Mike Geisler: Musings on Great American Cities


Mike Geisler

As I return from the ICSC Conference in New York, I look out the window of the plane at the density that is New York City. It is an amazing and awesome place.

During the last 20 years, I have seen this city change in so many ways. It is impressive to see how the city works, and in many ways it has never been better. From my viewpoint, New York looks like it is well run.

I can remember in the late ’70s and early ’80s, New York City was a dirty place and did not feel safe. I can remember reading about the blight, with decaying and abandoned buildings. It seemed broken.

Today, New York appears so vibrant. There seems to be a renaissance in many of the neighborhoods and boroughs.

I have been reading The Death and Life of Great American Cities by Jane Jacobs. This book was written in 1961. Jacobs discusses the errors of city planning in turning neighborhoods inward instead of having them connect with the street.

She writes about the needs of the community and how the community deals with its challenges. Today, we see with many of the social experiments in housing projects, the planners got it wrong. Many of the large, vertical housing projects, like Cabrini Green in Chicago, looked pretty and symmetrical from a bird’s eye view, but the common area spaces were typically unused and often dangerous. Jacobs argues that the street is what brought people together as a neighborhood.

Fifty years later, I wonder what she would say about New York and other big cities. What about Dallas-Fort Worth: Are we getting it right yet?

Mike Geisler is co-founder of Venture Commercial Real Estate, one of the leading retail brokerage services firms Texas. Contact him at [email protected]


  • Tim

    No, I don’t think so. Dallas can’t seem to get it right. The developers and money people are so focused on getting ROI and cashing out vs. letting the development progress naturally. Too dense. Go to Uptown off McKinney on the side streets- concrete canyons. The mixed use projects are not user friendly- Mockingbird Station, Victory, The Shops at Park Lane…

  • jack gosnell

    Mike, great perspective. In past decades we were proficient in tearing down landmarks, providing 6 lane divideds to Oklahoma and overbuilding retail per capita to a ridiculous degree. For the past fifteen years we seem to be moving toward more Urban style, transit oriented mixed use and a more honest street front retail. I know we have a long way to go but at least we seem to have some sense of the right direction.

  • Frank Bullock

    Mike, as usual you are spot on with your succinct yet appro po commentary on the Capital of the World. NYC is clearly the most vibrant, energetic and continually changing city on the planet. To have Dallas’ resident urban guru, Sir Jack Gosnell second your analysis is a compliment.
    See you in NYC next year and anxious to see how it’s changed.

  • Cities take on the shape of their bones. The bones are the infrastructure. Until we take away the shaping of cities from traffic engineers, Dallas won’t “get it.” On the other hand, Dallas has ambition, which gives me hope. Ambition will not be deterred, while learn from past (and current and future) failures.

  • Mike Dunlap

    New York has put in over 250 miles of bike lanes in the past 6 years:


    Chicago is currently installing 33 miles of protected bike lanes in the heart of the city; not painted lines on streets… but cement curb protected bike lanes:


    Cities around the world are aggressively doing this right now; not because they expect everyone to ride bikes but because they have seen the mountains of evidence showing such lanes reduce traffic fatalities, increase walkability and property values, lower obesity rates, etc., etc.

    Dallas has some people within its government that are well-versed in all this: Angela Hunt and Scott Griggs on the City Council, Keith Manoy in transportation, Samuel Stiles with the Parks Foundation… but these people are still greatly outnumbered by – and collectively have far less power than – people who are woefully out of touch with what other cities are doing on this stuff. People like Mary Suhm, the rest of the City Council, the county commissioners, etc.

    Someday we’ll have leaders at the top of our city government that actually get – and personally live – urbanism. As similarly positioned leaders of other cities do. But for now we have to keep waiting.