Monday, January 12, 2015

Still More Thoughts on the Center of Dallas

Last week, I was really provoked by urban designer Patrick Kennedy's assertion that the center of Dallas had moved north to or near Richardson.
The center of town has shifted to swaths of 635 and 75 up through Plano. The center of town is no longer Dallas, but the North Dallas border.
Source: StreetSmart.
My takeaway? That Richardson needed to adopt Kennedy's strategy for Dallas: Densification. Transit. Walkability. I stand by that.

But today, I want to back up a little. Is Kennedy on to something when he says the "center of town" is up near Richardson? Kinda. There's no doubt that significant development in last half century has happened north of Dallas and continues to this day. But, let's face it. Richardson is located somewhere near the geographic center of the area from downtown Dallas to McKinney and Frisco, but it lacks the urban core that most people think of when they think of the "center of town." Dallas is going to remain the "center of town" no matter how much decay it suffers from.

After the jump, what Richardson is instead.

Richardson is, instead, an inner ring suburb. There are also outer ring suburbs (like Plano) and exurbs (like Frisco). It's a mistake to lump all those together in the term "suburbs" and think they are all in the same boat. Likewise, it's a mistake to take Kennedy literally and think Richardson has displaced downtown Dallas as the "center of town." Inner ring suburbs like Richardson face challenges different from those faced by the outer suburbs and by the urban downtowns.

By timely coincidence, Grist examines exactly those challenges.
In urban planning circles, inner-ring suburbs are the next frontier. Downtown redevelopment is an easy sell because downtowns are ridiculously trendy, and developers are salivating at the prospect of selling tiny condominiums to millennials and their retiree parents. Suburban development continues to sprawl out at the outermost edges of cities because that’s still the default setting for new home construction.
Source: Grist.
But not all inner ring suburbs are alike, either. Grist contrasts Bethesda, Maryland, with its "history of smart planning choices after the D.C. Metro added a stop there in the '90s, boosting high-density, pedestrian-oriented development" with Ferguson, Missouri, with its history of housing built "between the end of World War II and 1959, ... meaning that these old houses are now wearing out all at once, hitting the point where they are not appealing to most new home buyers, regardless of race."

Which one does Richardson more closely resemble, Bethesda or Ferguson? I'd like to say Bethesda's "high-density, pedestrian-oriented development," but the pessimist in me says the jury is still out. Recent decisions regarding development at CityLine, Palisades, Spring Valley Rd, etc., in fact, just about *all* decisions regarding development anywhere in Richardson are all changes compromising "high-density, pedestrian-oriented" development (I'd link to examples previously written about in The Wheel but I'm weary and, besides, regular readers know what I'm talking about). And Richardson has aging neighborhoods that need loving attention and continual renewal. Whether the development in Richardson is large enough and of the right balance to keep Richardson more like Bethesda than Ferguson, only time will tell.

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