TREC to Study Tearing Down Highway 345

I345Candace Carlisle at the Dallas Business Journal reports that one of the biggest commercial real estate groups in Dallas MAY spend $125,000 to explore the possible tear-down or re-development of Interstate 345.

Actually, Robert Wilonsky over at the Dallas Morning News reports the same thing.

That group would be the Texas Real Estate Council, or TREC.

The Real Estate Council is basically 95% of the top commercial real estate businesses in North Texas: developers, builders, brokers, attorneys, architects, investment bankers, accountants, finance and title professionals. TREC likes to strengthen and support the commercial real estate industry, and serve the community through government advocacy, education and professional leadership.

Candace says “the Real Estate Council of Dallas has been searching for its next big community-focused real estate project to invest in after helping fund Klyde Warren Park” — yeah, they got Klyde Warren park going, a winning number.

According to the TREC website, it’s a done deal. TREC has committed $125,000 to fund a study to look at the implications of the freeway either being repaired or going bye bye.

“We felt this was a good way that we can be engaged in the discussion and help a process that could determine the future of downtown Dallas,” Linda McMahon, president and CEO of The Real Estate Council, told the Dallas Business Journal.“We want to look at all options and not just tearing down the freeway. We want to look at what could possibly happen if it was either redesigned or removed.”

To explain: I-345 is a 1.4-mile elevated freeway connecting U.S. 75 to Interstate 30 and Interstate 45 on the east side of downtown Dallas. You have surely driven it, and maybe like me, been terribly confused by it. The freeway is a mess and needs major expensive work, and the Texas Department of Transportation needs to figure out whether they will band-aid it, or spend an aircraft carrier’s worth of money to rebuild it.

There are two young, active urban planners behind this: Patrick Kennedy and Brandon Hancock. In general, they hate Interstate 345 and they hate cars, think everyone ought to get off their butts and walk or bicycle. That’s what we all need to do, but I would like to know how we are supposed to do this in our Jimmy Choos and with no plastic bags for our groceries, just asking. I don’t know, I guess do like we do in NYC.  For the most part, they have some excellent points: highways are being de-constructed in other cities. And while not all of Dallas can be walkable, downtown Dallas can be, if we work on it. If we don’t live there, we can drive in and plop the car somewhere for the whole time. Since 2012 these two have been trying to get rid of the highway, as explained in their website for the plan,  A New Dallas.

Patrick Kennedy has, I think, some great points about what we could do with the land unearthed by tearing down the highway. He says the land could be freed up for development of, I guess, affordable housing — townhomes? apartments? condos? –and the development would better connect Deep Ellum to the Central Business District. Heavens knows we need affordable housing there, and I would love to see trees and grass instead of heat-sucking concrete.

Plus the overpass is just ugly. I guess we could recycle chunks of the old highway creatively, to create cool patios, fences, climbing walls.

Mark Lamster, the architecture critic of the Dallas Morning News, who thinks we need retail options lining the Arts District, agrees with the tear down guys.

Lamster says I-345 is “a noose that segregates the urban core from the rest of the city, suppressing its vitality and economic prospects.”

I don’t think it’s a noose, it’s just like one big huge concrete statute that blocks everything. Steve Blow at the Dallas Morning News thinks the whole debate is hogwash — “It’s about the silliest notion to come along in years,” he wrote.  Texas Department of Transportation seems to be ignoring the tear down movement, saying it will repair I-345, sustaining it for another 25 years. In other words, a facelift.

Mayor Mike Rawlings has gone on record as saying the plan deserves more consideration, a second look.

So. The Real Estate Council will take a look/see, and investigate whether having a freeway slice through the center of the city is the best and highest use, or what use it is, now and 50 years from now.

Could the land really be used more effectively? And where would the existing traffic, estimated at between 160,000 and 200,000 per day, go? What if you are driving south on 75 to get to Houston? North to get to Plano? And don’t reroute drivers to Northwest Highway: 80,000 cars per day and not even a freeway!

Pretty soon traffic will have the same stigma of low income housing: NOT IN MY HOOD!

I am glad we are giving this proposal a serious second look. But if we do tear down I 345, it should be done in conjunction with a “freshening” of downtown Dallas streets. End the one-way street madness, maybe even add some streets and side roads. Downtown Dallas streets are a schizophrenic mess for anyone who drives or attempts to walk much, that is, until you get to Klyde Warren Park. And that’s in the Arts District.

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