Photo courtesy of Steve Rainwater via a Creative Commons license

Photo courtesy of Steve Rainwater via Creative Commons

When I learned to drive in the 90s, my dad had two big rules: Don’t run out of gas and don’t drive anywhere near Downtown Dallas, particularly at night.

We were suburban dwellers, used to wide streets, manicured lawns, and regularly scheduled trash pickups. Much of Downtown Dallas was gritty and graffitied, all business by day, and practically vacant at night, except for the club scene in Deep Ellum and restaurants in the West End Historic District.

It’s not just downtown that was affected—for decades, people have been moving to the suburbs in Dallas and across the country. For example, nationally, the suburbs grew at an annual average rate of 1.38 percent, compared to 0.42 percent for primary cities between 2000 and 2010, according to U.S. Census Bureau data and research by population analysts.

But that trend appears to be reversing in the past four years. Since 2010, primary cities with populations of 100,000 or more outgrew suburbs each year, according to research by William H. Frey, a demographer with the Brookings Institution.

Dallas is part of that trend. Certainly, many our suburbs like Frisco are seeing unprecedented growth. But our urban core—the 15 districts that make up Downtown Dallas—has seen a radical transformation as people and businesses move back downtown. 

Case in point: in 2000, the Central Business District population, one of those 15 districts, was just 14,654. It is predicted to grow to 33,139 residents in 2015, and 59,337 in 2030.  

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Continental Viaduct Bridge

The Continental Viaduct was just reopened as a park. The opening coincides with the New Cities Summit, which is hosted inside Dallas’ Arts District from June 17-19.

The Continental Bridge was once the easiest way to get from downtown Dallas to West Dallas if you didn’t want to cross at Fort Worth Avenue/Beckley. But when the Margaret Hunt Hill bridge opened, the Continental Viaduct was all but obsolete. So what do you do with aging infrastructure and a growing urban population that wants more open space? You make it a park.

That’s what’s interesting about this conversion, which just opened ahead of the New Cities Summit, an urban-oriented conference that will host panels discussing some very heady issues that cities are facing in the 21st century. I’m pretty sure that it is no coincidence that the new bridge/park opened last weekend, and that the summit will kick off tomorrow with an opening keynote address from Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings. The event is hosted in our spectacular Arts District, too, and I am sure that attendees will enjoy our many beautiful examples of cutting edge architecture.

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Plaza Retail Looking East Along State Street

Less than a decade ago, “transit-oriented development” was a buzzword you couldn’t escape. It was heralded by DART Rail boosters as a way to make mass transit and greater urban density more palatable and accessible. Since then we haven’t seen much in the way of successful transit-oriented development, as even Mockingbird Station — the project that was touted as a model for such building concepts — has had ups and downs.

But with more people moving to Dallas, and many of them coming from areas where mass transit is a way of life, not just a talking point, transit-oriented development is resurfacing, too.

In fact, a completely new development slated for a 186-acre tract adjacent to the Bush Turnpike DART Rail station and straddling Plano Road. Developer KDC has dubbed the project “CityLine” as it sits between both Richardson and Plano.

State Farm has already signed on to lease 1.5 million square feet inside its three office towers, which will total 2.3 million square feet in the project’s initial phase. There will be 92,000 square feet of retail as well as 3,925 multi-family housing units.

According to Walkable DFW’s Patrick Kennedy, the success of this development is as yet unclear, especially considering that this project “has changed hands several times already,” he said via Twitter. The big winner, according to him, will be downtown Plano.

You can read the buzzword-laden press release in full below. Do you think that this project is the kind of “new urbanism” that will make suburbs more sustainable?

KDC ANNOUNCES PROJECT NAME AND PLANS FOR INITIAL PHASE OF 186- ACRE TRANSIT-ORIENTED DEVELOPMENT IN RICHARDSON, TEXAS 

Newly named “CityLine” development to feature hotel, retail, multi-family, fitness,

medical and office space 

RICHARDSON, Texas – (October 24, 2013)  – Developer KDC today announced plans for the initial phase of its transit-oriented development located on 186 acres in Richardson, Texas.  The company also announced the name of the development: CityLine. 

“The name CityLine was a natural choice as the development is on the border of two great cities: Richardson and Plano,” said KDC’s Walt Mountford.  “It’s adjacent to DART’s existing light rail station and is also surrounded by key highways and two major thoroughfares.  CityLine will be an instant city with a true urban environment.”

The $600 million, 2.3 million-square-foot initial phase of CityLine is slated for completion in early 2015.  It includes KDC’s property west of Plano Road and adjacent to the DART light rail station.  Project specifics include dense urban restaurant, retail and entertainment space; a contemporary 150-room select service hotel; 520 new urbanism multi-family residential units; an 18,000-square-foot wellness and fitness facility; a 41,000-square-foot medical office building; and a 3.5-acre park with trails, all woven within the recently announced 1.5 million square feet of office towers leased by State Farm. 

“CityLine has been a team sport, and KDC has been fortunate to work with great designers and development partners to create an outstanding place for the community,” said Steve Van Amburgh, KDC’s CEO.  “I can’t think of another development that, upon opening, will completely integrate over 1.5 million square feet of office with retail, restaurant, entertainment, multi-family, medical, fitness, and hospitality uses into an exciting experience for all who live in DFW.”

The focal point of the initial phase will be CityLine Plaza, a centrally located urban plaza designed by Office of James Burnett (OJB), the landscape architect of Dallas’ signature Klyde Warren Park.  Framing CityLine Plaza, fronting Plano Road, and located along State Street will be more than 92,000 square feet of retail, restaurant and entertainment space.  KDC has selected Dallas-based Retail Street Advisors to start pre-leasing and marketing.

“KDC and its design team have created a truly compelling urban environment that will attract a dynamic mix of dining and entertainment options,” said Aaron Stephenson of Retail Street Advisors.  “State Street and CityLine Plaza are oriented and scaled specifically for pedestrians to encourage sidewalk and patio activity and to promote community interaction and gathering throughout the day.”

Buildings that incorporate several uses are central to the CityLine master plan. Restaurant, retail and entertainment spaces are integrated into the base of the office towers, the multi-family residential, and the hotel, allowing CityLine Plaza and both sides of State Street to be surrounded by activity.  The master plan also focuses on creating a walkable, pedestrian-friendly environment, while providing easy access for vehicles and ample parking in the 7,700 spaces within CityLine parking garages.

In July, KDC broke ground on the project and announced State Farm will lease 1.5 million square feet in three office towers. The Class A office buildings consist of a 13-story tower, 15-story tower and 21-story tower.  Each tower is situated on a five-level parking structure along with ground floor retail space.

KDC acquired the land for the Richardson master-planned project in December 2012.  The project, adjacent to the Dallas Area Rapid Transit’s (DART) Bush Turnpike Station on its Red Line, will be a transit-oriented development on the east and west sides of Plano Road. The east side includes the 147.5 acres of land on the north side of Renner Road, between Plano Road and Wyndham Lane.  The west side includes 38.5 acres of land south of President George Bush Turnpike between Plano Road and the DART light rail tracks.  

At full build-out, the $1.5 billion CityLine project will contain approximately six million square feet of office space, two hotels, 3,925 multi-family residential units, 300,000 square feet of grocery, restaurant, entertainment and retail space, and three parks.

Corgan is the State Farm office architect and Omniplan is the CityLine retail architect and master planner.  Kimley-Horn is the civil engineer and OJB is the landscape architect.

A New Dallas

As you’ve no doubt heard, there’s a movement afoot to tear down Highway 345 — a stretch of elevated asphalt that spans from Deep Ellum and north to Woodall Rogers Freeway. Doing so, proponents claim, will connect the east side of the city center to downtown and create a more walkable environment.

I’m all for more walkable neighborhoods, especially in our urban core, but I do want to know how we can make this work when projections show that the population of Dallas will double in a matter of a few decades, putting strain on our housing inventory and transportation infrastructure. Basically, just tearing down a highway isn’t going to cut it.

The Vision

We should be thinking about density with a more connected mass transit system, and I think that’s the main selling point for demolishing the highway. Not only will it bring a slower thoroughfare through downtown, but it will also create more real estate that can be developed into mixed-use buildings, as well as offering a hub for bringing back the streetcar to downtown Dallas (and yes, we should definitely bring streetcars back). We’ll need massive reinvestment in transportation and infrastructure to make it work, but where will the money come from?

What do you think of the plan?

 

 

A New Dallas

As you’ve no doubt heard, there’s a movement afoot to tear down Highway 345 — a stretch of elevated asphalt that spans from Deep Ellum and north to Woodall Rogers Freeway. Doing so, proponents claim, will connect the east side of the city center to downtown and create a more walkable environment.

I’m all for more walkable neighborhoods, especially in our urban core, but I do want to know how we can make this work when projections show that the population of Dallas will double in a matter of a few decades, putting strain on our housing inventory and transportation infrastructure. Basically, just tearing down a highway isn’t going to cut it.

The Vision

We should be thinking about density with a more connected mass transit system, and I think that’s the main selling point for demolishing the highway. Not only will it bring a slower thoroughfare through downtown, but it will also create more real estate that can be developed into mixed-use buildings, as well as offering a hub for bringing back the streetcar to downtown Dallas (and yes, we should definitely bring streetcars back). We’ll need massive reinvestment in transportation and infrastructure to make it work, but where will the money come from?

What do you think of the plan?

 

 

ImageI have a huge new crush, HUGE: Andres Duany, founding partner at Duaney Plater-Zyberk & Co, and widely regarded as the Godfather of the New Urbanism, a movement that seeks to end suburban sprawl and ignite a return to urban living. I met Andres in, ironically, downtown Atlanta at a national real estate convention and it was like meeting a real estate George Clooney, maybe better.

And… Andres has great taste in ties.

I have pined to meet this man. You’ve heard me talk about one of my favorite New Urban communities, Seaside in Florida, a 30 plus year old planned community now being replicated across the country, not to mention Highway 30A near Panama City: Andres fingerprints are all over it! Then there’s Watercolor, Rosemary Beach, and Alys Beach.  Here in Texas, Cinnamon Shore is a Seaside clone on the Texas Gulf coast. Andres evoked that hallowed real estate community several times in his presentation.

Sean Payton's place in Watercolor

Sean Payton’s place in Watercolor

Full disclosure: I tend to be skeptical of New Urbanism, because I (A) like my car and (B) believe we cannot just wipe out suburbia and herd the masses into mass density. And I really, really like Joel Kotkin.

Well, Andres calmed my fears. He told me that New Urbanism does not mean we are going to take a sledge hammer to suburbia and herd everyone into high density urban multi-fam units like ants. No, I came away with a whole new respect. It may have helped that we were in Atlanta, which sure made me appreciate Dallas all the more. Heck, I might even support tearing down a highway or two. Atlanta is humid, terrible congested and so dang spread out that even security at the airport uses those Segways. Took friends an hour and 45 minutes to drive 25 miles in from Dunwoody downtown. Over cocktails, I told Andres how I had walked the skybridge to PeachTree Mall from the Hilton and how dreadful it was — like walking in a tomb!

Here are rambling notes from his presentation — which filled the house:

The New Urbanism Congress was formed around 1990, a group of 2000 to 3000 people who meet yearly. This year was the 21st Congress. It’s a Protean organization… like the ocean it has a core and depth at the edge, the charter of the New Urbanism at the core. There are 27 principles. The New Urbanism arose out of the private sector, says Duany;  smart growth (which some call Big Brother-istic) arose out of the public sector. The best example is Seaside, Florida.

In 1980, Robert Davis wanted to make a place that reminded him of where he grew up as a child. He developed Seaside, a walkable town on the Gulf coast of Florida near Panama City. Davis’ grandfather left him 80 acres of land when he died. He wanted to create a different kind of living place, something more traditional and not dependent on cars. He enlisted the help of architects Andres Duany and his wife Elizabeth Plater- Zyberk, two large players in the New Urbanism movement. After the place was built, it increased in popularity as a resort town and gained attention for its groundbreaking planning and architecture. The basic premise is that you should have all your ordinary daily needs within walking distance so much so that a six year old could have the run of the place. Dogs don’t need leashes because there are no cars to get hit by. (The Seaside dog, says Andres, lived to age 18 without ever having been a leash.) You get to Seaside, you park your car and don’t touch it again until you leave. The community began as a vacation beach community and is so photographic, The Truman Show was filmed there. This walkable vision was implemented and embraced, says Andres, because Seaside was a resort: people coming there and living there were on vacation.

Great point: in everyday life we must drive to work, to the market and various chores. So Seaside worked because people were OFF THE CLOCK and there to enjoy the idyllic experience.

In fact, anti-sprawl-ist James Kunstler  says Seaside’s reputation has almost been taken too far, and the public has expected it to be a “coal miner’s town for the working class.”

An English professor at Hope College, who lived in Seaside for awhile as part of a program in which she could live in one of the houses to write while its “residents” were at their other home, said she did not feel comfortable living there—the kitchen was upstairs, the “corner grocery store” was too expensive to get real food, and she was starving for “real community” while there. It felt like an empty resort town to her.

If a resort is not Utopian, says Andres, it won’t succeed. Original resort towns were discovered for summering. Davis took the model of resort town and made it fill a Utopian need. Fast forward 33 years later: Seaside now has a public school and church and businesses. A natural evolution brought it to full-time community: the private sector for profit development was an enormous success, so much that people wanted to live there year round. And as I have mentioned, clones sprang up: WaterColor by the St. Joe Company, one the largest landholders in Florida, Rosemary Beach, and Alys Beach. Cinnamon Shore in Port Aransas is also closely patterned after the original Seaside..

New Urbanism started in the private sector and worked because it proved profitable.

The environmental movement in this country is becoming ever more powerful, says Andres,  draconian in its power but yet on the defensive constantly. The environmental movement has discovered urbanism. The claim is that density is the solution to our environmental problem.

The old way of living in a home surrounded by a lot with lots of lots on a street is part of the problem because to get to that lot,  you have to drive there.

So does that mean we just ditch the suburbs?

Back to Seaside. At Seaside, some houses were built on stilts for drainage, garages are in the back of the houses, the streets are brick and made for walking, and that private space is redefined by the houses being very close together.

Seaside, says Andres,  turned out to be ACCIDENTALLY environmental.

Urbanism tries a high tech solution, but we need to look to the past for low-tech, economical solutions that worked. With so many cities broke, we cannot come up with solutions that cost money. For example: the original green window insulator is thick curtains — that’s the old way.

The underlying revelation, says Andres, is that we are broke. With cities owing so much for pensions, infrastructure and repairs, funds to go green are not available.  The least broke city I ever worked, says Andres,  is Salt Lake City.

When it comes to the Tea Party, Andres says 10% have a strong case, a full 50% cannot stand the red tape — these are people who have a problem with bureaucracy.

40% are simply maniacs.

The New Urbanism is bringing green tech levels down to the original green. They are studying 1874: how did the Mormons with nothing built over 700,000 villages. The future focus is on low-tech environmentalism and Pink Codes, a reference to any code that reduced red tape.

That, and retrofitting suburbia.Image 1