One of Dallas’ huge strengths is its neighborhoods, and one of the most unique is downtown. Make that Downtown with a capital D. With its walkable blocks, great density, and mix of classic and modern architecture, Downtown is similar to the nearby Uptown neighborhood. But at Wednesday night’s community roundtable hosted by the Dallas Homeowners League, Downtown was commiserating and collaborating with Deep Ellum, the Cedars and the Farmers Market neighborhoods. Why so glum? All are trying to poke their heads up as residential nirvanas for a new style of living.
As Peter Simek, last night’s roundtable moderator, put it, all areas “suffered the effects of de-economization of the core in the 60s, and are now coming into their own.”
The Cedars resurgence began with the artists, then slowly more residents homesteaded, and now 11 new real estate projects are in the pipeline. Deep Ellum has always been a place for those on the “fringes of society”, from the freed slaves who first called it home to the iconic musicians and people who ventured there to watch and “experienced their first xyz.” (Well put, Sean Fitzgerald, the roundtable rep from Deep Ellum.) The Farmers Market grew from stable produce-based businesses years before farm-to-table became a cliche, and added hundreds of mid-rise residences, and is becoming a unique district within the Downtown core.
The one thing all areas share is their ability and desire to meet the demand for walkable urbanism. There’s something about Uptown that makes it so attractive, and therefore one of the most expensive neighborhoods to live and work in. Before the ‘cool shops and bars’ moved in, there was a street grid with intersection density and continuous street frontage: it’s easily walkable.
Downtown and its sister neighborhoods to the south and east have to knit-back together their piecemeal, walkable street fabric: through parking lots and under/over highways. The potential to connect Farmers Market with Dallas Heritage Village and the Arts District with Deep Ellum, is tied to the potential to keep and attract smart, creative, tech entrepreneurs from around the world. They’re attracted to the history, architecture, and ability to live without the burden of a car, which, as Candy is finding from the Millennials, is because they view time as the most valuable resource.
There are other issues these neighborhoods share. We have a proportionate number of homeless compared to other cities our size, thus we need a serious, comprehensive strategy to alleviate the ill-effects. Crispin Lawson (the roundtable rep from Downtown) cited Utah’s 75 percent decrease in homelessness since 2005 by providing free homes and services for less than half the cost of typical programs. It saved millions of taxpayer dollars. CitySquare is working on just that, south of Deep Ellum.
The homeless conversation could run for days — each neighborhood is working their strategies diligently.
We’d only begun to scratch the surface of the big dreams and problems the neighborhoods all share, when the roundtable discussion drew to a close. But conversations spilled-out to Lee Harvey’s, and new friends will continue the dialogue. We will certainly be doing that here on CandysDirt.com. At this point, the Dallas Homeowners League is merely facilitating the groundswell of residents becoming engaged in transforming their own neighborhoods.
The curated conversation will continue with another panel discussion in two weeks. The Feb. 11 event doubles as a fundraiser for a Deep Ellum neighborhood build-out of pocket parks on Crowdus St., led by the Congress for the New Urbanism and three Dallas Architecture firms: Callison, TBG, and Studio Outside.
Community galvanizers will talk about taking matters into their own hands. Then we’ll take matters into our own hands.