Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Golden Boy's Omnipotent Powers; On Extending Main Street


If you are unaware, as I was until it happened. This is "golden boy" at his former home. Or as wikipedia, which knows better than I explains:
In November 2005, SBC (once a wholly owned subsidiary of AT&T—a Baby Bell) acquired AT&T. In a move designed to capitalize on the national name of its former parent, San Antonio, Texas-based SBC renamed itself AT&T. In 2009, the new AT&T moved Golden Boy to the company's new global headquarters in Dallas, Texas.[3] In January 2009, it had been removed from the Bedminster Township, New Jersey location. The statue has now been installed in the lobby of the Whitacre Tower, 208 S. Akard Street in Dallas, Texas.
See, he's my neighbor now. Friendly fellow, quiet...keeps to himself, but I'm told those are the ones ya gotta worry about.

I've often stated that Downtown Dallas essentially consists of a three block stretch of Main Street between Ervay and Field surrounded by, well, little more than all that serves to buffer this perfectly fine section of urbanism from negative forces as I've explained before:
First, is that downtown is choked by highways as I've said repeatedly on this here blog. The rest of downtown forms a reasonable buffer protecting the Main Street core from the malevolence of the freeways.

Second, the three block Main Street area is mostly comprised of early 19th century buildings that still had an inherent understanding of how buildings engage the public realm, ya know, before we forgot all that. Also, this small area is bounded by wide one-way roads (on three of the four sides - the fourth being Field which is still too wide) which essentially serve as service and access for Main Street...OR as Valet speedway 500.

Still, all in supportive function of the Main Street side buildings and uses, NOT as public spaces. Therefore this is area is effectively sequestered. I'll have more on this tomorrow and the potential for expanding the successes beyond its bounds.

Highways choking downtown and the negative impact of these roads on the real estate around them.
Parking, or as I put it recently, the highest and best use for the land dominated by highways. You get what you deserve, I suppose.

The Main Street area is essentially at the intersection of Harry Hines/N. Dallas Tollway couplet (Ervay and Field) and the Elm/Main/Commerce Trivium and these roads effectively transition from highway to pedestrian scaled, humanistic environment, but only in this small section. It is still circumnavigated by wide one-way roads on all sides. It has several bars, restaurants, and clubs including City Tavern, Ten Sports Bar, Dallas Fish Market (Don't go by any means, absolutely terrible), Stone Street Gardens, Porta di Roma, etc. and is anchored on one end by the Neiman Marcus flagship and corporate HQ.

This example of how these roads follow a gradient from the highway to a much more human scaled environment is best seen by Main Street which goes from one-lane each way with on-street parking-slash-valet on both sides of the street immediately to two lanes each way outside of this area as well as Akard from Harry Hines as it goes from five (5!!11!!) lanes one-way to about a twenty foot alley at Main Street. If we want the success of Main Street to grow beyond these borders the transportation similarities have to be extended.

Another issue this area has are the corporate high-rises nearby. These buildings also have negative impact on the street for a few reasons. First is scale and architecture. Very few engage the street, but rather have more of a fortress or bunker-like design. They also don't have a base that is scaled to the street as is legislated in Vancouver buildings. Here, you've got big buildings looming over the street, creating a canyon effect, or a Blade Runner-ish darkened street scene as they privatize the sunlight.

Also, the "mix of uses" with these buildings are in the tunnels, pulling street life and vibrancy underground creating a city of mole people. Lastly, these buildings draw from such a large area to populate the offices that they require huge parking, service, and infrastructure, further pulling people off the street, but in this case into effectively culs-de-sac in the sky.

But back to AT&T and Golden boy. Recently, with AT&T's relocation to downtown Dallas, there have been renovations to the AT&T plaza outside their buildings. The biggest change has been the removal of the bus shelters that lined both sides of the street. I have no idea who suggested this idea, but it was a long time coming, as this park has transformed from a park populated by those that don't want to be found, into one of where people just want to sit and enjoy people watching, or the inner peace inducing sound of the water fountains (which both my puppy and homeless like to occasionally fall in).

(click to embiggen)

The above image is a panorama I took one afternoon of the plaza improvements. As you can see, it's a much more popular destination and safe feeling. With Main Street Gardens opening this fall as scheduled (hopefully), these two parks could have the effect of drawing pedestrians, street life, and ideally increased investment beyond those three measly blocks.

If I was to have one criticism of AT&T and the plaza improvements, I would have put Golden Boy outside in the center planter, at its most prominent point. Frankly, it's a pretty cool and unique statue. AT&T occupies all of the buildings surrounding the plaza, so why not use it to tie all the pieces together.

Golden Boy's Mausoleum: Entombed within AT&T's lobby.

Where he should be.

Furthermore, as the image above shows, it was outside to begin with. Moving it from their lobby, where it is rather hidden to the center planter would create another draw outside, where visitors would take pictures and workers would sit around, further creating more of a presence of a real city outside of the three blocks of Main Street.