Do We Demonize the Suburbs? Sad, Because That’s Where the Immigrants Are in North Texas

Hambric kitchenReally thoughtful piece by Jacqueline Floyd, who lives in “a peaceful Denton County suburb”, in Sunday’s Dallas Morning News. She says that after all of last week’s Rah Rah Urbanism activity — you know the New Cities Summit and the U.S. Conference of Mayors — that there is a looking-down-the-nose at suburban dwellers element going on.

Kind of like that “you live north of LBJ? I am so sorry” ‘tude. Jacqueline says bring on the new urbanism but don’t demonize the ‘burbs and all who live there:

As a spirit of “new urbanism” is making serious inroads in Dallas, its satellite communities are fielding the blame for a host of woes: not just freeways and sprawl but such elemental human failings as greed, bigotry and mindless consumerism.

I liked her points, and I agree with many. The fact is, a lot of journalists, many in fact who are writing some of those Rah Rah stories, live outside of Dallas, in the suburbs. Why? Because that’s where they can afford to live and educate their children. Because let’s face it: you get a better deal on a home in the suburbs than you do in Dallas. You get cookie cutter, yes, but your chances of being slashed with a box cutter tend to be less, too.

Let’s take $300,000: here’s what you get in Melissa, here’s what you get in Dallas:

608 Hambrick Here is 1536 square feet in Hexter Elementary. Two bedrooms, two baths, wonderful floor plan, updated, ready for move in! Refinished hardwood floors, granite kitchen with stainless and a lazy Susan. Baths are updated, cabinets have fresh paint and light fixtures. Great back yard and garage space, sprinkle system, 1 mile bike to lake, 2 blocks to exemplary Hexter Elementary. Oh by the way, this home is north of LBJ, near Frankfort & Preston.  at 608 Hambrick, Lake Highlands.

2312 Patriot drive MelissaHere is 2312 Patriot Drive in Melissa built by Highland Homes, LTD – August completion! You get 2484 square feet (almost 1000 more!) with 4-bedrooms, 2.5 bath home with family room, study, game room, planning desk, and 2-car garage. The master suite is extended and has an upgraded bath, the outdoor living area is extended, and there are wood floors in entry, kitchen-nook, and family room.

When we moved here eons ago, we faced the same choices. My husband was an intern, I was a reporter. We had no money. Many of the interns and residents were buying up at Trinity Mills Road in Carrollton, Fox and Jacobs homes that were brand spanking new and we could pick our very own colors. Imagine that! I had just come from a box in New York City that cost and arm and a leg, to the nirvana of a Cedar Springs apartment with a cultured vanity countertop — that was luxury! Home ownership was still a scary concept, but the thought of moving into a brand new home that was clean and needed no repairs was so tempting.

It was also a 40 minute drive for both of us. Worse, one of the residents at Parkland had fallen asleep driving home — this was prior to what our generation of docs teasingly refers to as the “wimp-ization of residents” — the limiting of their work hours.

The house we could afford in Dallas for the same price was a wreck and needed a lot of work and repairs, all of which we had no money for because it cost so much. But it was 10 minutes from work.

Turns out, we bought inside the LBJ loop and have lived there, here, ever since. I hate the waste of commuting hours, one reason why I prefer home offices.

She’s right, too, that there’s a heck of a lot going on in those suburbs — jobs, micro-arts centers, and lot of immigrants who open up the best ethnic restaurants and stores. In my home town of Chicago, the city is where the various ethnic communities live in clusters: the Italians used to live on and around Cicero Ave, the Greeks in one ‘hood, the Poles, Germans etc. That’s because when people emigrated to the U.S., they found comfort in living with people from their home country. My grandmother was sent to the U.S at the age of 12. She was to find her older brother and friends from the old country who would watch after her. That’s how ethnic neighborhoods populated. We don’t have that in Dallas, because most immigrants headed north of Dallas to more affordable housing and better public schools.

But the infill is coming, as more young people buy dilapidated homes in East Dallas and gentrify, which is why the decision to put a Sam’s Club on Central is SO ridiculous. Build up the fabulous momentum in Bishop Arts. Was there this weekend, and the area is CRAMMED with young people and also Baby Boomers!

I also am seeing wonderful products of the suburbs, brilliant young kids who have emerged from Richardson and Plano public schools, went to top colleges, now taking on leadership roles, giving the Dallas private school grads a run for their money.

It would be wonderful to live downtown if that’s where your work was, of course, or if you were so well invested a “trust fund” kid you could live anywhere you wanted to live. But many people travel for work, or make daily sales calls across the metroplex. I know cars are the next cigarette (BAD for your health!) but for some salespeople, their cars are their offices.

Until our public transportation rises to the occasion to accommodate commuters, there will be cars and people in them, driving, belching out second hand smoke. Folks in Silicon Valley think we need self-driving cars, which would be safer and way more fuel efficient. Dallas’ newest condo, Harwood’s Bleu Ciel, will have beefed up parking, two per every two bedroom condo.

Dense urban living jam packs a lot of population into a smaller footprint, so you use less green space, and fewer resources. Really, that’s good for our planet. But not everyone wants to or can live so densely, at least not without killing people.

That’s why I think we are better off restructuring the way suburbanites live: does every home in a development have to have a green lawn of St. Augustine? How about some gravel, buffalo grass and turf? Because of the way this city evolved, as depots, we are always going to have what Jacqueline called satellites:

The growth of transit-oriented developments near DART stations is a trend not just in Dallas but in suburban cities as well. The term “suburb,” in fact, should be used advisedly. Many of our “satellites” are full-blown, fast-growing cities with employment centers of their own.”

With really great ethnic restaurants.

 

 

 

12 Comment

  • mm

    I think there is a lot to the “get more for your money” argument. But we live inside 635 because we also want to enjoy all the cultural assets nearby, and we’re focused on living small.

    Of course, different strokes for different folks. Not everyone wants to live in a 1,300-square-foot 1950s post-war home, and that’s OK, too. I think the answer to all of this is better mass transit options, new home developments that include a walkable development plan that puts retail and institutional amenities closer to homes.

  • Candy, this urbanization versus suburbanization is a great discussion. But I think the other fascinating aspect of this is where does the line get drawn. Clearly from your recent headlines it appears that the large majority of residents around the Preston Center area want their part of town to remain more suburban, leaving the high density for Uptown and Downtown. Conversely, it is obvious that developers see great opportunity in bringing density to an area like Preston Center. How it will all turn out will be interesting to watch…

    • mm

      Great point, Britt. Would you like to do a guest post or have any suggestions as to how I can advance this story? So we may have the live/work/play depots across the prairie BUT some areas are purposefully keeping them out. Should high density living be restricted to Uptown and Downtown?

      • Candy, I think Uptown/Downtown are clearly great places for high density living. And there are lots of other communities that might welcome these new high-density developments: live/work/play places like the Cedars, Mockingbird Station, Richardson Telecom Corridor, the Valley View Midtown development, Fort Worth’s West Seventh area, etc. (I assume their neighbors/citizens are for it, though I guess I could be wrong.) But I don’t think we are at the point in time that says that DFW is growing so every suburban neighborhood has to cater to the high density even if its citizens are significantly opposed. Most people who picked their suburban neighborhood picked it precisely because of its features, and zoning was put in place to protect that. So while there is no stopping progress, it seems to me that these high density projects should consider going up in the places that actually want them.

  • Fact check your posts, Candy. There is no way your Hexter Elementary listing is located north of LBJ, much less as far noth as Frankford (which is Plano ISD schools!). Hexter is a top DISD elementary school located in 75218 on the east side of White Rock Lake.

  • I would love to retire in a small single story at a walking distance from some urban cultural hub. However, to raise a family on a budget, one needs space, safety, top public schools and a decent size yard. When we moved to DFW, we browsed all options and then picked Far West Plano. We have a big, non cookie cutter house with a pool backing to a lush golf course. Plano offered us short commute to our jobs, to airports, Dallas cultural attraction and access to DART & 3 tollways. We have fantastic nature reserves, parks, recreation centers, dining, shopping and all amenities needed for all life style. Our children are getting top notch education in top tier public schools. One of them is already attending an Ivy school because we were able to save money thanks to free schooling. To each its own. If we had enough money to buy a decent house in Highland Park or to buy in Preston Hollow and still have enough left for top private schools then sure, I’ll move there in a nano second but not on less than $500k salary. I like where I am for now.

    • mm

      Thank you so much Jill! Your paragraph says it all — the suburbs simply offer more for less, things that quite simply are not available in the core for those who earn less than half a million a year. Half a million is A LOT, in fact I still recall when a million was a lot! But the truth is, with taxes and mounds of expenses, it goes pretty fast with a family.