Monday, July 15, 2013

Insurance Intersection

Richardson is in need of rebranding. Telecom Corridor is so 1990s. With all the recent hoopla over State Farm building three new office towers at the intersection of the Bush Tollway and Central Expressway, may I suggest "Insurance Intersection?"

Absurd, you say? Well, sure. But think about why. Last week, my whining about the missed opportunity for these 186 acres of prime real estate focused on the form of the development (see here and here). I claimed it was more 1980s traditional office building, with maybe some nearby apartment buildings to come, than it was 21st century mixed-use, transit-oriented development.

After the jump, what I did not focus on: State Farm itself.

Google HQ at Tsinghua
Thinking about State Farm as the anchor tenant of the most prominent real estate in Richardson prompted a hypothetical choice. Which would I rather see in Richardson: Google in those glass office towers being built for State Farm or State Farm in a different kind of development, a truly mixed-use, transit-oriented development? I had to admit that I'd pick Google, even with the traditional, car-oriented architecture. I use Google as an example not because I think Google is a possible catch. It's to show how far from the ideal State Farm is. And because I was inspired by the example of Beijing -- see the Google sign at the top of the glass office tower in Beijing in the photo at right.

Two years ago, I visited Beijing. What I saw in one particular neighborhood was a synergistic mix of research university, Internet business, shopping, dining and public transportation. It struck me as something Richardson should aspire to:
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.
Source: The Wheel.
My purpose here is not to insult State Farm or its employees (too late to avoid that, probably). But to be frank, State Farm is not the kind of business that will attract entrepreneurs and start-ups that will grow into the major industries of the future. Can you imagine a biotech or nanotech or Internet startup saying they need to be located near the research offices of ... State Farm? Selling insurance is not going to keep the brilliant young minds in Richardson after graduating from UT-Dallas.

Like the architecture, State Farm the company is more 1980s than 21st century. Maybe it's not exactly urban planning malpractice, but putting State Farm in this particular location is not making the highest and best use of this prime real estate. The City of Richardson and the Chamber of Commerce know it, too. That's why they'll never try to rebrand Richardson "Insurance Intersection." But that's what Richardson now is.

1 comment:

Mark Steger said...

Then there's this:

Wendy Davis (@WendyDavisTexas): "Did you know State Farm has been overcharging TX consumers for 10 years? I will continue efforts to end this. #txlege"