A view of downtown Dallas from Reunion Tower. (photo courtesy of Gensler)

Commercial Real Estate

CRE Opinion: Streets Alive in Downtown Dallas

As Downtown Dallas Inc. nears its 60th anniversary, DDI remains committed to speaking for "today and tomorrow, rather than yesterday."

“Designing a dream city is easy; rebuilding a living one takes imagination.”  – Fortune Magazine, April 1958

As Downtown Dallas Inc. (DDI) celebrates our 60th anniversary, this quote from Fortune Magazine could not be more relevant. While this organization has worked diligently to improve downtown for six decades, downtown is definitely not the place it was 60 years ago—nor are we. Born in 1958 as the Central Business District Association, much of our mission has remained the same, said then to build a “stronger, greater” downtown that “will speak for today and tomorrow, rather than yesterday.” However, the definition of downtown and the city center has evolved, the building blocks that make us strong have changed, and while where we are headed tomorrow is reminiscent of our past, it is a path that is leading to a future we never dreamed.

In 1958, downtown was described as, “People at work, people shopping, money at work, people being fashionable, people on the go, and people enjoying themselves.” Alongside focus on investment, business, and economic health was prevailing planning thought that led to one-way streets, freeway loops, and fast-moving thoroughfares in the name of easy access into and out of the center city. Headlines of the decade read of 7 million square feet of new office space added to the skyline, only to be beat by New York, and openings of projects like Dallas Memorial Auditorium, The Statler Hilton and Old Dallas Library, the Dallas Federal Savings and Loan Building, Southland LIFE Insurance Tower, Titche-Goettinger expansion, Republic National Bank Building, The Downtown Merchandise Mart, and many more.

The Dream City.

Fast-forward, and now, we are becoming a living one.

Our vision, as guided by The 360 Plan:

Downtown Dallas and its adjoining neighborhoods create a place for everyone at the heart of our city, a complete and connected city center offering an inclusive, robust, and unique combination of residential options, job opportunities, great schools, refreshing open spaces, bustling street activity, successful business and retail, connected by an accessibly, balanced, multi-modal transportation network with a variety of options to move from one destination to the next.

Many of our themes remain the same. Many have changed. Our priorities are aimed at fostering a multifaceted environment comprised of many unique neighborhoods and a range of businesses from the Fortune 500 to the small business and startup, a diverse base of residents, a thriving arts community, and a variety of unique dining, shopping, and entertainment experiences complemented by the services needed for the everyday. Dogs are walked; families are raised; innovation is born—driving economic health, social capital, cultural richness, and becoming an inclusive, living city.

From the Central Business District Association, we became the Central Dallas Association, recognizing the importance of connecting beyond the CBD. Then in 2007, we became what you know us today in order to simply and precisely emphasize the importance of the heart and hub of our city: Downtown Dallas. Over that time our programs grew, placing emphasis on the fundamentals like cleanliness, safety, beautification, and programming.

Our Downtown Safety Patrol officers make more than 200,000 business contacts each year and serve as extra eyes and ears for the Dallas Police Department, while our Clean Team removed over 3,719 cubic yards (enough to fill 25 18-wheelers) of litter and trash in 2017 and work every day to keep our downtown parks and streets beautiful and clean.

In December of 2017, The 360 Plan was unanimously approved and adopted by Dallas City Council. With over 65 action items, three transformative strategies, and eight work groups, we we’ve already started.

Economic development efforts in the city center continue at a rapid pace. Within downtown and the geography addressed in The 360 Plan (which comprises approximately a 2.5-mile radius from downtown), there were more than 6,500 residential units under construction and another 5,000 announced last year, surpassing 70,000 residents in the city center.  Startups and entrepreneurs continue to call downtown Dallas home, proven by over 20 co-working spaces totaling over 400,000 square feet of space. And with plenty to do at 55 more restaurants, bars and hotels that opened last year, there is never a dull moment in Downtown. Downtown even celebrated announcements related to not one, but three, grocery/bodega stores, Commissary (now open) on Main Street and two Royal Blue Grocery locations (coming soon). These are in addition to the thriving Dallas Farmers Market, and Kroger and Tom Thumb announcements in neighborhoods closely connected to Downtown.

DDI played a significant role in advocating for the preferred alignments adopted by the Dallas City Council for both DART’s second alignment (D2) and the Dallas Streetcar Central Link. And DDI continues to be involved with the Dallas Innovation Alliance, a coalition of stakeholders who are invested in Dallas’ continued evolution as a forward‐thinking, innovative, smart global city. The mission is to develop a scalable smart cities model, with the West End Historic District as a pilot location.

Four new parks are underway, thanks to the Parks for Downtown Dallas Foundation and funding approved in the 2017 bond. This will add eight acres of much needed greenspace to our neighborhood.

There is much to look forward to this year, including the implementation of The 360 Plan, more restaurants, hotels, entertainment venues, and retail. DDI will remain aggressive in our efforts to support this development cycle, as well as advance quality of life initiatives related to education, walkability, the arts, housing, and transportation.

Cheers to another 60 years, bringing more life to our streets and more living in our city.

Kourtny Garrett is the president and CEO of Downtown Dallas Inc.

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