After the jump, does this verdict extend to Richardson, too?
I'll let you read Simek's lessons for Dallas for yourself. You decide if Coletta's message is all that dire for Dallas. I'm more interested in considering how Coletta's advice might apply to Richardson. Bear in mind that, in the rest of this post, when I say "Coletta says" I really mean "Simek says Coletta says."
Coletta warns that "the image that we have of the American Dream, with the suburban white picket fence, is out of sync with what the next generation is looking for." Uh oh. Richardson's history is working against us. Our history is out of sync. Is our future?
Coletta says there is "an increasing desire among young people to live within a 3-mile radius of their place of work." Moreover, "tomorrow's top talent actively seeks out cities that can provide for this kind of quality of life, characterized by walkability, pedestrian interconnectivity, and vibrancy." Most important, "we can't treat urban living as an 'alternative lifestyle.' It is the new norm."
|From 2009 12 Eastside Christmas|
In this regard, Richardson's recent focus of development is looking in the right direction. Developments like Brick Row, Eastside and Galatyn are compatible with this demographic change, even if the results so far are mostly incomplete. When Coletta says Dallas needs to "double down" it applies equally well to Richardson. A few isolated urban centers, left to fend for themselves, are going to wither on the vine. Nurture them to grow together into a string of overlapping vibrant urban centers all along the DART line from Spring Valley to PGBT and Richardson will have a cornucopia. (Aside to civic boosters: feel free to use that image in advertising. I won't ask for royalties.)
Coletta says a city needs to strive for spontaneity. As one young professional put it when describing what he looked for in a city, "I want to stumble onto the fun." Richardson has fun things to do -- Cottonwood Art Festival, Huffhines Art Trails, Wildflower!, WildRide!, Santa's Village, etc. But a vibrant urban space has something like that happening almost all the time, so that a visitor to the city is likely to stumble onto something fun year round. Even if it's something as simple and natural as families enjoying a picnic at Dallas's White Rock Lake on a sunny Sunday afternoon in Spring, or the street life in Uptown on a Friday night. Richardson needs to find a way to plant the seeds for such life, too.
This last bit of advice is probably the hardest to plan for. Planning is the antithesis of spontaneity. But Coletta had some advice on how to load the dice to improve the odds of serendipity happening. "Don't go 'buffalo hunting' to score large corporate relocations, but rather focus on supporting small, local businesses downtown." The more players you have in the game, the more often someone will roll a winning number. Lots of small winners can help fill in the gaps between the really big events, increasing the odds of stumbling onto some fun any day of the year. (Aside to city fathers: using new zoning laws to snuff out seedlings of life like the ashes of a hookah pipe is the exact opposite of nurturing "fun.")
So, back to the original question: is Richardson screwed? Richardson's smaller size compared to Dallas makes it that much harder to create the urban vibrancy Coletta describes. But Richardson is headed in the right direction. Is it moving fast enough? Does it have the civic spirit to double down? The future prosperity of Richardson hangs in the balance.