Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Spring Valley Matrix: Be Afraid Of The Future

Movie franchise sequels tend to disappoint, then peter out altogether. Matrix Reloaded, Matrix Revolutions, anyone? That's the same feeling I got watching the third briefing of the Richardson City Council on the West Spring Valley Corridor Reinvestment Study. I'd seen it all before. It wasn't really answering any of the questions I had from the first movie. And it wasn't going anywhere. My take on the first two briefings can be read here and here. After the jump, my take on the third briefing.

Like a movie franchise trying to give the audience a reason to come back to the theater, the third briefing was billed as focusing on the "final vision." We could only hope. Afterward, Andrew Laska, president of Richardson Heights Neighborhood Association, told the council that "This is not yet a vision. ... This is a means to a vision and we're not there yet." I don't think he was criticizing the progress, only lowering expectations, warning the public that redevelopment might take ten or fifteen years. He might be right.

A more cynical forecast might be never. The neighborhoods bordering the West Spring Valley Corridor are being pacified by dog and pony shows featuring "keypad polling", "revised catalyst concepts" and "computer-animated flyovers."

By the way, watching that flyover, did anyone else see a depressing resemblance to sterile Soviet-era architecture? They really need to find a way to get the animation to match the pretty pictures of sidewalk cafes and strolling shoppers. Going further off topic, be warned that the results have a way of falling short of the pretty pictures used to sell the development. See Dallas' AT&T PAC for a recent nearby example.

The West Spring Valley Corridor neighbors might like to imagine tearing down the Continental Motel and putting up a Hyatt Regency, but Community Projects Manager Monica Heid would only offer, say, a budget hotel now and some hope of transition to better things years down the road. And even a Holiday Inn Express is still only a concept at this point. True redevelopment of the corridor along the lines of what the neighbors might dream of is as much a pipe dream today as ever. In a world of 1s and 0s, I'm afraid this effort is a zero, and not The One. But the audience seemed to enjoy the show, so there's that.

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