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Banning Dogs (And Their Droppings) Won’t Fix What Ails Downtown Dallas’ Thanks-Giving Square

A shady spot in downtown Dallas. Too shady?   Photo by Elizabeth Lavin
A shady spot in downtown Dallas. Too shady? Photo by Elizabeth Lavin

Yesterday on the DMN Opinion Blog, Rodger Jones wrote about taking a morning walk through Thanks-Giving Square.

Half the place looks like a kennel’s exercise yard — which is to say, pity the landscape crew that’s trying to grow grass under the dog droppings — and the other half is dominated by signs trying to keep the animals away.

Even though the park is half off-limits to dogs, that doesn’t prevent the kennel smell from lingering.

He proposes making the space a dog-free zone. I doubt that Patrick Kennedy, who wrote about Thanks-Giving Square’s problems last year in D Magazine, would agree with that proposal.

While Kennedy also was troubled by the amount of feces side-stepping necessary when navigating the area, he pointed to a couple of larger challenges. For one, the buildings that have gone up since the space was dedicated in 1976 have resulted in far more shade on the spot, which has led to erosion problems. And secondly, the walls that border the square have a way of detaching it from the surrounding area:

The walls limit visual and physical porosity, connectedness. We like to see where we’re going and who is there. William Holly Whyte, in his analytical study The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces, warns against the inevitable sunken nature of the square linking tunnels to street level, creating a fishbowl effect. We prefer to be the watchers than the watched.

Though we can’t fix all its ailments, given Thanks-Giving Square’s multipurpose nature (a cover for a terminal with 43 spaces for trucks, an entry point for the underground pedestrian tunnels, a religious site), perhaps we can kill two birds with one stone. There are plans to work on the landscaping, but if we could selectively remove and/or lower some of the exterior walls, it would open more access points, more people space, create more seating, gathering, and dining areas, while softening the steep, muddy banks. It may not make it “world class,” but it will be more neighborhood-friendly, and that’s really what we need.