Friday, January 20, 2012

More on Cedar Springs

Eric Miller, of, wrote about the changes to Cedar Springs. He interviewed me about it. That article is here:

Curb cuts, he said, mean that cars are "diving in and out and the pedestrian experience that is frightening at best when there are cuts every 50 feet or so."

That speaks to a long-standing issue about parking requirements in the district in which Whittall said zoning requirements have made it difficult to open or expand a business. The former owner of a popular coffee shop on the strip, Whittall sold it after his plans for expansion were denied because of parking requirement.

Kennedy says those parking requirements contribute to the risk for pedestrians in the district. Not only are patrons being encouraged to drive to places where they can drink, he said the parking requirements insure the curb cuts through pedestrian pathways.

"As long as you make it as convenient as possible for the car, it’s always at the expense of the pedestrian," said Kennedy. "If you make it inconvenient for a car, then proximity becomes a premium and things want to cluster closer together. It’s better use of the land and creates a safer environment."

These are relatively new issues in Dallas, said Whittall, because additional retail and residential development has people opting more often for shoe leather instead of rubber.

"Now that there are more residential areas, people are walking all the time," said Whittall. "All of a sudden Dallas is becoming a walking city."

Agreement seems to be emerging that Dallas also has to become a pedestrian-friendly city.

"We’re at the right point where the business community is starting to see that if it is pedestrian-friendly, they’ll have more customers because more people will be out and about walking," said Kennedy, who estimated most of the customers for Cedar Springs businesses are within a two-mile radius. "Once you get the that rhetorical start, I feel like eventually we can get there."

A truly pedestrian-oriented place is about proximity and done so in a safe, desirable, attractive fashion. And that proximity is considered an amenity. In order to empower the market to fulfill that desire, you can't change the urban phenotype, with superficial, bandaid treatments. Such is basically every single "town center" development. None are authentic, but rather imposed upon a place. You have to get down into the genetic material of a place, altering it, so that walkable urbanism occurs naturally in appropriate places, in an emergent fashion.