Find a back issue

Making Dallas Even Better

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.

Read More

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?

Read More

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.

Read More

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.

Does the Federal Government Really Have the Power to Wage War on Divisive Highways?

The big news in the world of transportation policy this week has been the somewhat landmark announcement by U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx that the federal government will set about addressing the impact urban highways have on cities. In short, Foxx — who grew up in a predominately African-American neighborhood in Charlotte, North Carolina, that was walled off by highways — wants to stop building and expanding highways that cut people off from jobs and opportunity. To that end, the U.S. Department of Transportation launched its Ladders of Opportunity initiative.

Read More

Ask John Neely Bryan: When Did Parts of Oak Lawn Become Uptown?

Question: Why are large parts of Oak Lawn now called “Uptown”? Just wanted some clarification. — Ronnie W.

I shall forgive your ignorance about the Great Secession of Uptown, since that partition of what was once a united neighborhood (Oak Lawn) was not precipitated by a singular event — like say, the election of Abraham Lincoln — but was instead accomplished by a slowly advancing army of associated developer and city initiatives. Beginning, it could be argued, with the re-introduction of the McKinney Avenue Trolley in 1989.

Read More

U.S. Census, Your Eyes Say a Lot of People Are Moving to Dallas-Fort Worth

The U.S. Census has released new estimates showing population changes in the nation’s metropolitan areas between July 2014 and July 2015. Unless you’re a newbie to North Texas, you’ll likely not be surprised to find that Dallas-Fort Worth netted the second-biggest gain in number of residents during that period: 144,704.

Only Swamp City, Texas, did better (about 10%) in that measure. And if you total up those numbers with the population gains of Austin and San Antonio, those four metros alone added more people than any other entire state in the union.

If only there were some resource that all these newcomers could turn to for an orientation to life in North Texas — like, say, a beautifully produced guide from the publishers of Dallas’ city magazine, on newsstands now.

Read More

The Real ‘Dallas Way’: Illogical, Absurdist Thinking

Here’s a pretty efficient summary of why the Trinity River Project is completely bonkers via DMN architecture critic Mark Lamster.

Only in Dallas would you design a highway in a park, and only in Dallas would you design a highway in a park before designing the park itself. Or even developing a general concept of that park, much less creating an authority that might actually be charged with building and paying for it.

No wonder, then, that we have a project that has been meandering along for the better part of two decades with no tangible result beyond an endless series of conflicting reports, studies, and briefing documents.

As I mentioned yesterday, other places don’t think like this. The Dallas Way of doing things has been alternatively described as bold thinking bolstered by a relentlessly entrepreneurial can-do spirit or — as Ambassador Ron Kirk recently put it — inefficiency brought on by endless bickering between  interest groups. But the reality is “the Dallas Way” describes a city so mired in the overreach of private interests and a city government set up to cater to those interests that it produces plainly and absurdly dysfunctional thinking.

Read More

Meanwhile in New York, Governor Dedicates $40 Million for Parkway Removal

While we in Dallas debate whether or not to build a billion dollar road in the Trinity River flood plain, the city of Niagara Falls, NY is planning to tear out their own four lane highway because it separates the city from its waterfront.

The Robert Moses Parkway (yes, that Robert Moses) was opened in the 1960s, and it was constructed as a way to bypass Niagara Falls, looping around the city’s downtown and cutting off access to the adjacent Niagara Gorge. Its removal will allow the land formerly occupied by the highway to be turned into trails and green space.

Read More

As Mayor Seeks Public Input on Trinity Road, It Is Time for the Project to Truly Evolve

The Dallas City Council’s transportation committee just wound up its briefing on the now-vetted plans put forth by the mayor’s so-called “Dream Team” of urban designers to rethink the Trinity Toll Road. There’s much to sort through in the back-and-forth conversation that unfolded this morning between council members, city staff, and the members of an oversight committee that was appointed to review the early technical adaptations of the conceptual plans for the road. I won’t get into all of it in too much detail here, but here are the key takeaways from my perspective.

Read More

The Racist Legacy of America’s Inner-City Highways

There’s an article on Vox today that offers a concise summary of just how we went from being a nation of streetcar riders to a nation of long haul auto commuters. Its a familiar story to anyone who knows the history of urbanism in the 20th century. First came pressure from the auto industry to build new roads for their cars, resulting in a push for public funding of “freeways.” Then came the vision of a future America modeled after the modernist Utopian dream so compellingly depicted in General Motor’s Futurama exhibit at the 1939 Worlds Fair.

With public sentiment favoring a world made easy by zipping to and from suburban homes and downtown offices on ribbons of concrete — and a booming post-war economy that made car ownership more possible — President Eisenhower signed the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956, kick-starting the interstate system. Eisenhower didn’t want the highways to extend into the cities, but once he signed the federal legislation, the highway engineers took over. There was no turning back.

In America’s cities, highways became more than a transportation amenity.

Read More

Jim Schutze’s Modest Proposal to the Dallas Morning News

Get your popcorn ready. Jim Schutze just played a fairly entertaining rhetorical chess opener. Call it the “Preservationist Queen’s Gambit,” the “Sicilian Architectural Defense.” Let’s set the board:

The Dallas Morning News has been a champion of historic preservation, pounding its fist whenever an old building in this city comes under threat. Most recently, they have caused a worthy ruckus over a 19th century home in the Cedars and the proposed desecration of the Meadows Building. Schutze argues that their outspoken ire over old buildings feels out-of-scale when considering the extent of child poverty in Dallas, but I don’t see why the two things have to be mutually exclusive. Both indicate an aspect of the city’s character that ignores its obligation to reconcile with historic realities while favoring the numbing feeling that comes with swallowing well-marketed visions of future fantasies. But I digress.

The point is, the DMN likes old buildings. Enter into the mix the news that the DMN may soon move out of its own historically significant home.

Read More