A week ago, I had the opportunity to attend the 17th annual Neighborhood Boot Camp, which is offered by the Dallas Homeowners League. It was my first time to attend, but I have to say – it’s a must for anyone who has had trouble getting help from City Hall in the past – or who belongs to a neighborhood association or crime watch.

The morning was chock-a-block full of useful information from the beginning panel discussion moderated by the Dallas Morning News‘ Robert Wilonsky (panel members included Monte Anderson, Patrick Kennedy and Wick Allison), to the workshops after covering things like navigating City Hall, defining a strong neighborhood, adapting to change in neighborhoods, supporting and promoting DISD, historic preservation and water conservation tips.

I attended the workshop on navigating city hall, conducted by Philip Kingston, and the workshop on promoting and supporting DISD, conducted by Melissa Kingston (more on those tomorrow).

The morning began, however, with a panel discussion on the challenges Dallas faces, as well how to build a vibrant downtown Dallas. “Many of us live in neighborhoods with terrible streets,” Wilonsky acknowledged, adding that many neighborhoods lack amenities you can walk to, as well.

One question the group tackled was how to reconnect downtown to the city neighborhoods – and how to navigate city hall while trying to do so.  (more…)

Uptown Then and Now

For the longest time, the story of how Uptown came to be successful centered around greedy developers wanting to build towers and condos for only those who could afford it. But Patrick Kennedy of “Car Free in Big D” paints a much more nuanced picture of how Dallas’ most walkable neighborhood came about.

Jump for an excerpt.


Remove I-345

Bye bye Miss American Pie, see the potential life under the old highway?

There has been talk, a lot of talk, about removing a section of highway in downtown Dallas. Tear it out, get rid of the concrete somehow (landfill?), and then fill in the space formerly occupied by said highway with development. The proponent of this idea, an urban planner and blogger named Patrick Kennedy and Brandon Hancock, believe this would create greater cohesion between Deep Ellum and downtown Dallas, and make the city a whole lot better. It would create an entire new neighborhood and fill city coffers with new tax dollars.

While it may sound crazy to tear out, and not replace, a major highway, there is actually some proof that when this has been done in other cities, it works: people drive less, or drive elsewhere. I do not think living next to the continuous zoom of highway noise is particularly pleasant, but then some of the most expensive real estate in Preston Hollow is within earshot of the Dallas North Tollway. My husband is currently reading Robert Caro’s extremely long biography of New York City urban planner Robert Moses,  the “master builder” of mid-20th century New York and environs, an urban planner who favored highways over public transportation and helped create New York’s huge parkway network. (I read it back in grad school.) As I recall, Moses critics claimed he loved automobiles more than people, and they blamed him for destroying scores of neighborhoods by building 13 expressways across New York City. Of course, almost all  cities were building highways and inner city housing projects in the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s such as Boston, San Francisco and Seattle. America was as in love with the automobile as we are our i-phones. In Chicago, the expressways run right into the city (under the U.S. Postal Service) and have to stop because of Lake Michigan.

Following suit, Dallas built this particular section of connective highway about 1971.

Truthfully, the more I read, the more I think this is NOT such a bad idea. Whenever I drive on this highway, I 345, the 1.7 miles seem like a whole lot more. It is also very confusing, kind of a mess. Anyhow, I think Patrick has some great points.

Unfortunately, the Texas Department of Transportation has made up it’s mind. Over the weekend, Robert Wilonsky reported that TxDOT  will rehab I-345, with 2020 as the target date for completion. It will take 20 to 25 years to complete and cost $100 million to rehab.

Great, just what we need: another LBJ mess, this time downtown, for a longer period of driving hell. Replacing I 345 with a tunnel or something else would have cost $100 billion, though I am not sure what that “something else” was — unlike Boston, we have no water channels to bore through. TxDOT was also concerned about what would happen to the cars that travel this road.

“We talked about two options,” Jordan says. “When they say it’s too expensive, what they mentioned to us was rebuilding it either at grade or like Central. Then there’s the other option, which some have promoted, of taking it out and not putting back a freeway. And the problem with that is putting back the cars. Where do those 170,000 to 200,000 cars per day go? They mentioned that as well.”

animal_house_2But the funniest part of this story, at least to me, was to learn how many people in Dallas have never watched Animal House, one of my favorite movies.

Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?” he says. “We’re told a tear-down of IH 345 and re-construction of the vibrant, multi-cultural area it destroyed into a complete neighborhood of homes, restaurants, theaters and businesses once there is too expensive. TxDOT’s solution is $100 million to last 20 years. There is no benefit but preventing a collapsing viaduct catastrophe. The tear-down as proposed by A New Dallas would have a similar cost — not a burial — and extraordinary economic, social, and environmental benefit.”

Kennedy has been chided for saying the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor, not the Japanese.

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, for God’s sake go see Animal House.