Thursday, June 26, 2014

Dallas and Detroit, Similar Processes, Dissimilar Ages

I've come to the conclusion recently that if weren't for the Park Cities, yes, I know, that Dallas would be in full fledged flight mode right now.  Why?  The Park Cities provided stability, a backstop from the half of the flight that was headed northward.  It also provided the impetus for the at the time investment in what is now known as uptown, deemed so risky it had to find the capital in Japan.  The developers thought process, "there's no walkable housing in Dallas.  Let's provide some between where we live and where we work."

Lucky for us it succeeded, largely I believe due to timing.  The 1990s saw the very first seedlings of a return back to cities, which ultimately paid off in Baby Boomers downsizing and desiring more empowering neighborhoods in their advanced age at the same time that Millennials began graduating college, moving into the work force and demanding interesting, walkable places.  They grew up dependent upon others for mobility.  They are an equal and opposite reaction to car-dependence.

Not that that has particularly changed how we plan cities, at least in Dallas and Detroit, as both plan new freeways at the same time they're discussing whether to remove a freeway, as the two most recent centuries pass in the night.  However, the similarities don't end there:

Both are struggling with job and wage loss (that Dallas or better yet DFW has boomed during this period might be more damning).  I believe there be a relationship to this disinvestment and decay, a physical one that is planned, designed, financed, and constructed.  You can see it in Detroit here:


The richest city in North America, turns into a cartoon...

Screen Shot 2014-06-24 at 11.18.14 AM

I made a similar animated gif of Dallas over the decades:

It's about displacement and disconnectivity, leading to disinvestment and decay.  Disrupting local and long established social and economic networks.  Some might call that neighborhood fabric.  Either way, it was torn apart by dinosaurs stomping through the city like Godzilla in pursuit of some kind of ideological purity that whitewashes and erases the complexity of cities that their models just can't understand.  Can't understand them, externalize them.

The result is a form of monoculture, car dependence, which we share with Detroit as the two most car dependent major metros in the US.  Monoculture predicts collapse.  It can't adapt.  It is unresilient.  Lucky for us we have the example of uptown to build upon and spread.  As well as Bishop Arts and Lower Greenville.  And Main Street in downtown.  The binding thread of all of these successes?  Traffic engineers fought every single one of them.