Scott Beck: The Rubber Band Effect

Scott Beck
Scott Beck

When you look around the world, many great cities have been built on a north-south axis. Some examples of foreign cities include Beijing, Bogota, Lahore, and Athens. What causes cities to be built on an alternate axis is usually some type of water tributary, railway, or topographical impediment.
Just like most cities, Dallas is built on a north-south axis.

When the city started expanding from downtown Dallas, it moved north, following the then dirt road of Preston. (As an interesting side note the North Dallas Chamber of Commerce was originally formed in the 1950′s by Ebby Halliday with the mission to pave Preston Road.) The course of the development started in the 1890s from East Dallas, then toward Highland Park, onto Preston Hollow, to Richardson, and lastly toward Plano and Frisco. (If you’ve been in Dallas as long as I have—since 1974—you remember that Plano was once nothing but a bunch of farms, and no one had even heard of Frisco.)

For the past several years, I have spoken to many groups about the theory of the “rubber band effect.” When you stretch a rubber band out all the way and watch it snap back, you’ll notice that it doesn’t snap back right to the center; it typically snaps back about two-thirds of the way. That’s exactly how urban and suburban city development has taken place all around the world for at least the past century. This trend, I believe, is primed to happen in Dallas over the next 20 years.

The rubber band in Dallas has been stretched so far north, that when you are in the most northern outskirts of the region, you are closer to Oklahoma—think Lake Texoma—than you are to downtown Dallas. I believe that the rubber band now has no choice but to snap back two-thirds of the way, which happens to be LBJ Freeway, or Interstate 635.

It is also important to recognize that 635 is currently undergoing a $3 billion makeover and adding paid express lanes that will be completed before the end of 2016. This expansion will increase capacity on the major east-west connector of Dallas by 150,000 cars per day, and enhance the connectivity of Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport to the center of the population density of the region.

The City of Dallas has recognized that Midtown has the opportunity to become a major economic engine and begin to bring back major office users and development to North Dallas—tenants have been lost over the past 25 years to Addison, Plano, Richardson, Allen and Frisco. The new comprehensive zoning and concept plan, adopted by the Dallas City Council last May, will have the effect of bringing much of this activity back to North Dallas.

As more development moves to the Midtown district, this rubber band effect will intensify and help to increase vibrancy not only to property in North Dallas, but will spread all the way through Preston Hollow, Highland Park, Oak Lawn, and reverberate back through downtown Dallas.

The location for the upcoming development of Dallas Midtown is adjacent to 635, and within the “city goal posts” of the Dallas North Tollway and Central Expressway. You can call this a coincidence or a new phase of development, but I believe the rubber band in the city of Dallas has officially snapped.

 Scott Beck is founder and president of Beck Ventures Inc. Contact him at [email protected]