Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Museum Tower vs Richardson's PGBT Station

Museum Tower site
Museum Tower site

Museum Tower, the long-envisioned condo tower in the Arts District in downtown Dallas, is on again. You might think that adding living spaces to downtown Dallas would be welcomed by all. Not so. WalkableDFW's Patrick Kennedy pans the planned tower, calling it a "cul-de-sac in the sky" due to the lack of walkability in the neighborhood. He has a point. Once you get past the glossy marketing brochures that show the downtown skyline and the nearby art museum, symphony hall and deck park, what will residents who actually move in be faced with on the ground? Look at the aerial view of the planned location -- it's the parking lot inside that strangling cloverleaf exit to Woodall Rodgers freeway. Just try to walk anywhere from your new condo and see how far you get. Big mistake?

After the jump, why I like it anyway and why I'm glad it's in Dallas, not Richardson.

First, as far as Dallasites might care, that Museum Tower is better than what's there now -- a parking lot. It's also better than a lot of things that might go inside a cloverleaf. In most freeway interchanges, those spaces are reserved for a few crape myrtles at best. If someone wants to put a 40 story condo there, I say go for it. The developers might go broke. The condo owners' mortgages might be underwater from day one. But even if only a few hundred (or a few dozen) people end up living in that tower, that's a few hundred more people living in downtown Dallas than now. That's positive. Even if the site isn't very walkable, with condo prices starting at a million dollars, the tenants will probably drive (or be driven) to the symphony anyway, even if it is just a block away. Museum Tower is a win for Dallas if not for the poor police and firemen's pension fund, which is putting up the money.

As for Richardson, if residents squint enough, they might imagine some parallels to the planned development around the Bush Turnpike (PGBT) Station. Like Museum Tower in downtown Dallas, PGBT Station is hemmed in by freeways -- US 75 and PGBT itself. The developers could have planned something that is just as much an island as the Museum Tower looks to be. But Richardson has much more land to work with. Initial concepts call for 120' office buildings along Central Expressway, shorter mixed use office/commercial/residential farther inside the development, all tapering off as the area transitions at Plano and Renner Rds to existing neighborhoods. All would be connected by transition zones laced by trails, boulevards, light rail and civic spaces. If done right, there won't be any cul-de-sacs in the sky. The neighborhood will be integrated, mixed-use, walkable and very livable. And it's just a short walk or bike ride to the DART station, from where it's an easy ride downtown to those art museums and opera houses.

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