Downtown Dallas has incredible momentum [Click on Pictures for a Larger Image]:
* Largest urban arts district in the US (68 acres, 19 blocks)
* The Spire Project adjacent to the Arts District
* Museum Tower in the Arts District
* Calatrava bridge
* Woodall Rodgers deck park under construction
* 1,000 room convention center hotel under construction
* 130 million First Baptist Church redevelopment underway
* Main Street Park opened this year
* Continental pedestrian bridge is being planned
* Dallas Museum of Natural History under construction.
I could go on and on ….. Dallas has always been a place for iconic projects. Big is just big in Big D. And all of these efforts have helped renew a focus on what a great place Dallas is — but more importantly has engendered visions of an even-greater place Downtown Dallas can be.
Our challenge now is not in making more “statements” at the multi-million dollar level, but focusing on the little things that can make Dallas more livable and therefore more vibrant. 24/7/365 vibrancy does not arise from the suburban trek to major arts or sporting events in the city, or from visitors to conventions. What we need are more livable or complete streets, that make downtown the kind of outdoor place you want to enjoy whether walking from one office building to another, jogging or riding a bike, sitting outside to eat or read, coming downtown to eat, shop and walk around, etc.
In a word, Downtown Dallas streets need to be more inviting — less about awe-inspiring buildings and moving cars, and more about being great places to interact with people. Here is a list of small changes Dallas should consider:
– Reduce Street Size & Speed: In the urban core (all of the streets between Ross and Commerce and between Pearl and Griffin), reduce the number of car lanes from 4 to 2 and reduce the speed limit to 15 miles per hour (one big “school zone” for downtown workers & residents). In the 2 lanes outside lanes, allow parallel parking between large islands — put landscaping and benches or tables in the islands.
– Recreate Sidewalks: Remove all of the concrete sidewalks and make them brick. Create a visible separation between places for cars and places for people.
– More Trees: Plant 1,000 more trees in downtown. In the hotter months in particular, pedestrians are forced to “chase shade” to walk 2 or 3 blocks. This would also soften the hard surfaces of buildings and roads with a green canopy and create more of a boulevard effect view down the streets.
– Connecting the Arts District: The arts district buildings lack connectedness. The arts patrons should hire a landscape architect / land planner to take this area beyond a collection of buildings and more of destination where people want to hang out and enjoy the arts in all its forms. An outdoor performance/exhibition area with events both during the week (“Friday Lunch with the Arts”) and on Saturdays would help make this area (and the adjoining deck park once it is completed) the “Central Park” of Dallas.
– Free Wireless Internet: Starbucks & McDonalds are now doing it. Why not make Downtown Dallas one big “hotspot” (in more ways than one)?
The idea is simple – activate and enliven each block, while softening the street and creating a sense of place for people and not just a place for structures (buildings) and function (moving cars efficiently). A small expense and effort could make a huge difference in the look and fell of downtown, enhancing downtown residential living, and creating a desirable business, recreational, restaurant and entertainment destination.