Friday, June 29, 2012

Demons in the Closet

When you write a few million words, a few of them will come back to haunt you, like a half million of them.  In this case, it was clumsy wording on my part regarding criticism of the Klyde Warren deck park, which has since been quoted (out of context), but linked to (for said context) at Pegasus News' announcement of the opening celebration for the park.  Of course, it's my fault for the original, hyperbolic, and lazy syntax.

The specific words in question are "great design, lousy location."  In the rest of the piece (and an earlier one, from 2010), I discuss the nature of the park (and parks in general) as a heavy-handed form of Keynesian economic development. Build park, raise land value (as parks do up to 25% immediately adjacent, an increase that is known to taper off up to about 1/4 mile away - or close to immediate walking distance), generate investment, new tax base, etc.  It's easy politically to build parks.  Which is why we end up with too many of them.  It's much more difficult to alter the physical network of the city, but the returns are exponentially greater.

However, a point that I emphasized on the AIA panel last week, that there wasn't much to leverage in terms of new investment in the area.  Sure, Museum Tower was built with the confidence of the park being in place when it was finished, but while it helped the construction and financing of the project, it hasn't actually moved the market to buy, with only a tiny fraction of units under contract as you read and I write this.  A new office building was built on the north side, but facing McKinney.  It has four-stories of liner residential units facing the park (at the bequest of the city, IIRC, which the building owner has effectively mothballed for the last three years - presumably until the park is done).  

Other than that, there is a small bank site that could and should be redeveloped, but the majority of the sites within that 1/4 mile radius are already spoken for.  Parks are only as good and only as valuable, not for the design within them, but the connections to them from their surrounding context.  Has this been improved?  No.  At least not yet.As I wrote in the 2010 piece:
The Woodall Rogers Deck Park is a great thing for this City and its design in absence of the complete removal of the/a freeway is the best (well, 2nd best possible) solution. But Bryant Park isn't great without Gramercy. Piazza Navona without Centro Storico. Want to be a World Class City? Yes, that is the competition.
This post isn't intended to poo-poo the park, but remind us that the work isn't yet finished.---LoMac has a highway, a park slapped on top, an incomprehensible and impossible to navigate set of anti-urban spaghetti of roads, and a lot of density with no urbanity.
In sum, I think the park will be great.  "Better than what it was," of course.  Does it address deeper issues facing the city and downtown as more than an expensive band-aid?  No.  Could the $60M have been used better to leverage more investment, increased tax base, and in turn, even more amenities?  Yes.

Incidentally, $60M is almost exactly the number we figure is necessary for tearing out IH-345, which we found would add 25,000 new residents, $110 million/year in new tax revenue, new parks, and streetcars linking downtown with East Dallas, where the opportunity lies.