D Magazine has operated its studios in downtown Dallas for a little over a decade. In that time, we’ve watched the place take huge strides toward becoming an actual place and not just a collection of office towers. Kourtny Garrett deserves much of the credit for that progress. The CEO of the nonprofit Downtown Dallas Inc. has worked for 20 years to make the city a better, more vibrant place to live, work, and play — which is astounding, because I think Garrett is just 32 years old.
Garrett is very good at her job. Which is why I’m sad to say that everyone in the city now hates her. Because she’s leaving us. For Denver, if you can believe that. Weird choice, right? I mean, even if you’re from Colorado, as Garrett is, why the heck would anyone want to live there? Landlocked. No scenery. Repressive marijuana laws.
Anyway, here’s the full press release out of DDI. Read it with malice in your heart.
(All kidding aside, cheers to you, Kourtny Garrett! We’ll miss you — until we hit you up for your spare bedroom when we come ski.)
DOWNTOWN DALLAS – Downtown Dallas, Inc. (DDI) President & CEO Kourtny Garrett announced today that she will depart her post as leader of the organization at the end of the year.
Garrett rose through the ranks of the 100-employee nonprofit placemaking, advocacy, and economic development group over 13 years before transitioning into her current position in 2016. Garrett, originally from Colorado, will become president and CEO of the Downtown Denver Partnership at the beginning of January.
“I have devoted the last 20 years — almost my entire adult life — working toward a vision of a vibrant, inclusive, well-connected Downtown Dallas,” said Garrett. “What we see in Downtown Dallas today is the beauty of what can happen when a plan is put into action and a vision becomes reality. We have accomplished so much, and now the foundation is laid for the next wave of transformation. For that reason, I feel confident that now is the right time for me to pursue a fortuitous opportunity that presented itself in my native state.”
Garrett joined DDI in 2002 as the Managing Director of the Main Street District under the then-subsidiary Dallas Downtown Partnership. She continued to grow with the organization in several positions, and was promoted to Executive Vice President a decade later. In March 2016, she was announced as the next president and CEO at DDI’s Annual Meeting. She succeeded John F. Crawford, who had led DDI for a decade.
Under Garrett’s leadership, Downtown Dallas’ progress has been guided by DDI’s 360 Plan, twice endorsed by the Dallas City Council. The plan is organized around the creation of a complete and connected City Center for residents, workers, and visitors. It includes three transformative strategies to advance urban mobility, build complete neighborhoods, and promote great placemaking.
With The 360 Plan as the guide, Downtown is activating more $4 billion in private development today, including:
Downtown-based AT&T’s long-term commitment to Dallas with development of the highly successful $100 million AT&T Discovery District.
The $465 million Todd Interests redo of the former First National Bank, now known as The National and home to luxury residences and the Thompson Dallas hotel, four restaurants, retail, and offices.
The East Quarter development, another Todd Interests project, restoring and revitalizing eight city blocks and 30 properties into a walkable neighborhood that connects with Deep Ellum, the Dallas Farmers Market, and the Main Street District.
The Galbraith, a Matthews Southwest 217-mixed income housing development with 12,000 square feet of retail located next to another successful redevelopment of an iconic Downtown building, Dallas High School.
“There is not a major Downtown development, policy, or initiative that occurred over the past 20 years that Kourtny did not touch in a meaningful way,” said Mattia J. Flabiano, III, DDI’s Chairman of the Board. “She is a visionary leader with an incredible gift for building consensus, inspiring others, and putting plans into action. This city will greatly miss her, but she has put the organization and Downtown Dallas on a path for continued growth, and she is truly leaving our urban core far better off than when she started here.”
The 360 Plan has set the common vision and action plan for Downtown’s future for a decade, with transformations like the now bustling Dallas Farmers Market and emphasis on walkability, complete neighborhoods, and great urban design. Downtown Dallas had just a few hundred residents and offered few amenities in the late 1990s, with 40 vacant buildings. Today, 13,000 people live Downtown, with more than 4,000 employers, and not a single major vacant building.
Last week, ground was broken on Harwood Park, the last of eight parks proposed in a 2005 parks master plan. When complete, Downtown will have added 23 acres of green space in the city’s core over the past 15 years.
“It was not all that long ago that Downtown Dallas was largely a place for people to work or to catch a show — and that was about it. In other words, Downtown was built as a place that you were meant to leave,” said Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson. “Today, because of visionaries and advocates such as Kourtny Garrett, Downtown Dallas is a place to live, a place to stay, and a place teeming with life. It has truly become a great neighborhood, filled with parks, restaurants, bars, shops, apartments, townhomes, playgrounds, and entertainment. With a steady hand, a sharp mind, and a kind heart, Kourtny helped us reshape our vital urban core and gave us a better understanding of our place in it. And it is a testament to Kourtny’s leadership that she went from being one of a few people pounding the drum for Downtown to being one of many.”
DDI also won unanimous City Council approval in 2020 to continue managing the Downtown Improvement District, a public improvement district that funds supplemental city services and amenities inside the Central Business District. An assessment paid by property owners funds the DDI Security, Clean Team, Homeless Outreach operations and public improvements. The Homeless Outreach Team is another innovation by Garrett and her team, launched in recent years with a “relate and refer” philosophy to build meaningful relationships with people experiencing homelessness Downtown and help connect them to the services they need.
It was Garrett’s vision for DDI to sign a 23,000-square-foot lease at The National, which became a reality thanks to the generosity of Todd Interests and unanimous support of the DDI board. It is the first time in the organization’s 30 years running the public improvement district that both its management team and field operations teams have been based in the same location.
Downtown Dallas is perfectly poised for new leadership, with projects expected to get underway including the Field Street District on the north, and Newpark Dallas and redevelopment of the landmark former Dallas Morning News building on the south. DDI’s team is also deeply engaged in the Arts District Connect plan and massive mobility projects to reimagine Interstates 345 and 30, with a focus on connectivity, as well as DART’s D2, a second light rail line through Downtown.
“The last 18 months have proven that Downtown Dallas and DDI are resilient, and our progress cannot be shaken, with not a single major project thrown off course by the pandemic,” Garrett concluded. “This community is positioned to emerge as an international leader, and a place for all. I hope we will pause and take pride in what we have accomplished, and look forward with excitement toward the remarkable future that lies ahead.”
The DDI Board of Directors, under Flabiano’s leadership, is expected to launch a national search for Garrett’s replacement in the coming weeks.