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Density Isn’t a Hipster Conspiracy. It’s About Bringing Jobs Closer to the Workforce.

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but in the last week, this entire debate over the idea of tearing down I-345 has gone completely bonkers. What started as an idea aimed to stimulate dense growth, investment, and social vitality in Dallas’ perennially stagnant and economically stubborn urban core, the teardown of I-345 has prompted an attempt to bury it under the threat of the Trinity Tollroad; resurrected the ludicrous idea of building an “inner loop” highway through the Park Cities, M-Streets, and Lakewood; and raised claims that the very highways that function as agents of steady disinvestment, disenfranchisement, and social and economic erosion are now, in fact, arbiters of social and economic justice. What bothers me the most is this last claim. Not only is it a cheap attempt to turn an important civic debate into a racial stalemate, it is brazenly and willfully ignorant.

To save ourselves from the bluster, let’s take a step back and look at the bigger picture. Somewhere along the way this conversation about civic revitalization turns into a discussion of class. When you say words like “urban” or “density” people imagine legions of Sarah Jessica Parker-zombies leading a petite bourgeois takeover of Dallas (one over-priced cupcake at a time), while the imaginary everyman weeps, keeled-over in the shadow of his beloved highway in ruins. It’s pure fantasy. The highway is the reason why growth tends to create distance between workforces and places of employment. And the goal of stimulating dense development in Dallas’ urban core is precisely to bring the workplace closer to the workforce by bringing new jobs back to the inner city.

A New Dallas estimates that the development stirred-on by the I-345 teardown will create 22,559 jobs and around 27,540 new residents downtown. Of these, A New Dallas says 5,414 will be retail, 16,242 will be office, and 902 will be hotel and hospitality jobs. To put these numbers in perspective, South Dallas is home to around 35,537 people.

And new development downtown doesn’t necessarily mean creating a new Uptown. Just look at Mathews Southwest’s 1400 Bellview in the Cedars. Not only does the new development include housing units set aside for future residents with various income levels, but the mixed-use, multi-family development is exploring adding in-house day care as well as on site job training with the hope that it can network residents at 1400 Bellview with the hotel service sector in downtown. The goal: create a mixed-income residential development close to its residents’ place of employment that accommodates the needs of low income families, while promoting neighborhood development that features a diverse and supportive population. This is pattern of development that Dallas needs to follow in order to truly address the issues of inequality that are suddenly being raised in opposition to the I-345 teardown.