Friday, March 25, 2011

The Future of Richardson Is In Beijing

Google HQ at Tsinghua
"You may be right,
I may be crazy.
But it just may be the lunacy
Richardson is looking for."
-- With apologies to Billy Joel.

I have seen the future of Richardson and it is in Beijing. Bear with me. After the jump, come with me to Beijing for a few minutes.

Stand outside the East Gate of Tsinghua University and look around. On one side, obviously, is the university itself, the locus of the best and brightest minds of China, the wellspring of China's growing prosperity. Raise your eyes to those office towers adjacent to the university. See the Google sign on top of one building. Google has come to Tsinghua to take advantage of the intellectual power assembled there. Look at the street life in the surrounding Wudaokou neighborhood. There are food carts on the corner. Along the street are stores and restaurants. Go in the bookstore and up the stairs and find Lush, a small bar/restaurant serving big juicy hamburgers and cold beers from around the world. Listen to the voices speaking Chinese, English, Portuguese and who knows what else. When you need to leave, there's a light rail station that will get you on your way to anywhere you need to go in widespread Beijing. Truly, there's something magical going on here.

How can Richardson get some of that? Well, it starts with wanting to get some of that. That part's not given. Some people in Richardson want to hold onto its past, as if that's even possible. Instead, we're faced with a choice between decline and reinvention. Trying to hang onto the status quo often means choosing decline. I prefer reinvention. Let's assume for a minute that a majority of Richardson residents agree. Then, Beijing/Wudaokou/Tsinghua offers a vision that Richardson might want to study. Richardson has all the right ingredients, it just needs to put them together:

  • University of Texas at Dallas
  • the businesses that make up the Telecom Corridor
  • the proposed mixed-use development at the Bush Tollway and US 75
  • all tied together by DART and a future Cotton Belt line

UT-Dallas attracts the brilliant young minds. Telecom Corridor attracts the businesses that want to be in close proximity to that intellectual power. The size and density of apartments and shops and restaurants in that planned development make the area attractive to the bright, entrepreneurial people who study and work in the area, making them want to live there, too. The convergence of all that leads to business startups that keep the engine humming. Put all the ingredients together and there could be something magical going on in Richardson's future, too. I may be crazy but my lunacy may be just what Richardson is looking for.

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