Tuesday, October 8, 2013
5 ways to change downtown Dallas forever
How about expanding Klyde Warren Park and putting a movie theater downtown?
DOWNTOWN DALLAS The Trinity River Corridor Project was once billed as the game-changer that would transform Dallas into a “world class” city. Since then, the project has been delayed time and again: Transportation elements get funded while recreational amenities get the shaft, and the public -- those old enough to remember the 1998 vote -- is probably over the whole thing. A true game-changer, Klyde Warren Park, celebrates its one-year anniversary later this month.
Nothing would be more transformative for downtown than to bring 25,000 people to live, work, shop and play in the area traditionally known as the Central Business District, but not enough people see downtown for its historic, cultural and transportation amenities to warrant making the move. Perhaps a simple marketing campaign would suffice. Here are five economic developments that would make downtown much more fun and attractive to prospective residents.
1. Cinema and film festival venue: Elm Street was once lined with movie theaters that lit up what was called Theater Row. More recently, the West End Cinema attempted to capitalize on that area’s popularity but closed in 2000 due to a decaying West End and competition from fancy “stadium seating” theaters. But downtown has evolved since then, and a multiplex along the lines of Alamo Drafthouse or LOOK Cinemas would add to the crowds already here for museums and performances. Moreover, the city is lacking a proper host facility for the Dallas International Film Festival (DIFF) and we all know how the Dallas glitterati love a red carpet.
2. High-speed rail: Central Texas Railway is planning the first privately funded high-speed rail in the nation with service from DFW to Houston. It’s not clear whether the Dallas station would be downtown, but city planners have been preparing for a possible HSR station near Union Station for a while. Without a doubt, a downtown station would energize the long-dormant area that was once home to Reunion Arena until its 2009 demolition. Union Station could become the Grand Central Terminal of our region!
3. Savannah College of Art & Design: In 2008, Savannah College of Art & Design (SCAD) had all but announced they were opening a campus in the West End. Naturally, the recession put the brakes on that; however, our economy has improved and a UNT law school is expected in fall 2014. But we all know that artists are way cooler than lawyers, and downtown needs a serious infusion of young, creative hipsters to make sarcastic, awkward glances at the rest of us. Now that downtown has an enviable arts district, a really cool animation studio in Deep Ellum (Reel FX) and even a film studio (Southside Studios), it’s time for SCAD to take another look at Big D.
4. New super-tall tower: While I completely get that grandiose buildings tend to do nothing for the street, let me play devil’s advocate and say that Dallas could use a new super-tall structure just for bragging rights. This would be a 100+ story tower that serves as the new headquarters for a Fortune 500 (American Airlines, JC Penney, Chrysler or even a new HQ for AT&T) and would need to include retail, hotel and residential components to add to the height. Think Chicago’s Aqua or the Santiago Calatrava-designed Spire, which never went vertical. Dallas can’t get enough of that guy.
5. Expansion of Klyde Warren Park: A much more ambitious idea to tear down IH345 could bring 25,000 new residents downtown, but how about starting small and expanding Klyde Warren Park south through Harwood? Ever since that street was cut off from Uptown, its purpose as a wide southbound shot through the CBD has changed, especially between the park and Ross Avenue. Instead of a parking lot for busses and cars, why not make it a greenspace that brings KWP to the front door of the Arts District and expands the 5-acre park beyond just a cap over a freeway? Hell, expand it all the way to the Farmers Market, if for no other reason than to make little Klyde Warren clean an even larger space, as his dad promised a year ago.
Jorge Esteban is a writer/translator at Dieste Inc. from San Juan, Puerto Rico. He has lived in Texas for 19 years and in Dallas for the last seven. Most recently, he joined the board of the Dallas Parks Foundation and participates in activities promoting bike & trail use as well as pedestrian improvements to city streets.
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