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Making Dallas Even Better

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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Proof That ‘Far East Dallas’ Does Not Exist

Lately I’ve noticed what seems like an increasingly frequent use of the phrase “Far East Dallas” by the Dallas Morning News. It’s especially apparent in crime stories, like today’s about a man shot dead at an apartment complex, or a few weeks back when two women were killed in a house.

My assumption had been that “Far East Dallas” was being defined as east of Ferguson Road, but then there’s the story about marijuana plants found in a house that’s closer to Garland Road. That place, in fact, isn’t far at all from the Walgreen’s where Zoe Hastings was abducted, yet the store’s location is only ever referred to as “near White Rock Lake.” So is Garland Road the dividing line — or the railroad tracks that run just east of there?

However the DMN is going about it, they’re wrong. I’d argue that “Far East Dallas” does not exist.

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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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Downtown Plano Wins National Award

StreetSmart has more on the honor from the American Planning Association:

Downtown Plano, as a leader in suburban downtown revitalization, represents a shifting tide where downtowns are no longer single purpose CBDs or simply for quaint antique shopping.  Instead, as the award suggests, downtowns are for living again.  Where old and new fit together seamlessly and cooperatively towards making for a better place for residents, workers, and experience for visitors.

Dallas Neighborhood Guides: Now More Crime!

To be more precise, not actually more crime — more crime data.

We’ve added several more neighborhood guides to our collectionSouth Dallas-Fair Park, Bluffview, Devonshire, Greenway Parks, Lakewood Heights, Wilshire Heights, Hollywood Heights-Santa Monica, and Casa Linda.

Not only that, but these and all our existing guides have been further enhanced with neighborhood-specific maps of Dallas Police incidents from the last two weeks that will update as new crimes are reported.

Let us know what you think:  neighborhoods@dmagazine.com

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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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What Is New Urbanism?

As Peter mentioned last week, more and more people are getting involved with the conversation about how our city should be built. That was obvious on Friday when the Sixth Floor Museum filled with people for AIA’s DFW Urban Summit, and Main Street was overtaken by people activating parking spots for Park(ing) Day.

If you’re still wondering what New Urbanism is, or how you can take part in it, check out The New Urbanism three-week series presented by the Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture. Monte Anderson, president of Options Real Estate, and Patrick Kennedy, partner of Space Between Design Studio, will be teaching the classes. The Institute has made the first class free, so you have no excuse for not going. Register here for the three-week series.

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Programming Note: Learn More About The New Urbanism

Throughout much of Dallas’ history, urban planning was a top-down affair. Business leaders, transportation officials, and political folk drew up plans for Dallas, and those plans sat around and got haphazardly implemented. But in recent years, things like the Trinity River Project, the boulevarding of I-345, and development from Oak Cliff to East Dallas to Preston Center have seen more and more groups, developers, organizations, and citizens taking an active role in participating in the broadening dialogue around urban issues, rethinking some of the assumptions that have contributed to the shaping of Dallas as it is today.

And with that interest comes events. The latest is going on today at the Sixth Floor Museum, where AIA Dallas is hosting its 2015 Urban Summit. The theme, “Going BIG with Small Steps,” would have been anathema to the Dallas of the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, but it is increasingly being understood that small, incisive projects can sometimes be more profoundly transformative than large, very expensive projects like the Trinity River Park.

If you missed out on AIA’s event, then you may want to jump over and register for another event, a three week course on The New Urbanism that the Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture will kick-off on September 28. Leading the seminar are a couple of familiar names, Patrick Kennedy and Monte Anderson. Find our more here.

Preservation Dallas Announces 2015 Endangered Places List

As we mentioned last month, Preservation Dallas decided to designate “Most Endangered Historic Places” in the city for the first time in five years. The list has just been announced.

It includes a Swiss Avenue house that’s been in use as a wedding venue (against the wishes of neighbors), Highland Park ISD schools that are set to be rebuilt if a bond is approved this November, the Forest Theater, Norman Brinker’s first restaurant, “historic cemeteries” like McCree in Lake Highlands, and “low-rise” downtown buildings whose protection would help ensure a sense of “human scale” to the city center.

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