Tuesday, December 18, 2012

"Great News !!!"

"Great News !!!" That was the subject of an email blast from the Richardson Coalition PAC that I received on the heels of my less than enthusiastic review of Richardson City Council's rezoning of the land surrounding the PGBT DART station to accommodate the construction of big, corporate campuses.

After the jump, parsing the Richardson Coalition's "Great News."

Who knew there were 186 undeveloped acres left in Richardson? That's why the great news of the future $1.5 billion (yes, billion, not million) mixed-use development near the southeast corner of North Central Expressway and U.S. Highway 190 has been such a surprise and welcome news.
Source: Richardson Coalition.
Who knew? Only everyone who has ridden DART in the last decade and has seen the vast, empty expanse of land surrounding the PGBT DART station. Or any of the thousands of drivers who pass the intersection of PGBT and US75 every single day. It's not like you can hide a parcel of land that big. Or anyone who reads the city's Richardson Today and its regular articles over the last couple years on the zoning hearings promising high-density, mixed-use, transit-oriented development on that property.

Mixed-use? It's a big property. With the new zoning plan to segregate a State Farm corporate campus on the north border along PGBT and apartments on the south border along Renner Rd, people associated with each will never see each other, to say nothing of interact in a way a truly mixed-use development would stimulate. There's very little mixed-use about big corporate campuses.

Developer KDC who has developed the new Blue Cross, Fossil and many other properties in Richardson, will also be developing the new regional office complex for State Farm Insurance. Close on the heels of the State Farm complex is Raytheon Co., hopefully near to signing a deal for another big office complex.
Source: Richardson Coalition.
Tell us how the Blue Cross or Fossil sites are in any way mixed-use. Sorry, but "big office complex" and "mixed-use" are contradictory terms. State Farm and Raytheon aren't going to break the pattern. The "great news" here is mainly for anyone in the business of developing open land, not for Richardson residents who believed the promise of mixed-use development around our DART stations.

Why Richardson? A big part is DART. Toby Grove, president of KDC, notes that for companies looking for transit-oriented sites large enough for big corporate campuses, this Richardson site is one of the few prime undeveloped sites in the metroplex.
Source: Richardson Coalition.
There it is again: "big corporate campuses." Go back over the everything the city has been saying about transit-oriented development for the last decade. How often has "mixed-use" been promised, as what Richardson wants to embrace for future development near its string of DART stations? Now that the development of the last, biggest property is at hand, it's all about "big corporate campuses." I feel like I've been had.

We in Richardson take our DART presence somewhat for granted, as it has been part of our landscape for many years. However, many parts of the Metroplex are just now getting their first DART service. Part of that early DART service credit goes to Ray Noah, Bill Keffler, Gary Slagel and other past and present leaders who made our city attractive to developers like KDC to build for our future.
Source: Richardson Coalition.
No, we don't take our DART presence for granted. We treasure it. We see the PGBT/US75 property as the last, best hope for Richardson to develop a high-density, mixed-use, urban character along its central spine. If you want "big corporate campuses," go look along the Dallas North Tollway. There are miles and miles of these impersonal, faceless glass boxes that defy walkability, defy community. Richardson could have been different, instead of a smaller wannabe, with "big corporate campuses" boxing in our last undeveloped DART station, precluding the kind of development that could have set Richardson apart.

And for those who were surprised by the size of the development property, City Manager Dan Johnson noted that we have only about 10% of our city left to be developed. As Bill Keffler noted in a speech to Leadership Richardson, the moment a city is built, it begins to die. So our next phase of development will be making the old new.....again.
Source: Richardson Coalition.
Why the Richardson Coalition PAC thinks this closing paragraph is an argument in favor of the KDC development plan defies understanding. If we have only about 10% of our city left to be developed, why would we use it for a couple more 1980s-style corporate campuses? The saddest part of this whole email is the truism that when "a city is built, it begins to die." The new big, corporate campuses at the intersection of PGBT and US75 will be fitting tombstones visible to all for decades to come. Not that anyone will give these corporate campuses a second thought, as they will be just like every other big, corporate campus all over the D/FW area. Certainly, passersby won't be tempted to stop and stick around to live, work and play.

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