Monday, September 19, 2016

Firewall in Old Downtown Richardson

City of Richardson

The rendering above is of the new police and fire department facilities planned for old downtown Richardson. There is little news here. The old facilities were outdated. The 2015 Bond Program funded part of the reconstruction. The 2016-2017 budget funds more. I knew all that, but seeing this rendering triggers the thought that this might turn out to be a huge missed opportunity for Richardson.

The detail that stood out for me was the mini-park in the corner of the lot. That's the corner of Main St. and Greenville Ave. That's the heart of old downtown Richardson. The city calls this area the "Main Street District" in its redevelopment study:
Main Street is unique within the City of Richardson because of the compact grid of interconnected streets that creates small blocks conducive to pedestrian circulation. This characteristic and the proximity of Main Street to an evolving Central Place district, Chinatown and Interurban District could combine to make Main Street a great location for an authentic, pedestrian-oriented environment with restaurants, shops, entertainment and a variety of urban residences.
Generally, landscaping requirements for new developments are desirable, but the deep setback in this case is inappropriate for the urban setting. The rendering of the campus is inconsistent with the vision for the Main Street District. Does it preserve/promote a compact street grid? Hardly. Does it create small blocks? Hardly. Does it tie Central Place District to Chinatown? Hardly. On the contrary, the campus creates a firewall between the two districts. It simply does not promote "an authentic, pedestrian-oriented environment with restaurants, shops, entertainment and a variety of urban residences."

Because the extent of the demolition and reconstruction is so great, why not consider moving the police and fire department facilities elsewhere altogether and use this crucial plot of land for a catalyst project that is consistent with the vision? Bulldozing the aging Mike's Gun Room to make room for a bigger police gun room is all too typical of Richardson's lack of vision. At best it's a lack of follow-through on the vision it claims to be supporting.

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