Find a back issue

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.