Monday, October 26, 2009

Monday Links

A lot of stuff to get thru, so right to it. First, some Dallas content:

DMN editorial: Urgent blitz Needed for Southwest Center Mall:

But so far, no long-term plan has emerged. No public investment has been made. No vision for the property has been sketched.

The Urban Land Institute wisely suggested creating a tax-increment-financing district to spur redevelopment and offered ideas for transforming the mall into a mixed-use village that would draw people to shop, eat, work and live.

A couple of problems here. First, is the fact that we're dealing with a dead mall. There are three variant directions to go with Dead Malls: 1) Infill the surface parking lots with garages and density while sparing/renovating the mall in roughly its current form. 2) Break down parts of the mall to create an outdoor complement to the indoor component, or 3) scrape it entirely and reposition/reenvision what the site should be within its larger context.

I'm afraid the ULI went with the most generic solution possible; one that I don't believe is a reality given its location (not so much being in South Dallas, as being disconnected from real transit opportunities). Conventional planner's reflexive answer for all sites: "Mixed-Use!"

A better solution would be one that follows a larger vision and gives the site a purpose. If we were real about transforming our City into a world class City, we would be systematically removing all the freeways entering the City from the outer 635/20 loop and converting them to more location specific and redevelopment friendly boulevards.

This location at 20 and 67, with an airport and freight rail w/in a mile, would be at the ideal spot for a distribution center for inter-metro shipping for intra-DFW/Dallas delivery with 67 inside of the loop being repositioned as a context-sensitive "complete street."

The fundamental problem w/ highways within Cities is that they are like drain pipes that gather rain from a storm into a single point and release all of that water into streams that can't handle it, eroding the ecosystem. Freeways (for macro-connections) entering Cities (micro-destinations) unloads too many cars at single exits, thus "eroding" the urban fabric.
Dallas fashion at the Sartorialist. Sadly, compare the cities providing the backdrops.
Similar look in the mirror provided by others, first a tweet from Urbanophile:

"Dallas is the epicenter of the generic," quoting Rem Koolhaas. Then, his (Aaron Renn) take on Dallas from a 2007 visit:

Given the size and affluence of the metro area, and the good things I know from talking to others that it has, I was very surprised to see the poor face it presents to people attending conventions there. This is the only time many people will ever see the city. It’s the first and last impression many folks will ever have of Dallas.

On the plus side, the road geek in me loves the freeways in Texas. They’ve got very wide highways and impressive interchanges. As I flew under a four level stack heading back to the airport, it really drove home to me how unambitious the plans of INDOT and other midwestern transportation agencies are. They’d be well served to hire some people from Texas who have actual experience in big city road building to design and run their major urban projects.

No offense to this dude, but jumpin jeezus on a dino, if he doesn't get the direct correlation b/w highways and "cities that suck" then anybody that pays for his consultation is doing themselves a disservice. I expand in a tweet, as limited by 140 characters:
Methinks baby boomers have inherent bias to freeways bc growing up in 50s 60s highways were billed w all things progress
Excellent article by Richard Florida at What Matters on innovation and density that parallels many points I've made in the past:
There is a deeper, more fundamental reason, rooted in economics. Increasingly, the most talented and ambitious people need to live in the means metros in order to realize their full economic value. The physical proximity of talented, highly educated people has a powerful effect on innovation and economic growth. Places that bring together diverse talent accelerate the local rate of economic evolution. When large numbers of entrepreneurs, financiers, engineers, designers, and other smart, creative people are constantly bumping into one another inside and outside of work, business ideas are formed, sharpened, executed, and—if successful—expanded. The more smart people, and the denser the connections between them, the faster it all goes. It is the multiplier effect of the clustering force at work.
Point, distilled to 120 proof: Innovation doesn't happen in a vacuum.
Other brief links:

Cohousing catching on in the PacNW. I discuss some ideas about high/mid-rise cohousing here.

CNET on the prob of plug-in cars. Answer: 1) they still take energy AND 2) they still require extensive infrastructure that rips apart economic and social bonds. Any attempts at maintaining a car industry at its current bloat is a waste of time and money. Worthless Endeavor.

NYT on the rise in going CarFree.

Vancouver plans on being greenest city by 2020. What happens when we no longer have catchy dates to peg our plans to like 20/20?