Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Downtown ThreeShixty

We Shall See. Here is the article. I have my hopes up, yet tempered, b/c as I've written before, I tend to believe we would rather lie to ourselves than fix the underlying problems b/c they are just too difficult to address:
"We have the opportunity, I believe, to have one of the finest downtowns anywhere," Leppert said. "It's going to take that last piece. How do we tie all of these pieces together?"
See what I mean.

The plan, known as Downtown Dallas 360, is intended to focus on linking downtown's districts, from Deep Ellum and the Farmers Market, to Main Street and the Arts District.

It will also attempt to consolidate the best elements of past strategies to reinvigorate areas that slumped into near decay.

Unfortuantely, many of those plans weren't that good. I'm looking at you Emerald Necklace and Dallas Parks Plan. The following are my suggestions:

Anybody that says the city needs convenient parking doesn't know the first thing about revitalization. Nearly every building downtown is a parking garage or has a parking garage w/in or beneath it. I can look out the window and see a dozen of them. The blocks that lack parking garages are surface parking lots.

Do you know where parking is convenient? Suburbs. Do you know where it isn't? Every downtown or PLACE worth being in. Why b/c the PLACE is such an attractor that there is demand to be there and live there.

The metric defining whether downtown is successful is the point where we are trying to shoehorn as much development/leasable space/retail/residential/etc into every inch of downtown, infilling all voids (with adequate open space serving each subdistrict).

There are a handful of underlying reasons that must be addressed for this to be achieved. First, the tunnels need to be systematically closed using a carrot or stick method to phase relocation of this retail from below grade to the street level (this should be done in conjunction with MU redevelopment projects.

Second, Main Street is the one piece of urbanism that exists in downtown currently. But, it has reached its potential as it is bounded by wide one-way streets that act more as escape routes than livable streets. Incremental functional change should be administered to Elm, Commerce, Ervay, and Field; narrowing the travel lanes, maintaining on-street parking, and widening the sidewalks.

Streetcars should be implemented, but I think these will be more successful redevelopment tools for areas adjacent such as Ross Ave East of Downtown towards Lower Greenville, Deep Ellum, Cedars, and OC.

There needs to be a context-sensitive strategy for all streets into and thru downtown including all of the highways and on/off-ramps. There should be NO clover leafs downtown. Space is too valuable.

A progressive tax/valuation system needs to be put in place, similar to a land value tax. The purpose? Instill and incentive for out of town land owners and the surface parking lot owners to sell to redevelopers (or the city who can assemble parcels and deliver to redevelopers under an RFQ process). What an LVT does is reduce the tax rate for performing properties and increase it for underperforming property, of which there is a metric shit ton in downtown.

Of course, Downtown is pretty much at its highest and best use when choked off by highways on all sides, which is parking. Here I'll cite Jane Jacobs who discusses macro- and micro-places. Highways only purpose should be linking macro-places, ie the Houston area to DFW.

There should be a fifty year plan to incrementally dismantle the highways in an around Downtown into much more manageable boulevards, which are (re)development/people-friendly and deliver people from micro-places to micro-places (ie their homes, their job, their third places) via a grid system that is high on choice and self-correction whereas the Arterial/Highway system is dendritic and creates traffic jams, overly high speeds, drives down land value, and costs taxpayers more than they can afford to build and maintain.

Want to link all the Civic Elements in this City? There already all lined up. In fifty years we should have the freeways dismantled like the Ringstrasse in Vienna (which grew past its City Walls and were no longer necessary) as our freeways are no longer necessary for our needs.

Imagine the inner loop as a green boulevard (a true emerald necklace, rather than some bullshit parsley around the freeways) creating a natural pedestrian and transit loop linking City Hall, the West End, the Trinity River, Victory, the Arts District, Uptown, and Deep Ellum.

This is the only answer. Yes, it is ambitious. Yes, it may take fifty years, lest this City end up resembling that from Idiocracy:

http://www.overworkedandunderpaid.org/jiminchina/wp-content/uploads/2008/08/idiocracy-2.jpg

I close once again with Mumford:

"The purpose of transportation is to bring people and goods to places where they are needed, and to concentrate the greatest variety of goods and people within that limited area, in order to widen the possibility of choice without making it necessary to travel. A good transportation system minimizes unnecessary transportation; and in any event, it offers change of speed and mode to fit a diversity of human purposes."