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Making Dallas Even Better

A New Plan For a Park Between the Trinity River Levees

Architecture critic Mark Lamster of the Morning News has taken a look at a new design by New York-based landscape architecture firm Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates for a park between the levees of the Trinity River downtown, and he says Dallas “finally has a serious plan” for the space:

If realized, it would stand as an urban landscape of unrivaled scale, a lush green sash that would reorient the essential polarity of the city, pointing it decisively inward toward the core.

The breakout success of Klyde Warren Park should stand as an example of just how desperate the city is for a unifying public space of recreation, entertainment and civic celebration. A reinvented Trinity would be exponentially more consequential in the suturing of a divided city.

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Leading Off (5/17/16)

Urban farm coming to downtown. There’s a vacant lot located between Deep Ellum and the Dallas Farmers Market that will likely become an urban farm by next year. Yesterday, the City Council’s Economic Development Committee concurred that this is a good idea. The urban farm will help returning veterans learn how to work the land and will provide fresh produce that people can purchase.

Wrong apartment set on fire, woman dies. 58-year-old Debra Williams died at Parkland from fire-related burns at her southeast Dallas apartment. The fire was set as revenge for a gang-related shooting, except it was meant for someone else. The gunman in the shooting was Christopher Deon Shaw, and police sources believe that someone set the fire thinking one of Shaw’s friends lived at the apartment.

I-30 Cedars exit to be closed for months. Eastbound I-30’s exit for Lamar Street, which takes drivers to downtown and The Cedars neighborhood, will close this Friday evening and will be closed until the fall. This closure is part of the Horseshoe Project, which aims to revamp where I-30 and I-35E meet.

Hail expected today. It’s been a hail-heavy rainy season. Today’s storms could bring quarter-sized hail to North Texas. And of course, a whole lot of rain.

Leading Off (5/10/16)

Southern Dallas woman who was mauled by dogs has died. 52-year-old Antoinette Brown was mauled on Rutledge Street by a pack of dogs on May 2 and was bitten more than 100 times. She died last night after being removed from life support. This truly horrific attack is yet another indicator that Dallas needs to get its loose-dog problem under control.

Continental avenue bridge might actually be renamed for ron kirk. The proposal to name the Continental Avenue bridge for former mayor Ron Kirk is getting closer to fruition. Yesterday, the City Council’s Transportation and Trinity River Project Committee voted (unanimously, no less) to bring the proposal to the entire council May 25.

Frisco woman has zika virus. She traveled outside the United States and has tested positive for the virus, which is spread by infected mosquitoes. This is the first confirmed case for Collin County, while Dallas County has had six confirmed cases this year. Zika’s most common symptoms include fever, joint pain, rash, and conjunctivitis.

Stars win to force game 7. They pulled out a 3-2 win against the Blues, which means Game 7 will actually happen. It will be the first Game 7 here at home since 2000 and the first overall Game 7 since 2007.

Queen Bey is flawless at Arlington show. I didn’t even attend, but that’s just a given. Seems like the Formation Tour is her best one yet.

Why It Is Not Enough for Fair Park Leadership to Merely ‘Cheer’ for South Dallas

Amidst all the hubbub over homelessness that has erupted over the past few days, I feel like an important article by Robert Wilonsky about Fair Park hasn’t received the attention it deserves. On Tuesday, Wilonsky wrote about the many parcels of land that the State Fair of Texas owns outside the boundaries of Fair Park. These lots are dispersed through the community of South Dallas. Some are unkempt, others vacant, and others used to enforce arbitrary parking restrictions. Like the moats of parking around Fair Park, these lots remain a real, active agent of disinvestment in a community that has been the victim of a bully neighbor for decades:

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The Triumph of Dallas-Fort Worth Regionalism

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution is following a group of about 100 leaders from the Atlanta metropolitan area who are in North Texas this week to see how we do business. Mayor Mike Rawlings addressed them last night at the Nasher:

“I’m a competitive guy – I played football,” said Rawlings. “And you are my main competition.”

He also made it clear he can make the argument that in the tussle between the two, he thinks the upper hand belongs to the 6.7 million person metro region known as DFW – for Dallas-Ft. Worth.

“We are basically one market now and DFW is the fourth-largest in market in the United States,” he said. “There’s New York, Los Angeles and Chicago and then there’s DFW.”

Earlier they’d met Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price, who told them “What is good for Fort Worth is good for Dallas, and vice versa.” And during that same visit:

Much of the change in Dallas and Fort Worth is a bow to reality, said Mike Eastland, executive director of the North Central Texas Council of Governments. “The world has forced us to act regionally.”

Is Anyone Else a Little Creeped Out By the Idea of a Homeless Concentration Camp?

Let’s get this out straight away: I don’t really know anything about homelessness. I haven’t read much of the literature. I haven’t studied initiatives in various cities around the country. And I tend to trust that most of the people who are engaged in all aspects of the fight against homelessness have their hearts in the right place. I think that places like City Square, Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance, and others are doing good work. I’d like to think the Bridge, which downtown residents love to hate, is also trying to do good work, even if it is easy to point to all of the problems Bridge residents create and see the Bridge as a magnet for trouble.

I also respect the neighbors downtown and in the Cedars who are faced with the brunt of what homelessness brings to a neighborhood: crime, petty theft, vagrancy, drugs, prostitution, irritating panhandling, and random ridiculousness like guys throwing rocks off overpasses. Those are the kinds of little crimes that can kill large scale, long term efforts to revitalize neighborhoods. And  I appreciate that neighbors can often feel at war with the very people who are trying to alleviate homelessness, like church-run soup kitchens that draw people through neighborhoods, creating makeshift pedestrian highways characterized by trash, petty theft, or worse.

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Dallas Street Stories Hopes to Give Voice to the City’s Homeless

Yasef was the first person we spoke to. After meeting him, I scribbled in my notes: “sad guy; red hat.” He was soft-spoken, downtrodden, and defeated. When I asked what he needed, the 6-foot-8-inch man said one thing: “clothes that fit me.”

We visited with a handful of other people in Tent City that day. And, when we left, Yasef and his group of friends called to us as we walked away. “Are you leaving?” one of the guys asked. “Yeah, but we’ll be back,” we promised. And then they all waved as we walked out.

I’ve lived and worked downtown for nearly six years. Lately I’ve been seeing a lot of social media chatter about the homeless in my neighborhood. The homeless have been called aggressive, carpetbaggers, and freeloaders. This all led to a crackdown on panhandling.

That hasn’t been my experience with the homeless downtown.

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Leading Off (5/3/16)

Dirk won’t leave the Mavs. Yesterday, the Big German said he will opt out of the last season of his three-year contract in order to help put together the Mavs’ roster for the following season. But first, he plans to re-sign with Dallas this summer for two seasons. The bad news is that Dirk can’t play basketball forever. The good news is that, as long as he is playing in the NBA, it will be in Dallas.

Arlington murder suspect turns himself in. 22-year-old Ricci Bradden is accused of fatally shooting T.J. Antell outside of a Walgreens in Arlington yesterday. This is sad.

Tent city exiles may have another option. As Tent City, the homeless encampment near downtown, is set to close for good today, those residents without a place to go may be able to soon move to an old naval base near Grand Prairie. Cedars Neighborhood Association president Michael Sitarzewski has proposed a sanctioned campsite at Hensley Field that would include tiny homes and various living facilities. City Council members have yet to review the proposal.

Is Downtown the New Uptown? A Chat With the New Head of Downtown Dallas Inc.

Kourtny Garrett has worked for Downtown Dallas Inc., the nonprofit that advocates for the businesses and residents of downtown and oversees programs to help keep it a clean and safe place, for more than 13 years.

In March it was announced that she has assumed the role of president of the organization and will take over as CEO come next January, when current chief executive John Crawford transitions into a new role as vice chairman.

After a recent visit to the Dallas Farmers Market blew my mind about how great that corner of the central business district is becoming, I asked Garrett to have a conversation (via instant message) about her unique vision for the future of DDI and the neighborhood. I share that with you now.

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An Absurd $4.6 Million Bridge Is Going Up Over Harry Hines

The DMN takes a look at why the city, county, state, and federal governments are pitching in to build a pedestrian path over Harry Hines Boulevard at Walnut Hill Lane, an area of town known for its strip clubs and other adult-oriented establishments:

Even the guy whose business is a few steps from the base of the bridge has no idea what the heck the thing’s doing there.

“I thought it was for the DART station,” said Song Kim, owner of Just for Play, the lingerie shop in Ravi’s Wholesale Plaza. Kim said Monday that he’d been in this spot for two years, and never once has anyone explained the point of this bridge.

The DART station’s a good guess. Dallas Area Rapid Transit has the Walnut Hill Green Line station on the other side of Harry Hines. But the bridge doesn’t connect to it. Denton Drive separates the light-rail station from the bridge.

The bridge’s backstory hides in plain sight: The fall 2014 issue of Utility Newsletter, the must-read published by the Dallas County Department of Public Works, tells us the bridge “will allow safer pedestrian and bicycle traffic along Harry Hines Boulevard and serve as an example of the modern transportation principles of sustainable and multimodal infrastructure.” There’s also a 2014 map from the North Central Texas Council of Governments that shows the pedestrian bridge as part of a much larger “Northwest Dallas Multimodal Connectivity” project built for the Asian Trade District.

Wishful thinking? Bureaucratic planning run amok?

How Well-Connected Is Your Home to Public Transit?

TransitCenter and the Center for Neighborhood Technology released a nifty little tool last week that allows you to gauge how well-connected any spot in the United States is by public transit. Plug in an address, and the All Transit database culls together information on access to jobs, number of commuters, workers near transit, and other curious factoids.

I haven’t dug into the data too deeply, but I did run the numbers on a few Texas cities just to see how Dallas’ public transit system stacks up. Leaving aside all the usual moaning and groaning over Dallas’ sub-par transit system, Dallas actually has the best performing public transit system in Texas according to the All Transit tool, with an overall performance score of 6.8. Houston comes in second with a 6.2, while Austin (5.5) and San Antonio (5.7) live up to their reputations as transit-challenged cities.

What does it all mean?

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Leading Off (4/19/16)

Continental Avenue bridge might be renamed. Soon, the pedestrian bridge might be called the Ronald Kirk Pedestrian Bridge, after the former Dallas mayor. The name change will be voted on next month.

Dallas not doing well in water conservation contest. Two years ago, the city won a national water conservation contest. Now, we’re ranked 12 out of 26. It’s true that water was more scarce then than it is now, but still.

Judge will rule on Exxxotica case. Was the City Council within its rights to ban the sex expo from the convention center? U.S. District Judge Sidney Fitzwater will decide. If Fitzwater rules in Exxxotica’s favor before the end of the week, the expo could still happen. If not, it would be too late this time. We’ll have to wait and see.

How ’bout them mavs? Their 85-84 victory over the Thunder in Game 2 yesterday was pretty crazy after the previous game’s intense humiliation. The rookies had a big night, and defense was strong. It’ll be tough to keep this going in the next game, but, hey, the Mavs have surprised us before.

Study Highlights the Poor State of Dallas’ Poorest Children

In a week when we’re all enjoying a bit of fun by hate-watching what Real Housewives of Dallas is doing to our city’s national reputation on the upper end of the income scales, the Austin-based Center For Public Policy Priorities think tank has released a study that reminds us just how badly off young Texans at the opposite end of the economic spectrum are. It also serves as a reminder of how racially and economically segregated our state remains.

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Leading Off (4/7/16)

Lewisville lake dam receives funding for improvements. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Congress members announced yesterday that $100-$200 million worth of construction to control water leakage under the troublesome dam will begin in 2018. In progress currently are repairs to the 160-foot-long hole in the dam, expected to be completed by summer’s end. Officials still insist that the “high-risk” dam—for which repairs have been significantly moved up—is safe, but hey, what do I know.

Tent city closure unresolved. The homeless encampment near downtown was set to be closed by May 4, but that’s looking unlikely now. The City Council could not come to an agreement about where the 200 people who live there would go. City Manager Gonzalez said he wants to begin gradually closing it in May, but I’m not sure how you go about gradually closing a homeless encampment.

FBI Pays a visit to investment firm. CDK Realty Advisors used to advise the Dallas Police and Fire Pension System, but now the pension system claims that the firm gave “reckless and improper” advice and charged fees that were inflated. The outcome of the investigation remains to be seen.

105-year-old throws out first pitch at Rangers game. Fort Worth resident Elizabeth Sullivan got to fulfill her baseball dream by throwing the first pitch yesterday. If only the Rangers had pulled out a win against the Mariners. I guess the group of D Magazine staffers that were in attendance didn’t bring quite enough good luck with them.