Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Sunday DMN was full of Articles

Stop designing as if people are stupid. Another legacy of engineers and the faculty of engineering, everything is not a conveyer belt. People can think, design appropriately. Don't allow them to turn their brain off or they will.
Another Sane Conservative that Gets Wall-E. - eerily related to the above; a world where everyone on the Axiom's brain had been turned completely off.
Is anyone proud to live in Dallas? - Atlanta is a sad comparison. Having lived in both, I find Dallas to be better poised and positioned for the future than Hotlanta, which always struck me as Bladerunner-ish. Dallas feels like a collection of small villages and towns within the city. The cohesiveness is the issue. However, the author cites the wrong things to be proud of: the arts district? Puh-lease. What percentage of the city would care about or ever use those buildings? 2%? 5%? But, he makes an important point here:
We've got a long way to go as a city, there's no doubt. While some point west to the Cowboys' new stadium as evidence of the city's woes, there are far more indicators that must be considered when diagnosing the prospect of a healthy Dallas. Measuring crime rates, recycling levels and usable park space are more significant than who's in town on any given Sunday.
Restoring the Cotton Bowl won't do that. If the Cowboys would have stayed in Dallas wouldn't have done that. Victory won't do it and certainly the Arts District won't do it. Trinity River won't do it. Why? Because at the end of the day it was merely a disguise to build another unnecessary highway. Dallas is stuck in antiquated thinking in regards to city building. Until we have leadership that recognizes that real progress is made through incremental change, rather than the smoke and mirrors of headline worthy projects, nothing will have changed.

Step 1) Set up a split tax on land in Downtown, so that it is basically an inverse ratio of the FAR on a site. For example, underdeveloped property is taxed at a level that makes little sense to maintain it as a surface parking lot. Otherwise, it will sit as is until the downtown renaissance creates the same effect. The problem is that the surface lots are what is holding back that renaissance. My hometown of Harrisburg, PA did this twenty-plus years ago and the city went from 4,000 vacant buildings to 400. On the flip side of the coin, if the property is adequately used, then the property tax rate declines. All downtown stakeholders should like that. The ones that won't, the surface lot owners? They're mostly out of town. Screw'em, this is our city. I take pride in that.
Step 2) Remove the noose from Downtown's neck. This is essentially the effect of building highways completely enveloping downtown, as if somebody tied a belt around their neck and sat down. It killed downtown. I will have more on this when I start scanning images of all the buildings knocked down in Downtown - they were ONCE a source of pride.
How to do this? Well, the most radical would be to tear down a freeway and reduce the level of service to a transit/pedestrian-friendly boulevard - with dedicated bike lanes, ya know, something tangible that people can use, and love, and be proud of. Milwaukee did it with the Beer Line, San Fran with the Embarcadero, Paris is removing all surface or elevated freeways from the entire City. That is leadership and it's one of the reasons why Paris and London have become the cultural capitals of the world.
Other ways to mitigate highways:
- Dallas did it with Central, sink it, maintaining bridges across for connectivity, but it is still a barrier, although slightly lessened.

- Bury it like the big dig. Expensive.
- Build a park over it like Woodall Rogers Deck Park.

But what if they are elevated? How about build underneath?

These are examples of building beneath Viaducts in Paris, but I have other examples in New York. This is necessary in my opinion to maintain connectivity between two sides of the "tracks" so to speak. Furthermore, it makes use of wasted space. In the economy of the future, we can't afford infinite growth. We have to focus on developing and improving what we have. This is one example of how it relates to real estate development. What works under freeways? dog park? eh. skate park? eh.

There are two locations off the top of my head where this is critical. The Gaston-Live Oak-Elm connections from Downtown to Near East Dallas and Deep Ellum and between the West End and Victory.

Hmmm... Where are the dead areas? The way to revitalize the edges of downtown are two-fold, push out the surface lots and mitigate the effect of the highway, and in my opinion the most cost effective way to do that is by building under the elevated ones and over the sunken highways.