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Making Dallas Even Better

Surprising No One, Oak Cliff-ers Angry About Planned Uptown-Style Development

A Change.org petition protesting Alamo Manhattan’s planned “Bishop Arts Gateway” development has garnered more than 300 signatures in just 3 hours. Signers oppose plans for a five-story, mixed-use development that would be constructed near the intersection of Zang and Davis St., at the site of the terminus of the future phase 2 extension of the Oak Cliff Streetcar. Those plans don’t share the neighborhood’s “vibe,” the petition says, and signers “believe that the ‘locally owned “organic” businesses’, as you put it, are happy where they are currently located, do not need to be displaced, and do not want to be your tenants.”

As I reported in the April edition of D Magazine, the neighborhood has been bracing itself for this moment.

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An Open Letter to Tim Headington, RE: Forty Five Ten

Dear Mr. Headington:

I read in the paper that you would like to receive nearly $1 million in public funding (TIF incentives) from the city of Dallas to use towards the development of a new location for upscale retailer Forty Five Ten in downtown Dallas.

I also read that your request has already prompted some backlash. The Dallas Morning NewsMark Lamster called it “chutzpah” on Twitter to ask for public funds to replace the historic buildings your company razed to make way for the new store. Then the DMN’s Tod Robberson wrote a column reiterating how terrible it was that you destroyed the historic buildings. Even on this blog, Krista, a downtown resident, expressed her concerns that your little four story building is going to block light, and City Councilman Philip Kingston chimed in with his desire to advance regulations about residential adjacency.

I know you are a very private guy, and I know that you really don’t like this kind of attention. You were not happy about catching so much flak for destroying those historic buildings in the first place. After all, you followed all of the correct procedures and got all the right approvals. The press even knew months in advance. And yet, as your TIF application begins to make its way through the approval process, it looks like you’re going to have to brace yourself for another round of criticism all because of some crumby old buildings that, let’s face it, weren’t exactly on par with the Parthenon.

What happened? You were the darling of downtown, like, 10 minutes ago.

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The Dallas Morning News Still Can’t Tell Dallas Apart From Dallas-Fort Worth

It’s the kind of rosy economic news we’re used to reading, an article proclaiming Dallas as the “nation’s most business friendly city.” Typically, I’d gloss over such a headline because I already know what’s in store. The story will probably contain a link to some study that uses vaguely scientific metrics to create a clickable list. You post, sit back, and let the internet work its magic.

But after spending much of the weekend at the tax-funded Omni, explaining to a bunch of editors from other cities just how “business friendly” Dallas’ political culture is, that phrase jumped-out at me. I wanted to see how they attempted to quantify “friendliness,” so I clicked through.

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Waitin’ Around For the Trinity Toll Road to Die

Over the next month or so, the City of Dallas will host numerous public meetings to present the Dream Team’s vision for the Trinity River Toll Road and receive community feedback about those plans.

I attended the second meeting, which was held in an area of Dallas about as far from the river as you can get and still technically be in the city of Dallas. Parkhill Junior High School is in the middle of a neighborhood of low slung 1970s ranch houses not too far from the Prestonwood Country Club and the city of Addison. It’s a staggeringly bucolic setting. Walking from the car to the school, the air was still and quiet — nearly silent — and the only sound was the chirping of birds and the muffled chattering of a few students far off by the sports fields.

Despite the distance between this part of Dallas and the center of the city, more than 60 people showed up to the meeting and many brought with them strong opinions about what should — or should not — happen in the floodway.

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The DMA Will Open Its North Entrance to Klyde Warren Park

The Dallas Museum of Art announced today the receipt of a $3 million grant from the Eagle Family to fund the renovation of the museum’s north entrance, which faces Klyde Warren Park.

Paired with an additional $1.3 million from the Hamon Charitable Foundation, the plans will transform the area outside of the museum’s Atrium Cafe into a plaza with outdoor seating for the restaurant. In addition, the driveways allowing access to the museum’s underground parking garage will be reconfigured, making room for wider sidewalks and new landscaping that are intended to create improved pedestrian access and flow between the park and the front of the DMA.  Henry Moore’s Two Piece Reclining Figure, No. 3 , which has been sitting in small traffic roundabout for years, will be mercifully relocated to the sculpture garden, though Miguel Covarrubias’ mosaic, Genesis, The Gift of Life, will remain in place. Construction begins in August.

It’s certainly looks like an improvement over what’s there today, though not as much of an improvement as completely eliminating the driveway could have been. Still, that’s likely an unrealistic solution, not only because of the logistics of the parking garage layout, but also because that garage must now be quite the cash cow thanks to the thousands of people flocking to Klyde Warren Park.

Here’s the full release:

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Michael Morris Knows Which Way the Wind Is Blowing

In case you missed yesterday’s Dallas Morning News story:

North Central Texas Council of Governments transportation director Michael Morris told the Young Constructors Council of the TECO construction association last week that instead of an ever-extending transit network, the solution is dense infill developments where highway capacity and rail service already exist.

“The more development you can get to locate to areas that already have adequate transportation, the less you have to then build in the green-field areas,” Morris said in a subsequent interview.

And:

Frisco has $5 billion worth of mixed-use, high-density development planned along the Dallas North Tollway. But the city, like most of Collin County’s fastest growers, isn’t a member of one of the region’s three primary transit agencies.

But with political and financial barriers to fully joining Dallas Area Rapid Transit, it doesn’t appear that rail service is in those cities’ immediate future. That worries Morris, the regional transportation director, especially because Collin County is expected to double in population within a few decades.

The migration is expected to put the population center of the region along Dallas County’s borders with Denton and Collin counties.

“How are you going to move all those people without the benefits of rail transit?” he said.

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We Can’t Let Our Guard Down When it Comes to the Trinity Toll Road

Goodness, a bunch of dust has been kicked-up by a little bit of flooding. The past week’s rains have come just at the right time to spark a whole lot of silly talk about flooding and toll roads and Trinity River Project plans. Opponents of the road are circulating memes that use the floods as an excuse to dance on the road’s supposed watery grave — look, the floodway floods! Over at the Dallas Morning News, a couple of editorial writers try to throw water on the fires of panic and hyperbole. A couple of days ago, Rodger Jones made the somewhat obvious point that yes, we can build a road in a flood plain and make sure it doesn’t flood. Today, Rudy Bush chimes in, reiterating his support of the Beasley Plan and attempting to calm everyone down by saying that a road that occasionally floods isn’t the end of the world, let alone the end of plans for a road in the Trinity River watershed.

However, as I wrote earlier this week, I don’t think anyone believes that we can’t build a road that doesn’t flood. Surely the world has seen greater engineering marvels. The question is whether or not this particular road plan is a stupid idea.

Let’s leave that conversation for another day. Here’s the point I want to make: I’m a bit concerned by both Jones and Bush’s eagerness to call Alternative 3C – the engineering plans for a massive highway with high-five style exit ramps flying every which way – over and done.

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Did You Miss the Annual Congress for the New Urbanism in Dallas? Well, Watch it Online.

You may recall that the Congress for the New Urbanism held its annual conference in Dallas this year, which was a treat for local urban wonks. For those of you who, like me, didn’t catch as much of the conference as you would have otherwise liked to, you’re in luck. The CNU has uploaded 16 sessions onto YouTube. That’s a lot of hours of urban chatter to sift through, and it may be difficult to figure out where to start. How about with
“Walkable Urban Premiums & Gentrification: Good News or Bad?”

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Should We Really Be Trying to Build a Park in the Trinity?

I was out of town last week so I missed much of the rainfall that has now transformed the Trinity River flood plain into a broad, fast-flowing, messy river. It’s a lovely sight: passing over the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge on the way into the office and seeing water running from bank to bank underneath the series of bridges that for too much of the year look like exaggerated spans traversing a tiny creek.

There’s something beautiful but also terrifying about the swollen Trinity. Its snarling, brown waters smother trees up to their spindly tops. The floodwaters push out against the long ridges that funnel water past the city. A hundred or so years ago, that water would be lapping up against downtown buildings and sweeping away the foundations of homes.

These occasional floods are good for the city. We certainly need the rain. But perhaps as important is the reminder they offer that Dallas exists within a particular natural environment, and that nature isn’t always friendly.

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Should Addison Leave DART?

Since joining Dallas Area Rapid Transit as one of its original member cities in 1983, Addison has contributed $238 million into the region’s public transit system. What does it have to show for that investment? Not enough, according to some city officials.

As plans to extend DART’s light rail service to the suburban city continue to look like pies-in-the-sky, some council members are wondering if they should pull out of DART. After all, Addison has long hoped to connect to DART’s light rail system via an added Cotton Belt corridor line, but possible funding for the project wouldn’t be available for a good 20 years at the earliest. Grumbling about the lack of service has transportation officials scrambling to come up with ways to speed up the process, possibly by introducing Bus Rapid Transit into the Cotton Belt right-of-way as a substitution for light rail service.

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Will Mike Rawlings Protect the ‘Vision’ for the Trinity River Project?

After his sweeping victory to a second term in last Saturday’s mayoral election, Mayor Mike Rawlings declared that what residents voted for was a “vision for Dallas.”

In terms of the style and substance of Rawlings’ first term as mayor, it is difficult to argue with his assessment of his own appeal. More than anything, Rawlings is this city’s salesman-in-chief, and his first four years in office were spent mapping out visions of the future, from the promising—if still very inconclusive—Growth South campaign to the controversial re-vision of the Trinity Toll Road. Rawlings is bullish about his city’s future, and the part of his job he seems to enjoy the most is when he has the opportunity to spread the good news about this city’s growth and success.

The problem, however, is that Rawlings’ optimism and penchant for sales-pitching leads him to make sweeping proclamations and lean on ambiguities. And the difficulty with having a Mayor of Vision is that it has never been very clear what, outside of broad generalities, Mayor Mike Rawlings’ vision for the future of Dallas actually is.

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Why Voting This Saturday Is Not Enough

I received a mailer this week from the Trinity River Commons Foundation. It’s a four-panel fold-out brochure that is, for all intents and purposes, the real purpose and product of this entire Trinity River Parkway Dream Team design charrette garbage that we have been wading through for the past six months.

On the cover, there’s the now-familiar image of the revised “vision” for the Trinity River Project – the one with the parkway running through elevated berms as the sun sets against digital people who mill about under the shade of trees that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has already said cannot and will not be planted in the levee. Overlaid on the image in white italic font is a quote from Mayor Mike Rawlings in which he once again squawks the words “World Class” like some trained parrot sitting on Trinity Commons Foundation Executive Director Craig Holcombs’ shoulder.

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Emails Shed Light on Inner Workings of Trinity River Project Funding Schemes

Brandon Formby reports on the latest bit of information to leak out of the trove of Trinity Toll Road-related emails that was released by the City of Dallas after council members Scott Griggs and Philip Kingston pushed to have access to communications between city staff and former City Manager Mary Suhm as well as Mayor Mike Rawlings’ so-called design Dream Team.

The nugget of the article suggests that a design firm — led by “Dream Team” member Ignacio Bunster-Ossa — was the beneficiary of a private grant of $105,000 that was donated to the city of Dallas by the Trinity Trust under the condition that said design company receive the contract for the work from the city.

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Rates Doubling at ‘Twilight Zone of Parking Garages’ in Arts District

Matthew Fields, who manages parking at Trammell Crow Center in the Dallas Arts District, is suddenly a very popular guy. “My phone’s been ringing off the hook,” Fields says, adding that his email’s been blowing up, too–all from people who want to park in his underground garage. The reason: the nearby Hall Arts Parking facility is jacking up its monthly rates a whopping 100 percent, effectively doubling monthly rents as of June 1, from $75 to $150 or $65 to $140 for unreserved parking spots.

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What Is New Urbanism?

The Congress for the New Urbanism is holding its 26th annual conference in Dallas this week, a four-day festivity for city wonks that includes compelling conversations ranging from “The Paradox of Place-Based Coding: Expanding the Discussion of Regulatory Reform” to “The Art of Subdivision.” Needless to say, I wish I could disappear into the bowls of conceptual urbanity over the next half-week, but we’re on deadline for the June edition and I have too many words left to type.

Still, I wanted to use the excuse of the conference to briefly address this idea of “New Urbanism.”

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