Bob Voelker: Going Horizontal

Bob Voelker

What do the following news stories have in common?

Downtown Dallas One-Way Streets Reversing Direction

Updated Master Plan for Downtown Parks Calls for Major New Green Space

Investing to Save: How Encouraging Urban Cycling Saves Money Walkable DFW

Meet Dallas’ New Oak Cliff Streetcars

Dallas has an amazing skyline, to the point that at times we fixate on the vertical. Walking through downtown and looking up is at times breathtaking, with juxtaposed views of modern commercial office buildings, revitalized historic structures, recreational facilities, and worship centers. At the 20-foot-and-up level, it is hard to find a better city. From this vantage point, we can even call Dallas a “great city.”

Yet we have to be careful as we take in the view—as cars zoom by on Akard or Commerce or …  take your pick of streets (Main Street being the exception), at 40 miles per hour. The view of Dallas from the pedestrian level, from 20 feet on down, is one of narrow sidewalks, treeless streets, and a lack of buffer between moving cars and children after school (yes, there are a lot of school children in downtown Dallas).

The stories highlighted above are harbingers of a new trend in Dallas: focusing on horizontal development to knit together our great vertical environment, to enhance “quality of life” in downtown, and ultimately increase the desirability of living and working and playing in the central business district, creating a more 24/7 environment and less a place you want to drive to and from as quickly as possible.

As the streets become more friendly, people linger, people want to live there, restaurants and retail want to be where the people are, etc. etc. Klyde Warren Park is more than just a fun place to hang out on a pretty day; it is a great example of what “going horizontal” can do to enhance the vertical environment.  Dallas just needs to expand its “horizontal leap” and build on this momentum.

Bob Voelker, a shareholder at Munsch Hardt Kopf & Harr PC, is the business development coordinator of the firm’s real estate group.


  • Urban Texan

    Yes! Bob, you prove again why you are one of the true visionaries on this blog. While it seems obvious when reading it, few developers are actually building anything that creates street life. They say they do, but you end up with towers on top of parking pedestals that do little for from the ground level but make people feel uncomfortable. Or they try to have the best of both worlds: retail that caters to the wealthy, but activity that only happens when its more inclusive. Needless to say, things never work out the way they are planned.

    Hopefully Craig Hall’s figured it out since he won the developer sweepstakes (and its a not hugely tall to boot!)

  • Dallas is starting to look like a modern New York with all of the activity in the downtown section. People are starting to move to downtown to live. Except for the JFK section, Dallas would probably be considered the friendliest big city in the USA, or even the world.

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