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Why I Picked a Fight With the DMN’s Mark Lamster

The first time I met the highly regarded and very new Dallas Morning News architecture critic Mark Lamster, I picked a fight. I’m not sure why, but there I was, debating the merits of living downtown, which he has rather kindly recapped in this piece about why he chooses to live downtown. I’m the steely-eyed magazine editor. I’ve been called worse. When I moved to Dallas this past summer, as is probably clear, I did not choose to live downtown. I had my fill after logging four weeks at the Magnolia Hotel, which was perfectly nice, by the way. But a permanent place down here? Not interested. So I set up shop in East Dallas for various reasons, the main one being that I had one day to find a place because of this. It’s a nice apartment, perfectly enjoyable. But I’ll move when the lease is up. You know what’s less than stellar about Fakewood, where I reside? How darn long it takes to drive downtown, where my office resides. Lamster, you’ve got me there. But guess where I’m still not moving? Downtown. These are my reasons.

City living is awesome. I’ve done it. I love it. You know what downtown Dallas is not? A city in the true sense of the word. I believe the way I put it to Mark that night in HP is that if I’m going to live in a city and deal with the inconveniences that come with living in a city, then I want the conveniences, too. Those conveniences just aren’t there yet. There’s some solid (pretty pricey) dining downtown, but where is my bagel delivery or anything delivery? Where can I get an awesome slice of pizza? Where are the taxis to flag, or the trains that can easily take me to the grocery store or the mall? Where is the density? The nightlife? Why do I still need a car? It’s just not convenient yet. But we’re getting there.

I already wrote about I-345 this morning and the possibilities tearing it down could bring, so I won’t go back into that. I’ll leave it at this. Mark, I respect your desire to live downtown. I’m positive I didn’t say that before. I should have. But for the time being, I’ll still be just outside its confines.

And thanks for the steely-eyed characterization. I’ve already added it to my Twitter bio.

36 comments on “Why I Picked a Fight With the DMN’s Mark Lamster

  1. I’ve lived downtown for three years, and absolutely love it. You’re right, Cristina, in that you do still need a car to get around. However, my husband and I have been able to downgrade to only one car (and a scooter–which I go back and forth on loving and hating). People always ask how we get groceries. I always ask them, “How do you get your groceries?” Just like everyone else, we get in our car and go to the store. It’s not a big deal. Here are a few answers to the questions you pose:
    Not pricey dining: Pho, Wild Salsa, Chop House Burger, Cafe Strada, Sol, Wing Bucket, City Tavern, Porta, Campisi’s, and Press Box Grill (a lot of them deliver).
    Pizza: Porta or Campisi’s
    Taxis are there, but more convenient is Uber or Lyft. There’s also D-Link.
    Nightlife: go on a Thursday-Saturday. You’ll see plenty.
    To me, the best part of living downtown is the community. I grew up in the country outside of a very tiny town. Downtown feels like that tiny town to me. Every day after work, I meet my neighbors at Main Street Garden. Our dogs play, and we talk. We take our dogs home, and then pass each other on our way to grab something from CVS or at dinner. It’s like my hometown, but with fewer cattle.

  2. I got in a fight with Mark Lamster a couple of week ago, as well. He came up to me, sloshed, and started getting all up in my face… for reasons of legal liability, I can’t say what happened next. But…. I can assure you that Mr. Lamster didn’t make it out of that place without some serious locomotive assistance, if you know what I mean.

  3. For what it’s worth (probably not much), from a Brooklyn dweller who spent 2 years living in downtown Dallas, car free by choice:

    DART to Cityplace or Lovers Lane provides a short walk to several grocery store options (WalMart, Kroger, Central Market, Tom Thumb). I had my collapsible cart (an essential for life in any city (agreed, Dallas really isn’t one in the traditional sense)), and while my Brooklyn grocery store runs don’t require a train trip, the walking/carting leg is no different. And honestly, I kind of miss the Sunday afternoon train ride to the store. Nice excuse to be riding around reading instead of the quick drive back and forth to then go back to sitting and being bored at home in Dallas.

    If you’re still searching for a new place (sorry, haven’t read your other posts yet), my vote: the Cedars. It’s small, but the community there is the closest I found in Dallas to Brooklyn (which I can say very confidently I will be dragged out of again only when I die).

  4. I love my Casa View neighborhood. It’s quite diverse and a 20 minute commute to my office on Swiss. It’s a reasonable drive to Deep Ellum as well as Oak Cliff. My youngest son lives in Bishop Arts and loves the walking culture there. If I was starting over though, I think I’d move to Richardson, It’s not the lily white neighborhood of my high school years. It’s got that great international downtown now and the schools are excellent. But, we’re staying put in old East Dallas. Goodfriend Beer Garden, 20 Feet, Good 2 Go Taco and White Rock Market are all making this one great neighborhood.

  5. my lawyers are on to you, whd. the only locomotive assistance i require is dart.

  6. What is ‘Fakewood’?

    I’ve been wondering where Lamster sends his kid to school. I’m a big public school supporter, but MLK is distant and not acceptable for downtown. Is a South Brooklyn transplant really going to rub shoulders with First Baptist PTA members?

  7. Ah, I see. But aren’t most of those areas actually closer to downtown? Though I did see Candy Evans refer to Boy Scot Hill as being in Lakewood, and it is certainly a hike from the east side of the lake to downtown.

  8. Yep! I call it Fakewood mainly because it’s not as nice as Lakewood. And If 30 weren’t a parking a lot in the morning, it would actually be an easy drive in. But instead it takes a solid 25 minutes to go 5 miles on side streets most mornings.

  9. If Diogenes had been searching for a woman as honest as Cristina instead, he would have found her immediately and no one would have ever heard of him again. About f’ing time someone said what you did, CD.

    Dallas is a trading post. Downtown Dallas is the counter.

  10. I’m not sure I get the inconvenience versus convenience argument. If you consider any other neighborhood, except parts of Uptown, a neighborhood like downtown at worst would tie any other neighborhood, in certain, maybe even most categories. Yes, downtown doesn’t have a major grocery store or moderately priced retail, so like everyone else I have to get in a car for a whole 5 minutes. Lakewood 0, Downtown 0. But, the draw for people that currently live in downtown isn’t even the current list of conveniences that do exist, in which we would best neighborhoods like Lakewood, Oak Cliff, etc. (Living above Pho Colonial is just like, the greatest thing ever.) The real draw for people moving to downtown, Oak Cliff, West Dallas, The Cedars and Deep Ellum is the community of people that exist there. Moreover a community of people who want to work for their neighborhood and invest in it. This quote sums it up. “People want to move to a nice neighborhood, but no one wants to make their neighborhood nice.” We do.

  11. First, anyone who refers to their own neighborhood with a negative sentiment loses a couple points with me. If you can’t embrace the positive attributes of the place you live, especially when you’ve taken the time to write them down and, presumably, reread them, then how do you ever expect to embrace them when you are out and about with your fellow community members? I picture you like Charlie Brown when nothing is going his way and the rain cloud follows him where ever he goes.

    That said, I’ve lived in the ‘burbs (Las Colinas), uptown, Oak Cliff, Deep Ellum, and now Downtown. Every area has it’s positive and negative characteristics. Las Colinas lacked a community feel and was a long way from everything, but rent was cheaper and the waterways made for a nice walk. Uptown had a community feel (at least in our small area) and was close to a lot of dining and nightlife, but also close to a lot of $30k millionaire douchebags. Oak Cliff has a great community, great dining, is close enough to everything but far enough to feel like a neighborhood but has some pretty sketchy areas. Deep Ellum has some community, is very interesting, but not close to anything. Downtown has community, access to inexpensive dining, some fine dining, parks, and events. And like Krista said, uber is easy and convenient and dart and the d-link connect you with plenty of surrounding communities.

    And to say Downtown Dallas is a glorified, down-on-its-heels office park – when was the last time there was an event held in your neighborhood? Because we had one last elweekend.

  12. I admire your commitment to downtown, your wife’s, and, as I said, Mark Lamster’s. But as I’ve told Krista many times in the past, and as I said in this post, I love cities. I love living in cities. They are great and inconvenient and dense and wonderful on every night of the week, not just the weekend. Downtown Dallas is not a city in the traditional sense. I don’t care that you have pho underneath your apartment. That means nothing to me. I want people on the streets, awesome public transport, and taxis at the ready. I don’t want someone with a pink mustache on his or her car at the ready. Sorry.

  13. I’ve always loved the “where do you get groceries?” question.

    As if people in North Dallas are all just strolling to the local supermarket.

  14. That’s a very narrow view of Downtown, the culture is actually very diverse and constantly evolving. If you view downtown as a glorified, down on its heels office park, then all you will see are examples to support that. Try not to judge without fully seeing things from all angles. The world can be a beautiful and an ugly place, it’s up to you what to focus on, but to leave one without the other is being dishonest.

  15. Assuming you ever have days when you are just in the office (and maybe you don’t), that sounds like a good place for the DART bus (or a bike). Same time and a lot more pleasant.

  16. I totally agree, Downtown Dallas lacks in so many ways to more traditional cities. We’re probably a good decade away from anything remotely comparable to other major cities in the US. My point was that downtown isn’t substantially more or less convenient to any other neighborhood in North Texas. Each neighborhood has its own identity with pros and cons. It truly is hard to go wrong here. (I’ll hold off on ranting against the ‘burbs.) And, if you want those things, like awesome public trans and people, in a city, why pick a fight about it at all? Wouldn’t a better argument to Lamster be how great Lakewood (or whatever neighborhood you choose) is and not how far behind downtown is? I’m off to get Pho now.

  17. So it sounds like you could get absolutely everything you want with an easy walk/train ride to work in Uptown and yet you still moved to “fakewood” instead of taking advantage of what you claim to want because why? Because it is technically not in the CBD but separated by a few blocks with a free circular bus route and a free trolley between them if you didn’t feel like walking? If the city of Dallas called Uptown part of downtown what would your argument be?

  18. Cristina writes, “Downtown Dallas is not a city in the traditional sense.” That is fundamentally nuts. I’ll stop with that. No, I won’t, but I’ll be brief.

    It’s a town built a century ago, built around a core, a center, with spokes going outwards. There was housing, and downtown Dallas was happening until the ‘50s, when white flight and new suburbs started leading people away. Happened in Chicago 75 years earlier. Yes, urban housing then left Dallas, in ways it didn’t in the upper Midwest and northeast, but it happened in the southwest. That doesn’t mean Big D isn’t “a city in the traditional sense.” It just means we weren’t that big, and didn’t have the L train.

    To say Dallas isn’t a city in the traditional sense is a major misread. You’re in “Fakewood,” Cristina. I gather from comments that it’s “nearby” Lakewood. Why is it there? Why is Lakewood there? Why is HP and UP where they are? Why did farming communities like Plano and Frisco in the north, and Duncanville and Cedar Hill in the south, become suburbs? I think it’s because of that city in the traditional sense.

  19. It’s pretty hard to have a conversation like this in Dallas, because it will inevitably follow these two easy steps:

    1. 30 seconds of polite conversation
    2. Several hours of increasingly hostile emotional self-defense mechanisms about your neighborhood

    And I know this because I’m a frequent violator of the latter. Confessions.

  20. At last! The reason to live Downtown/Uptown I’ve been waiting for – the chance to finally enjoy a community of hectoring purity testers while watching turds cascade from the butt of Knightengale’s dog!

    But…will I measure up? Oh, dear, oh, dear.

  21. In my experience while living in Manhattan and Brooklyn, you never want to *live* downtown. Downtown Manhattan and downtown Brooklyn have a lot of offices, but are pretty much dead at night and can be rather scary after hours. You do, however, want to live close to downtown so you can walk or take public transportation to and from work.

    It’s those neighborhoods near downtown that are missing in Dallas. Even when I lived in Deep Ellum, walking (or biking) to and from work under the highways is difficult and Deep Ellum itself is missing a lot of the conveniences that I am used to in NYC. Uptown has all of that–shopping, eating, green space, groceries. I only wish there were more options than Uptown, in terms of convenience and location and not culture.

  22. I lived in Chicago, moved to Dallas for six years, then moved back to Chicago, where I’ve remained happily ever since. I completely agree with Cristina. And I feel kind of bad for the Dallas folks who are making a sincere effort to pull the city—or downtown at least—toward a denser, walkable model that’s alive 24/7. It’s not going to happen in your lifetime. Deep down, you’re aware of this, right? At best you’ll see small improvements that will require a disproportionate expenditure of effort. Dallas is going to continue to be what it is until there’s a significant shock to the expense of getting around by car.

  23. It’s a legitimate question, though it could be re-worded to “where do you go to do your grocery shopping?” FWIW, I live in a cookie cutter suburb and have three grocery stores and a farmer’s market all within easy walking distance of my house. The area restaurants are not my favorites but I should eat out less anyway. My hood will never pass for urban hip, but it has some aspects of walkability and no one even made an effort to do that.

  24. It’s changed quite a bit in just the last 7 – 10 years. Given that timeline, I think we will see it – - we may not Chicago, but then there are things about that place which I don’t like. Have you ever gone out on the town during the middle of the week in Manhattan? Many places are dead.