Friday, May 4, 2012

Keep Richardson Weird

Teresa Gubbons and Pegasus News have the big news:

The City of Richardson's planning commission gave the go-ahead to a plan from Austin-based Alamo Drafthouse to open its first branch in Dallas-Fort Worth in the Richardson Heights Shopping Center.
Source: Pegasus News.
This announcement of a movie theater coming to Richardson, and not just any movie theatre, is exactly the kind of catalyst that could spark a renaissance for Richardson's old downtown ... if Richardson seizes the opportunity.

After the jump, imagining what this might mean.

This news is certainly of a nature I dared hope for a couple of weeks ago when the city council met in executive session about commercial development in the Belt Line Rd/US 75 area. By itself, it does nothing to further the goal of the Downtown Main Street Enhancement Area to be pedestrian-oriented, but re-imagine Main Street from the Alamo Drafthouse to the Afrah Mediterranean Restaurant scaled for pedestrians (not just cars), lined with trees and shops and restaurants ... and people. Weird, right?

But that vision is far from reality. If Alamo Drafthouse is coming to downtown Richardson in part because they see future potential in the area, Richardson is going to have to quit squelching that potential. Recent actions that aren't helpful: cracking down on youthful trends like hookah bars, or burying in concrete the Floyd Branch of Cottonwood Creek as it flows through old downtown, or adding lanes to Belt Line Rd through downtown to make it easier for cars to zip through town instead of stopping here, or approving zoning for a new gas station in the heart of the area.

All of these other actions ignore the potential of the area and instead make downtown Richardson look like a thousand other exits on suburban freeways across Texas and the country. They are stopgap measures against decline that work against a real renaissance. The Alamo Drafthouse is the biggest opportunity in a generation to turn old downtown Richardson into a real destination. Don't blow it, Richardson. Nurture it. Make Richardson weird -- at least just a little, in one spot, m'kay?

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