Thursday, January 15, 2015

CityLine, Palisades and Strip Shopping Centers

I pledged to myself that I wasn't going to respond to the straw man argument by Rodger Jones of The Dallas Morning News dismissing criticism of the proposed Trinity tollroad. If I weren't already familiar with Jones's work, I would have guessed that he was merely trolling. "Don't feed the trolls" is advice I usually try to live by. To my benefit, D Magazine's Peter Simek rebuts Jones so I don't have to.
Jones' point, in short, is that the anti-highway and anti-Trinity Toll Road folks argue that highways don't lead to development. Then he points to a handful of developments to show that, yes, highways spur development.

I know, I know. I heard you groan. See, I've been trying to ignore it. But stay with me.

First, let's dismiss the straw men. No one claims that highways don't spur development. Rather, the argument is that highways spur the wrong kind of development in urban settings, development that generally promotes inefficient land use and contribute to broader urban decay. Yes, highways create development. They also incentivize development around cheap, undeveloped land.
Source: Frontburner.
So, enough with Jones and his straw men. That's the easy, obvious part of Simek's article. It's the rest of what Simek says that requires more thought.

Simek makes two points that bear not just on downtown Dallas, but on Richardson. He points to Plano's Legacy Town Center (one of Jones's examples of a highway attracting development) and dismisses it as a model for downtown Dallas.
While Legacy is fine for Plano, a car-driven mixed-use shopping center doesn't maximize the potential of the city center.
Source: Frontburner.
Richardson is where Plano and downtown Dallas collide. Richardson's hot new real estate development, CityLine, was once proposed as the city's own version of Plano's Legacy Town Center. But another D Magazine writer, Patrick Kennedy, asserted that Richardson is the new center of town (or somewhere nearby anyway). If Simek and Kennedy are right, Legacy Town Center is the wrong model for Richardson.

Copying Legacy Town Center might look like the right strategy to compete with Plano today. But long-term, trying to maximize the potential of a new town center for the region is more important than following Plano's lead. And that requires looking at CityLine and Palisades Village as more than islands of development that people commute to by car.

The coming apartments and offices of Palisades Village could lead to a renaissance for that aging strip of retail just south of it along Campbell Rd. And CityLine just might have a beneficial spillover effect north of the Bush tollway (more on that in a future article). But Palisades Village and CityLine can only do so much for Richardson. The hard part is rejuvenating the aging strip centers scattered all around the rest of Richardson.

That brings me to my second and more important takeaway from Simek's article. He looks at a redevelopment plan for the neighborhood around Wynnewood Village, "a typical 1950s-era suburban shopping center" near the hot Bishop Arts District.
Rather than focus on the shopping center, they looked at the adjacent low income housing across the street. Out-of-date and in need of maintenance, the apartments house a community and families, but there was also crime and the footprint of the apartments provided for an inefficient use of space.
Source: Frontburner.
Maybe, like the plan in Dallas for Wynnewood Village, Richardson ought to focus on the surrounding neighborhoods. If you want the shopping centers to revive, you need healthy neighborhoods first. Improve the housing in those neighborhoods, increase the density near those decaying shopping centers, and you inevitably make the shopping centers themselves more attractive to retail tenants.

What is Richardson doing to revive and sustain its neighborhoods? Answer that question and the retail problem will be much easier to solve. Richardson has long spoken of its neighborhood vitality efforts. It's time for Richardson to get serious about it.