Todd Howard: Protecting Neighborhood Treasures as We Plan for Growth

Todd C. Howard
Todd C. Howard

Our friends at Downtown Dallas Inc. and the City of Dallas recently kicked off an effort to update and evolve the Downtown 360, the strategic plan first adopted by the Dallas City Council in 2011 as the collective vision for the downtown Dallas community. Over the last five years, the plan has spurred significant progress in development and improvements throughout the 15 neighborhood districts comprising greater downtown. Efforts such as Klyde Warren Park, the Farmer’s Market redevelopment, and progress along the Lamar Corridor were all envisioned in the original 360 plan.

Now it’s time to review and recalibrate the plan to ensure it remains relevant. The 360 Update Kick-Off, held June 17 (see recap here), provided a great forum for business leaders, residents, and civic leaders to express their priorities and concerns.

It’s an exciting time to revisit our collective vision in the midst of unprecedented growth and activity. But—as we well know—of all the good that comes from development, there is a danger in the assets that can be lost in the process.

The 360 plan brings light to what the downtown districts need to reach their full potential, but we must approach this carefully. To ensure our neighborhoods grow and evolve without losing the charm and character that set them apart, we must identify what we can’t afford to lose.

The 360 Project Team will provide an online forum for the greater downtown community to identify defining elements of their neighborhoods that they cherish. What are these elements? Potentially, they can be anything. Icons, buildings and structures, greenspace, trees, art, signage, lighting; almost any physical element can contribute to the lovability of a place. Essentially, when you talk to people about your neighborhood, what do you consistently include in your description?

In the Cedars, I love the artifacts of its heritage such as the hand-painted signs and the architectural flair of the early 20th Century landmarks that have survived. I love the murals of Deep Ellum, and the manicured medians of the Design District.

The community should identify the physical components that are indomitably the definers of these neighborhoods. The revised Downtown 360 plan should account for these elements in each district so that we don’t lose sight if future opportunities for growth jeopardize these assets.

These neighborhoods are all distinctly compelling in their own right and we must protect the elements make them unique. No one can afford for new development to erase what makes our downtown districts desirable in the first place.

Todd Howard, AIA, NCARB, LEED AP, is a Dallas-based architect and president of th+a architects. Contact him at [email protected].

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