Monday, October 28, 2013

"That Sounds Too Much Like Work"

Here is Dallas Morning News architecture critic and known carpetbagger and I discussing the very basics of the proposal to tear-out IH-345 between downtown and Deep Ellum:



I would like to add some of the more incisive questions Mark asked me during our very first conversation about the topic, since few have ever dug down into my motivations or the specifics of the design and plan.  I'm paraphrasing from memory here:

Q:  What do you stand to gain from this?  Is anybody funding your work?
A:  I'm covering all of my own costs.  We've set up a 501c3 to potentially offset future costs as well as when we pivot ANewDallas into other projects in the future.  If there is anything for me to gain, it's a better city to call home.
Q:  Why not more green space?
A:  First of all, this has to be understand as a financial exercise.  The design is a place holder for a more inclusive public design process.  However, the public will always want more amenity and open space.  Usually too much.  We just wanted to see what kind and how much development could fit on site.  However, with that said, Dallas is "over-parked" as it is and has trouble maintaining what it does have because of the same problem we're attempting to address, an infrastructure (in this case green infrastructure of parks) to tax base imbalance.  What is needed more than anything in Dallas is walkable, affordable urban housing, increased density, housing and neighborhood choice, and increased choice and convenience of transportation alternatives (which come from density and highly interconnected grids).  Furthermore, the Trinity River is proposed to one of the great, large urban parks in the country, so that pretty much has open space covered on the grand scale.  What is needed is more small-scaled, intimate neighborhood parks to serve as focal points of sub-districts.  It's open space that is scaled appropriate to the development that we're proposing, which is high density, walkable neighborhoods.  
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To read his full piece on the subject, you can go here.  The crux:
Studies may be useful, but too often they are tools for delay, inaction and manipulation. Dallas, a city of action, should not settle for excuses or stopgap repairs that will themselves cost millions and do nothing but propagate the status quo. 
The city stands with its future before it. In the coming weeks, the finalists of the Connected Cities Competition will present their visions of a city reintegrated with the Trinity River to the public. Combined with the proposal to tear down I-345, Dallas will have visions for the reinvention of both the west and east sides of downtown.
As always if you want to see/read more about it, you can go directly to the ANewDallas website or see some of my past powerpoints available online.  Or read my D Magazine piece from earlier in the year.

My favorite part though is where TxDOT belly-aches over having to coordinate with other agencies at national and local level.  Because what is city building if not collaboration.  Especially if you're used to steam-rolling your way from point A to point B, consequences be damned.  One lesson I picked up from convos with former Milwaukee mayor John Norquist was actually how easy it turned out to be despite the fears of bureaucracy getting in the way.  345 is a stub on the US Interstate system.  Considering the natural subsidiarity occurring of agencies off-loading maintenance burdens wherever and however they can, I don't think it will be a problem getting the feds to de-list the segment and turn it over to the state.

So here's a recommendation.  1) Get the FHWA to de-list 345 from the US Interstate system.  2)  TxDOT can just walk away by abandoning the right-of-way.  3)  If and when that happens, the land is turned over to the State of Texas who is in position to benefit from a) one less weight on overburdened TxDOT and b) land $ale$.  4) Set up a development agency composed of state and city representatives to manage phasing, land sales, and street level infrastructure reconstruction.  At this point the state is really just the passenger, but they get the initial revenue.  The city gets the tax base, which is where the real, on-going revenue is.

If we've done nothing else here, at least people now know the road's official name.