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Making Dallas Even Better

Leading Off (12/17/15)

DART discusses new downtown line today. Two public meetings today will be held to talk about the second downtown Dallas light-rail route. Which path the route will take is still up in the air: Dallas City Council and the DART board prefer one along Jackson Street as opposed to another proposed route along Young Street. Wood Street is a third option. May the best light-rail route win.

Former Oak Cliff teacher accused of assaulting 7-year-old girl. 65-year-old John Graham Leddy, a former Oak Cliff charter school teacher, was arrested by DPD on the charge of sexually assaulting a girl, 7 at the time, earlier this year. Leddy, who taught bilingual classes at Life School, confessed to the abuse. He met the girl while tutoring her 10-year-old brother after school and assaulted her in different classrooms after bribing her with candy bars. Absolutely vile.

New arts district tower in the works. Lincoln Property is breaking ground on an office high-rise, 25 stories tall, at the corner of Woodall Rogers and Pearl, right next to the Meyerson. It will be 260,000 square feet of metal and glass and is set to open in 18 months. The building will include restaurants, retail areas, and a whole lot of office space—another ironic addition to the Arts District.

Salvation Army receives 95 silver dollars, or $1,400. A Salvation Army red kettle outside a Mansfield Kroger got a larger-than-usual donation this week. Between two trips, a woman gave 95 silver dollars, the equivalent of $1,400, to the outpost. She told the bell ringer that the dollars were part of her husband’s estate. When compared to the Salvation Army’s average net of $300 a day per red kettle, this was a particularly generous gift that will go toward giving Christmas items to those in need.

Podcast: Bobby Abtahi on How He Got Kicked Off a Virgin America Flight

Let’s make this crystal clear right from the start: Prominent Dallas lawyer Robert Abtahi, who goes by “Bobby,” no longer owns the URL www.bobbyfordallas.com. That much we know. And yet questions remain.

Primarily those questions center on the national-news-making incident in which Abtahi, an American of Persian descent, was denied his seat on a Virgin America flight from New York to Dallas last week. During our conversation at the Old Monk, Abtahi shared never-before-revealed details about what went down that day. #seaturtles

After that segment, stick around and behold Zac Crain unplugged. Listen to the full show below, or subscribe via iTunes or Stitcher.

But first, please note:

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Toronto Scraps Highway Teardown, Opts for Skaters Under the Overpass

However smart, no one said tearing down highways was easy. And so while the city of Toronto had been mulling a demolition of Gardiner Expressway, an elevated highway that separates a stretch of the city from its Lake Ontario waterfront, in the end the city opted not to kill the road. Too bad.

So, time for plan B: a proposed park the city hopes to develop under the elevated freeway. I point you to this idea for three reasons.

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What Dallas Can Learn From Syracuse

The Atlantic visits Syracuse, New York, where decades ago an elevated highway was built that destroyed neighborhoods and enabled the flight of the middle-class to the suburbs. The city has seen its poverty rate soar as a result.

The section of highway in question — part of  Interstate 81 — is showing its age and in need of repair or replacement. Long-suffering FrontBurnervians will understand what this has to to with Dallas. Only the situation is somewhat different in Syracuse because there the offending highway almost certainly will have to come down:

An opportunity to try and reverse some of the decades of decay has recently presented itself. The state of New York now says that I-81, the highway that was built in the 1960s and displaced the 15th ward, is reaching the end of its useful life. The state and region are currently debating proposals about what to do with the road.

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Poll: Would You Ride a Bullet Train That Doesn’t Reach Downtown Houston?

We learned last week that the Dallas-to-Houston bullet train is likely not to see its southern terminus reach downtown Houston but will instead stop at that city’s Northwest Mall, which is along Interstate 610 loop, just south of U.S Highway 290 — about an 8-mile drive from downtown. The reason is that the environmental impact of taking a train through the neighborhoods that would be affected by the closing of that distance are too costly.

Houston’s METRORail doesn’t connect to Northwest Mall. According to Google, this is the public transportation option available for getting from there to downtown:

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88-Year-Old Building in Bishop Arts Demolished Because, Well, Dallas

I’m going to try to restrain my anger in this post as best as I can, but my blood is boiling. This morning on Facebook rumors started to spread that a 1927 brick building on Davis. St. in the Bishop Arts was set to be demolished today. I was a bit baffled and reached out to a few people in the know. There hadn’t been any coverage of a proposed demolition and none of Oak Cliff’s characteristically combative neighborhood advocates had sounded the alarm that a historic building in the community was about to be bulldozed. I put a call into the owner of the building in question, but hadn’t heard back before Rachel Stone broke the news over on the Oak Cliff Advocate. Yes, it’s true. A building in the Bishop Arts is being demolished.

Why?

Why do you think? This is Dallas. The answer is always the same: mother ducking parking.

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Why Downtown Dallas Still Can’t Solve Its Parking ‘Problem’

Here we go again. Dallas is worried it has a downtown parking problem. In the wake of the update of the downtown 360 study, the city now wants to hire a consultant to tell us how to fix this perennial impediment to downtown’s success.

I don’t have much to add to Mark Lamster’s assessment of the plan. As the DMN’s architecture critic argues, the move to hire a parking consultant completely misses the point. “Dallas doesn’t principally have parking problem” Lamster writes. “It has a downtown Dallas problem.”

The reason there is a logical disconnect between those who argue that downtown is a sea of empty parking lots and those who argue that there isn’t enough parking is that we continue to see parking as a cause of downtown’s shortcomings, rather than symptom. Lamster argues that rather than addressing parking, downtown boosters and the city should focus on improving the things that make downtown unique:

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Who Has a Better Rail Transit, Houston or Dallas?

Dallas’ public transit system has been getting a little attention of late. There’s the ongoing kerfuffle about the suburban bus rival that isn’t panning out to be as much of a competitor to the regional transit system. In October, the PBS Newshour produced a lengthy report on DART’s successes and shortcomings. Now there’s a new report out of the Kinder Institute that takes a look at Houston and Dallas’ divergent philosophies towards transit development.

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Exclusive: DART Rolls Out New Fleet of ‘D-Link’ Buses to Deep Ellum

Well, here’s some incredible news coming out of DART this morning. Today, Dallas Area Rapid Transit, using powers granted exclusively to public transit entities that allow them to manipulate the very fabric of space and time, have announced not just a D-Link to Deep Ellum and the Farmers Market, but AN ENTIRE FLEET of D-Link buses that serve Deep Ellum and connect it to East Dallas, West Dallas, Oak Cliff, and South Dallas.

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How We Can Still Save the Half-Built Trinity River Project

That photo above is a Google maps shot of a house that sits on the corner of Marlborough Ave. and Davis St. in Oak Cliff. It has more or less looked like that for the better part of five years. The house is the ultimate DIY project. As Rachel Stone reported in the Oak Cliff Advocate earlier this year, Ricardo Torres bought the house in 2008 and set about building his dream home. Torres is a crafty guy. He started from scratch with a plan for a two story home. Then he realized that if he added a third story, he could have a downtown view. You know what would also be cool? A game room. So he tacked on one of those, and the house grew like a drawing in a Dr. Seuss book.

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Harry LaRosiliere Shows Suburbs How to Mayor

Following up on yesterday’s effusive Plano love fest, I wanted to point to some interesting points raised by Eric Nicholson on the blog formerly known as Unfair Park. Plano’s new comprehensive plan, which controversially calls for denser development along corridors and throughout the city, has drawn plenty of criticism from suburbanites who fear that more apartment dwellers in their communities could harm schools and property values. That hasn’t fazed Plano Mayor Harry LaRosiliere, who has been the champion of the Plano Tomorrow plan. Sure, he’s shown guts, dismissing opposition as “noise” and keeping the city focused and on track. But his leadership is all the more impressive considering the recent track record of suburban DFW mayors:

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Plano Just Showed Dallas How to Run a City

There is a battle raging in Plano, a healthy and necessary one, as the suburban city moves forward with its new comprehensive plan. The policy document was approved by Plano’s council yesterday, even though hundreds of residents showed up to oppose it. The contention is understandable. The new plan sets an ambitious course for a more urban future in the community that, through the 1980s and 1990s, served as DFW’s archetypal suburban community. The new land use proposals still call for reserving a little over 50 percent of Plano’s land for suburban neighborhoods. But the city that is running out of vacant land also hopes to add a lot of dense, mixed-use infill development.

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Ask John Neely Bryan: What Place Do Highways Have in a Great City?

Question: What makes a great city? — TxDOT

It could be argued — and it should be, for what follows is the undoubted truth of the matter — that Dallas’ greatness reached its zenith shortly after a visionary entrepreneur from Tennessee first established a settlement near the banks of the mighty Trinity some 170-odd years ago.

Understand that this is not to imply that our city has lost any of its power to inspire the virtuous and strike fear into the hearts of the wicked in the intervening decades. It has, in point of fact, been rocking along pretty well since.

My point, such as it is, is that Dallas became the most remarkable urban center ever known to God or man (in the history of forever) before asphalt roads had so much as had been first dreamt up — as I recollect, by some mid-19th century science fiction writer. Roads, Mr. TxDOT, do not make cities great.

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Ask John Neely Bryan: Decluttering Mockingbird, the Ugliest Street in Dallas

Question: What the holy heck happened with those pendant lights on Mockingbird? A few years ago, Patrick Kennedy wrote about the eyesores. A few months later, most of the broken lights were fixed. But then they started going out again. And now most of the poles have been removed — but not all of them. So did the city just give up or what? — Joe C.

Whoa there, boy. I can read the barely disguised resentment hidden between the lines of your message. You’re right to feel angry, embarrassed, even a little ashamed, about how deeply hurt you were that last week I didn’t see fit to communicate with my public in this space as per usual.

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Historic Buildings Are Now a Little Safer in Dallas (Sort of)

Dallas has a brand spanking new ordinance designed to help prevent the midnight demolition of the city’s historic buildings. The Dallas City Council passed a demolition delay ordinance which will force a mandatory review period after a developer files for a demolition permit that will allow the city to double check to make sure that the building is not, well, historic. Here’s how it will work, via the Dallas Wilonsky News report:

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