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Why Yesterday Was Such an Important Day for Dallas History

As Tim mentions in Leading Off, the Dallas Landmark Commission voted in favor of pursuing protection for a number of important historic sites and structures yesterday, choosing preservation over lazy private interests in each case. The decision to move a 19th century home in the Cedars, rather than bulldoze it for a parking lot, and to move towards designating the Meadows Building on Central Expressway as a historic landmark, thus protecting it from its current owner’s planned demolition of a wing, demonstrates a rare and welcomed willingness from a city board to stand up to private developers in the name of the public’s interest. And the move to protect Big Spring also showed that the commission is willing to step in on behalf of Dallas’ dwindling natural resource, even in a case where the chief threat to the preservation of that natural resource is the city itself.

Mark Lamster runs through all of this in a column, and I don’t have much to add to his thoughts, though it is worth highlighting a few of them:

If the Meadows isn’t a landmark, than nothing is. The commission’s unanimous vote in favor of designation was a heartening indication of this reality, and a welcome validation of its own responsibility. A landmarks commission that cannot protect a building like the Meadows is not worth its name, and serves no purpose.

Yesterday, Dallas demonstrated that it has a Landmark Commission with a purpose. That should be an encouraging source of optimism. Perhaps we are transitioning into a new kind of Dallas, a city that bucks the character cliches of its ensconced business-first civic mentality that has historically devalued not just history and nature, but the public oversight of municipal government to boot.

When Drivers Hit Pedestrians, Where Do We Lay the Moral Blame?

There’s a rather difficult to watch video over on NBCDFW which shows a dog being run over by an SUV in Oak Lawn. The incident happened at the corner of Cedar Springs Road and Throckmorton. Two women out walking their dogs on Saturday afternoon approach the intersection. The light is green, and as one of the women steps into the crosswalk, an SUV comes around the corner, runs over the dog, and skirts so close to the woman that she is knocked to the ground. The car drives away; the dog reportedly dies a few minutes after the video ends.

It’s an awful scene, but perhaps equally awful is reading the comments beneath the video and on Facebook. Many people who have watched the video have come to the conclusion that the woman walking the dog is at fault for what happened. They note that when she steps into the intersection, she is looking away from the oncoming car, perhaps at traffic on the far side of the road. As a result, she’s blindsided. She should have looked both ways, the comments argue. She should have kept her dog on a shorter leash, some suggest. Only, because this is the internet, the tone of many of the comments is snide and deriding. It’s ugly stuff.

Whose fault is it when someone gets hit by a car?

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Will the Knox Street Redo Move the Most Dangerous Valet Stand in Dallas?

Tomorrow the Dallas City Council is expected to approve the Complete Streets Design Manual, a long-gestating project that’s the result of a $400,000 federal grant received in 2010 that in turn spawned the city’s Complete Streets Initiative.

The resulting document (see it in the council’s posted agenda) is intended to serve as a “comprehensive policy guide for all public or private projects that impact the planning, design, construction, and operation of streets.”

You may recall that in September 2012, the city authorized an experiment — with the help of the Better Block Foundation — wherein Knox Street between Central Expressway and the Katy Trail was narrowed, with bike lanes added and street parking rearranged. That effort was part of the development of a vision of building “streets that are safe and comfortable for everyone: young and old; motorists and bicyclists; walker and wheelchair users; bus and train riders alike,” as the Complete Streets Design Manual puts it.

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This New Study Should End Downtown Dallas’ Parking Conversation

Anyone familiar with downtown Dallas knows about its parking paradox. According to many in the real estate community, there is simply not enough parking — such a lack, in fact, that it makes economic sense to build new parking garages to accommodate all of the cars that want to be downtown. On the other hand, take a walk through downtown and all you see is parking — huge expanses of lots, blocks and blocks of garages — so much so that parking is a major reason why downtown can feel so dead, vacant, and even dangerous.

I can appreciate why the real estate market responds to the issue of parking in the way it does. When you’re trying to fill up a giant skyscraper with office tenants, it is difficult to compete with buildings outside the central loop that can offer easy access to parking. The desire to add more parking downtown is part of a belief that if you make it easier to get to and park in downtown more people will come, and the area will thrive. But a new study shows just how backwards this thinking actually is.

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Why the Trinity River Project Remains Dallas’ Impossible Dream

If you haven’t been following the ongoing fiasco surrounding the Dallas Wave very closely, I don’t blame you. It has been particularly depressing and infuriating. Last week, the city council found out that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers threatened to shut off the city’s water supply if the city didn’t take immediate action to fix the white water feature that opened five years ago and was then swiftly closed because it was deemed too hazardous.

Today, Jim Schutze reports that some people inside city hall hoped to get Congress to exempt the river from a federal law regarding waterway navigation in order to get around the corps’ objections to the broken white water feature. You may remember that the city already managed to persuade Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson to slip a measure into a piece of federal legislation that exempts the stretch of the Trinity near downtown from all sorts of federal environmental oversight.

There are two pretty rich ironies floating around this latest scuttlebutt over the Dallas Wave.

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Report: Trinity Toll Road Will Make Regional Travel a Little Better, Mobility Within Dallas Worse

Brandon Formby shares newly released traffic estimates regarding the impact of the Trinity Parkway project:

According to North Texas traffic projections for 2035, drivers who pass through a 34.3-mile area around the road will collectively drive 8 million miles a day if Trinity Parkway is built. But they’ll only drive 7 million miles a day that same year if it isn’t. And while the toll road’s existence is expected to help drivers around the urban core spend 4,817 fewer hours sitting in traffic jams each day, the time they’ll spend driving overall will jump about 11,677 hours a day.

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Leading Off (1/21/16)

Ethan Couch to return to U.S. soon. Yesterday, his attorneys said they expect Couch to be present at his Tarrant County probation hearing on February 19. They also said Couch’s legal team in Mexico will not attempt to block his return to the U.S. anymore. We’ll find out soon enough if Couch’s case will be transferred from juvenile to adult court.

Gaylord Texan primed for $120 million expansion. The Grapevine hotel’s owner announced yesterday that the planned expansion for the Gaylord Texan will make it the second-largest hotel in Texas and one of the country’s biggest non-gaming convention hotels. 300 guest rooms will be added to the 1,511 rooms currently at the Gaylord.

Dallas seeking new fire-rescue chief. The city will pay search firm Affion Public $24,000 to help Dallas Fire-Rescue continue to search for a new fire chief as Chief Louie Bright III will retire in March. The job will be posted for 30 days.

city streets still bad, says Rawlings. Dallas City Council during a meeting said that 37,656 potholes had been patched on Dallas streets over the past year or so. But Mayor Rawlings didn’t seem to be as content with that as the city council was. Although it was contended that the streets did not get any worse than they had been, Rawlings said that keeping streets in bad condition is not the goal. At least spending on streets will be up in 2016.

Airbnb Ranks Oak Lawn One of World’s Trendiest Neighborhoods in 2016

Short-term lodging service Airbnb last week put out a list of the “Top 16 Trending Neighborhoods on Airbnb in 2016.” It’s based on how much growth the site saw in bookings to those neighborhoods during 2015. The top finisher was Chūō-ku in Osaka, Japan, which accommodated 7,000 percent more travelers through Airbnb than it had the previous year.

I was surprised to find I have a personal connection to three of the 16. I lived in District VII of Budapest, Hungary, during one semester of college. I worked in the Richmond area of Melbourne, Australia, for a brief time to help finance a backpacking trip around that country. And I resided in a duplex in Dallas’ Oak Lawn for more than nine years.

That’s right: Of all the neighborhoods in all the world, Oak Lawn is the 11th-trendiest in Airbnb’s reckoning, boasting 260-percent growth in visitors. Only it’s probably not the Oak Lawn you’re thinking of. Look at the results you get when you filter for “Oak Lawn” on Airbnb’s map:

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Why We Should Make Northwest Highway a Parkway

Over on Preston Hollow People, a fellow named Wick Allison, who used to write occasionally on FrontBurner, weighs in on how to fix the stretch of Northwest Highway that runs past Preston Center:

There is a solution that can be implemented now to transform Northwest Highway into the neighborhood Main Street it should be. That solution is to redesign the roadway to reduce the out-of-neighborhood traffic that now uses it.

That solution is easy because it is already happening. In 2014, Northwest Highway carried 48,303 vehicles through Preston Hollow. The historical average has been 56,535. In 2002, TxDOT measured 62,353 vehicles, which may have been its peak.

Contrary to perception, traffic on Northwest Highway is down more than 14 percent in the last 12 years. From its peak, traffic is down 22 percent. To quote Yogi Berra, “Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.”

Another Week, Another Abominable Story About a Historic Teardown

Is there even a point in getting angry anymore? I mean, there have been so many stories about Dallas erasing its past that the immediate spike in my blood pressure that came after reading about the latest pending tear down of a historic structure seems like a complete waste of energy. I thought this city was beyond this, all the trashing of itself for the sake of the stupid. But apparently not.

The latest? Well, one of my favorite buildings in the city, the Meadows Building on Central Expressway, is going to have one of its wings “amputated.” To be fair, it’s not a Dallasite to blame. The Chicago real estate company GlenStar Properties wants to tear down the three story section of the Meadows that runs parallel to Greenville Ave. Why? The ugly-as-hell Davaco/Energy Square building that sits behind it is tough to get to, so GlenStar is going to tear down a chunk of the Meadows to make a driveway.

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Oak Cliff Ice House Demonstrates Need to Expand City’s Registry of Historic Places

Before it grew into the global corporate behemoth known as 7-Eleven, the Southland Ice Company was founded in a little shack at the corner of Edgefield and 12th in Oak Cliff. As the convenience store chain grew, it expanded operations, eventually constructing a much larger ice house on the corner of Page and Polk streets just a few blocks south of the original location. The building was started in 1908 and completed in 1915. Through the late-1990s and 2000s, the old Southland Ice Company ice house served as a cultural center. Since then, the building has sat vacant. And you know what we do in Dallas when historic buildings sit vacant: we tear them down.

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Will New Arts District Plan Fare Better Than Sasaki’s Original Vision?

The Dallas Arts District, the nonprofit organization that advocates for the northeast corner of downtown, put out a press release this morning announcing that it had selected design firm NBBJ to create a new Community Development Plan.

Whatever NBBJ comes up with will replace the Sasaki Plan, which has been the district’s planning guide since 1983. How much of Sasaki’s vision has come to fruition? Well, here’s the firm’s description of Flora Street:

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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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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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