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Downtown Streets and Feets


by Jerome Weeks 29 Sep 2009

Now that the Arts District has just about finished building all its Big Baubles, people — like architecture critic David Dillon and Veletta Forsythe Lill and, lookee there, even some of the Dallas Morning News editorial folks — have been asking how do we make the place actually livable, accessible and popular? I’ve been saying […]

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Now that the Arts District has just about finished building all its Big Baubles, people — like architecture critic David Dillon and Veletta Forsythe Lill and, lookee there, even some of the Dallas Morning News editorial folks — have been asking how do we make the place actually livable, accessible and popular? I’ve been saying for years — most recently, several months ago at a public panel on the Arts District with Dillon and Lill — that there are plenty of things that will get you to visit the Arts District. But there are very few things that ‘ll keep you there.

Actually, it’s a point that could be made about the entire downtown area — I suspect that downtown won’t solve its problems with attracting ordinary life unless the Arts District does. At Renegade Bus, Joan Arbery lists the 20 things that she’d like to see in downtown Dallas. Many are what you might expect, especially if you’ve ever been anywhere with a living, breathing downtown, like Europe. Or Austin. You know, outdoor markets, bike lanes and a movie theater.

But some of her items aren’t so typical.  A university. Day care.  Beer gardens. (Those three, I suspect, are linked in some fashion.) A list worth taking a look at, and not just because I posted a comment about the necessity of trees and shade and why it’s so hard to get retail back into a downtown like ours in Dallas’.

Meanwhile, at Unfair Park, Robert Wilonsky is keeping up with the Great Streets presentation that RTKL’s Erich Dohrer and Tom Brink are making to the City Council. It’s something of an extension of the Dallas Main Street Plan.

“To some degree, it really takes a political and public will to move forward,” Dohrer says. “There have been some steps forward speaking specifically to the Central Business District. The city has spent a lot of time and effort looking at Main Street, and it has done some nice things to make that street more manageable. Those are steps forward. But as far as how to move forward from here, it does take people standing up and saying, ‘We want to start thinking about our streets in a different way.’ The streets are the way in which we experience the city, and I believe streets — just as much as the library or a civic building — [reflect the city’s] goals and aspirations.”

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