Thursday, August 15, 2013


VW Lemon Ad
Meet the new Interurban District. Same as the old Interurban District.

You didn't know Richardson even has an "Interurban District?" You're probably not alone. It's the area east of Central Expressway and west of the DART rail line from Greer St north to Rayflex Dr. The current conditions and the future vision for the Interurban District were spelled out in the City of Richardson's "Main Street/Central Expressway Study" of January, 2013.
The Interurban District could become a vibrant, mixed-use district that builds upon the existing block structure and buildings in the area. Today's industrial/commercial district, made up of tilt wall and block masonry buildings dating from the 1960's to the 1980's, could transform into an eclectic live/work neighborhood through reuse of the existing building stock for specialty industrial, commercial, retail/ restaurant and residential uses. Vacant and underutilized parcels could be redeveloped into urban housing in the form of loft apartments and live-work units.
Vibrant, mixed-use district. Eclectic live/work neighborhood. Loft apartments. Sounds great, doesn't it? Bring it on. After the jump, the first sign of redevelopment of the Interurban District.

Judging from Monday night's Richardson City Council meeting, you'd think the construction crews are ready to turn those aging buildings into "edgy," "repurposed," "live/work units." On Monday night, the council unanimously approved a zoning change to allow the reconstruction of the AutoNation Volkswagen dealership in the heart of the Interurban District.

AutoNation Volkswagen

There it is. Gaze on it. Study it. Describe it. Edgy? Eclectic? Mixed-use? How about... Out with the 1960s, in with the 1980s?

Sometimes I wonder why the city even goes through the exercise of conducting a study, soliciting resident inputs, imagining all the greater and best uses that the properties in Richardson could be put to, only to lie down for the first car dealer to come along. Then again, maybe I shouldn't wonder why the city council behaves this way...
Every time we get a car, this place turns into a whorehouse.
I guess we can still hope for better things for the "Main Street District" to the immediate south and the "Chinatown District" to the immediate east. But really, what developer is going to look at this new car dealership and think, yeah, that's just the kind of neighbor I want for the new edgy, eclectic, mixed-use, pedestrian-friendly development that Richardson's "Interurban District" market is ripe for? No one, I'm afraid. The Interurban District is now where hopes for Richardson redevelopment go to die. If the district were an automobile, you just might have to say the city council bought a lemon.


DennisTheBald said...

yep, cars are the engine of the past. Even cars with clever TV commercials like VW has. But, there is an extension of the bike path in there too, so maybe there will be some tattooed, pierced, fixie people hangin' in the hookah bars?

Mark Steger said...

Dennis, thanks for mentioning that Central Trail. The blog item was already getting too long, so I didn't bring it up, but I was wondering about the disconnect in urban planning to put an auto dealership next to a bike trail.

Sassy Texan said...

If there was one, just one, edgy urban mixed use area that has worked in Richardson it would be truly an eye opener. So far edgy, mixed use, mass transit is not going as presented. But a whole bunch of money has been spent in more ways imagined!

Cheri Duncan-Hubert

Mark Steger said...

"They're baaaaack!" -- Poltergeist II.

I'm afraid they snuck this one past the CPC without me noticing.

From the staff report: "In 2013, Auto Nation intended to purchase the property, and they requested to rezone the property from I-M(1) Industrial, LR-M(1) Local Retail, and O-M Office to PD Planned Development to accommodate a 9,840-square foot expansion on the west side of Building ‘A’, similar to the current request. After the zoning was approved, development plans for the property, including a replat that combined the 7.1-acre site into one (1) lot were approved in 2014; however, the project was never constructed."

Here's what I called VW's plans in 2013: "Lemon." For some reason, they didn't go through with it then. Now they're back. Ironically, it's while a major new mixed-use development on Main Street is going up just to the south, making a new car dealership as a neighbor even more out of place. VW's plans create a great wall blocking the city's vision for this district from spreading north. From the staff report: "The vision for this sub-district is to create an edgy, mixed-use district built upon the existing bones of the development." Sorry, even though a VW Bug might have been considered "edgy" in the 1960s, a new car dealership wasn't. Not then. Certainly not now.

Like I said in 2013, it's still a lemon.