’s what the new city slogan is all about: “BIG Things Happen Here,” sure, but there will always be something missing in the middle.

9 comments on “How Many New Cities Can Dallas Afford? Fewer Than We Can Plan, I Bet.

  1. Some resident of one of those “anti-business” places like Boston (MIT, Harvard, etc.) or Silicon Valley/Stanford is going to figure out the solution to mass-producing the replacement for combustible engines here in the next decade or two (or three). Oil and gas will quickly be at prices a small fraction of what they are now. The wreckage of these unsustainable, suburban wastelands littered around North Texas will make Detroit look like Paris.

  2. It’s like Bill Clinton always says – “You can put lipstick on a pig but it is still a pig.”

  3. I hate to be the master of the obvious here, but there are tens of thousands of Dallasites who live closer to the soon -to-be-redeveloped Valley View than downtown. A downtown that is just about 8 miles from Valley View. It’s not exactly a Red River development that were talking about here. Btw, the Trinity will always be better suited for body dumping than development, no matter how badly those in the media and city hall want to develop it.

  4. Exactly, mdunlap1. Up here in suburbia, we hate being able to buy much larger houses than we could closer to the core, and we hate our excellent schools and parks. The first thing I’m looking forward to if energy prices collapse is giving all that up.

  5. Dallas exists outside of prehistory. Unlike surrounding areas, it was not a camp for Native Americans or prehistoric men. Dallas is geographically cursed: it bears no significant lakes, mountains, waterfalls, or waterways. Get more at http://www.joguru.com/fort-worth-united-states/ to define what is left here to get developed and How much Cities Dallas Affords.

  6. “anti-business places like Boston….or Silicon Valley/Standford”.
    Bwahahahaha, that’s really funny!
    Those places have incubated more businesses than just about anywhere in the world!

    And let me understand your point, “oil and gas prices..at a small fraction of what they are now”, and that will make suburbs “unsustainable”??? Really? If gasoline is a “small fraction” of the current price, gas will be cheap, and those suburbs will be even more easy/affordable to live in and commute to employment centers. It is an increase in the cost to commute that would mean less demand for suburban growth, not a decrease.

    Wow Dunlap, you really missed on these thoughts…..

  7. If the projections on population growth and job creation are realized, the answer Peter is there are several “new Dallas projects” that can be supported.

    While there are several items in the “Midtown” plan that do seem to be a reach, and possibly even unrealistic, the fact that the location is in the middle of existing high population and employment density/demand bodes well. Add to that a very good transportation infrastructure around the area and it is a good bet by the Beck Group.

  8. I own a 5,000 square foot “pool hall” being replaced by a 20 acre park as part of this 400+ acre development. A dubious honor at best.
    In our defense, I would like to say a few words. We pay over $100,000 in rent per year, and have a payroll employing a dozen or more employees of over $120,000 per year, which in turn supports several young families. Now I like parks as much as the next person, and when I see a bunch of kids playing soccer on the parking lot behind my pool room, I understand first hand why we need more parks in the area. I also see on occasion, why some folks hang their dislike of pool halls on the mis-logic of “starts with P, rhymes with T, & stands for Trouble”. However, I can assure you after having owned it for 20 years, there are more fights in one season of Dallas Stars’ 3-hour hockey games than there have been in the 20 years at Hawley’s Billiards, which is open 365 days a year from morning until 2am and more illegal drugs in a Cowboy locker room.
    It is ironic that the Midtown Project, which refers to itself as an entertainment center, wishes to replace a form of entertainment enjoyed, in the United States alone, by almost 22 million participants in 2012 according the National Sporting Goods Association. This participation rate is more than Golf, Tennis, Soccer, Softball or Volleyball and more than Skateboarding, Skiing, and Snowboarding combined. It is time Dallas’ leadership and certain developers quit demonizing a sport that they evidently know little about and likely are not one of the many millions of participants. With professionally design space and financing, Hawley’s Billiards would welcome the opportunity to be a part of this revitalization effort in an area with which we are intimately familiar. One need only go to a Fox and Hound to see how a properly financed and designed poolroom could add to the ambiance desired by Beck Ventures. But misdirected attitudes and biases will need to change.