YARO SPEAKS

The people at The Real Estate Council were kind enough to invite me to their community breakfast meeting this morning. But they had the audacity to schedule it at 7:30 in the morning, the night after the D art and edit departments went out for a Holiday Happy Hour (and more). The guest speaker was Robert Yaro, president of Regional Plan Association, a big-time planning outfit that’s been around almost 100 years. His thoughts were not scattered, but my notes are. Continue reading, if you like.

Linda Owen, the president of TREC, said she’s been trying for two years to get Yaro to speak to the group, ever since she saw him speak at the University of Austin. Yaro’s a big deal and very smart, as DMN architecture critic and tablemate David Dillon attested. Always start with a joke, right? Yaro said he’d been asking people in the area what the main concerns are in the region. He said he kept hearing, “Longhorns.” “Apparently there’s a Longhorn problem,” he said. Not a big laugh, but what can you expect for so early in the morning.

The major theme of Yaro’s speech was Mega-Region Planning. Locally, that means the Texas Triangle. How to create synergy from the relative proximity of Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston, San Antonio, and Austin. He said the Europeans are way ahead of America in mega-planning, having about a generation’s headstart. Look at the way those countries link their metropolitan areas, primarily with High-Speed Rail. The countries move people and goods with efficiency among the “Global Integration Zones.” Not only that, there was a slide of a High-Speed train from Spain and it looked really cool. Asia has got some mega-regions going on also.

In these United States, Yaro pointed out the work his group has done in the tri-state area, “dealing with three states that don’t like each other.” He noted that state governments there spend 100s of millions of dollars to get corporations to move 100 yards across the Hudson. He hinted that we might have similar goings-on between Dallas and Fort Worth.

But back to mega-regions. By his forecast (or by someone else’s forecast that he cited), mega-regions will accommodate 70 percent of the 140 million new Americans that will be around in 2050. That’s a lot of people. One of the biggest hinderances (my word, not Yaro’s) to establishing these mega-regions is governance. The regions, by sheer fact of being “mega,” are larger than any one mayor’s constituency. Hasn’t stopped the mayor in Atlanta, though. She’s getting all sorts of cities involved in that area to see what’s what and what can be done. Developing.

Let’s see, what else was noteworthy? He said that the word on the street in NY is that Dallas has “buzz.” That’s good. He told us why Boeing picked Chicago: he said the CEO and his wife love opera, especially when they can walk in an urban setting to see it. That’s bad. But maybe the new Performing Arts Center will convince Boeing (and others) to move again.

Other things in my notes that I can’t work into a narrative: we need to protect greenspace. “A city government working with the business community is critical.” Dallas City Director of Development Theresa O’Donnell was a student of Yaro’s at UMass. And even if High-Speed Rail gets off the ground (bad cliche here), Southwest Airlines shouldn’t worry. Yaro said there will be plenty of business for both in the rapidly expanding economy. The pie is going to grow quickly.

Let’s hope.

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