Friday, October 2, 2015

A Tale of Two Cities: Plano and Richardson

My inbox contained one of those civic booster stories that reads like something the real estate business is always generating: "Downtown Plano recognized as one of 'Great Places in America'". You read that right. Plano. It turns out that, beneath the hype, there are some secrets to success worth emulating. The story highlights the downtown DART station (public transit), the 1,000 residential units nearby (density), and streets redesigned to be cyclist- and pedestrian-friendly (walkability). Saying it's one of the "Great Places in America" might be over the top, but Richardson would be foolish not to recognize the good things happening just to our north.

So, what about Richardson? The city is distracted by the glitzy baubles of greenfield developments like CityLine and Palisades while paying mainly lip service to the city's own aging downtown and west Spring Valley Corridor, both of which could mimic Plano's downtown revival if given some serious attention.

On the other hand, my inbox also contained a restaurant review from The Dallas Observer for a new eatery in Richardson: "First Look at Richardson Food Truck Park". The review calls attention to "the park's unassuming location, sandwiched between an oil change place and a forgotten appliance store." But this story also contains a secret for success in the 21st century. "With the park just a five minute walk from Arapaho Station, DART is your designated driver." Like a wildflower poking up from a crack in the pavement, good things try to bloom even in neglected places. Imagine the gardens Richardson could have if we had a gardener at city hall.

Update: D Magazine's Patrick Kennedy is more impressed with Plano's award than I was. It's saying something to get anyone south of LBJ to cast a favorable glance at anything going on in the suburbs. My bad.

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