Looking Ahead to 2015: Revitalization of Downtown Dallas

Photo courtesy of Steve Rainwater via a Creative Commons license

Photo courtesy of Steve Rainwater via Creative Commons

When I learned to drive in the 90s, my dad had two big rules: Don’t run out of gas and don’t drive anywhere near Downtown Dallas, particularly at night.

We were suburban dwellers, used to wide streets, manicured lawns, and regularly scheduled trash pickups. Much of Downtown Dallas was gritty and graffitied, all business by day, and practically vacant at night, except for the club scene in Deep Ellum and restaurants in the West End Historic District.

It’s not just downtown that was affected—for decades, people have been moving to the suburbs in Dallas and across the country. For example, nationally, the suburbs grew at an annual average rate of 1.38 percent, compared to 0.42 percent for primary cities between 2000 and 2010, according to U.S. Census Bureau data and research by population analysts.

But that trend appears to be reversing in the past four years. Since 2010, primary cities with populations of 100,000 or more outgrew suburbs each year, according to research by William H. Frey, a demographer with the Brookings Institution.

Dallas is part of that trend. Certainly, many our suburbs like Frisco are seeing unprecedented growth. But our urban core—the 15 districts that make up Downtown Dallas—has seen a radical transformation as people and businesses move back downtown. 

Case in point: in 2000, the Central Business District population, one of those 15 districts, was just 14,654. It is predicted to grow to 33,139 residents in 2015, and 59,337 in 2030.  

Frey said the surge in downtown populations nationwide is largely due to the desire by young people, and even some Baby Boomers, to live in core areas of cities.

Downtowns are attractive to young people who are extending adolescence and putting off getting married and having kids,” he said. “Instead, they are investing in their careers. This cohort has historically liked living in cities because of the bright lights and nighttime culture. In the past, they’d settle down after a time, have kids and head off to the suburbs.”

In Dallas, revitalization of downtown began in the late 1990s/early 2000s with city efforts to improve infrastructure and safety and grow the Dallas Arts District, among other things. Residential property development followed, like 1505 Elm Street, which was the first downtown highrise converted to condominiums.

Downtown Dallas Inc. leads the charge today as the principal advocate, champion, and steward of downtown. They effect change by developing strategies, setting targets, and mobilizing resources that stimulate a vibrant and sustainable downtown environment, continue to improve infrastructure and enhance economic competitiveness, create a culturally inclusive urban center, and position the area as a global destination.

To that end, Downtown Dallas 360 is DDI’s strategic plan that cultivates a collective vision for downtown’s future.

“DDI is courting new business by activating downtown streets, creating new public-private partnerships, and improving transit, housing, and parking, as laid out in the Downtown Dallas 360 plan,” said John Crawford, President and CEO of DDI. “We can see and feel tangible successes of this strategic plan for downtown revitalization on the streets every day.”

Over the next year, I want to explore the growth and revitalization of the Downtown Dallas area, as it continues to reestablish the prominence of our city center. This has positive implications for every aspect of the city’s future, and 2015 has exciting changes in store.