forum

It’s round #2 for The Dallas Plan, and time to speak now, or hold your peace for the next 30 years.

CREATED BY THE DALLAS CITY COUN -cil more than two years ago, The Dallas Plan is a privately financed blueprint for major building project ! in Dallas for the next 30 years. The plan, chaired by local businessman Robert Hoffman, calls for capital expert’ ditures of about $6.6 billion, and has beer billed as “the boldest planning effort in the city’s history” by David Dillon, architect ture critic of The Dallas Morning News.

The initial plan went hack to the drawing board, where it has been for the past year. After extensive community input and a change in leadership this summer, the new draft of The Dallas Plan has been up for discussion in town hall meetings around the city during November. It is scheduled to he considered for formai adoption by the city council on December 14.

D met with Councilmember Donna Halstead, who represents a northeast Dallas district, and Karen Walz, executive director of The Dallas Plan, who has extensive experience in urban planning in cities throughout the country, including Austin. We discussed where the plan has been, where it’s heading, and what the plan shows us about ourselves and the city we live in. D also asked Councilmember Sandra Crenshaw, who represents a southeast Dallas district, how the plan fared at recent town hall meetings.

D:What exactly do you hope to accomplish with The Dallas Plan?

Donna Halstead: What I hope this plan accomplishes is the opportunity to move away from the way we have done things in the past. We have been very site-specific, very project-specific in the past, and as a result there has not been the overall planning that really makes for a well-balanced community. This is an opportunity for us to put together comprehensive approaches to specific things. If we are Talking about a downtown sports arena, for example, in the past we would have approached it as “this is what we want to do: we want to build a sports arena, and we want to build a parking garage next to it, and that’s it.”

What we are trying to do with The Dallas Plan, and what I believe is happening, is that we are focusing on how this sports arena can he leveraged to create other development in the same area, what kinds of development would he appropriate adjacent to or near the arena, how we intend for that arena to play out in regard to other sports facilities in the region, and how can we use that one parking garage that we are talking about building to serve other purposes when the arena is not in use. It is a broader plan.

D:The Dallas Plan in the early days was met with thundering silence. There were meetings where no one, or few, showed up. And in those meetings where people did show up, they came to vent their anger about city services, rather than focusing on The Dallas Plan…

Halstead: One reason we initially had problems with The Dallas Plan is the Dallas mentality. We have, in the city of Dallas, come to expect that we will have simple answers to very complicated problems. We want things packaged and dealt with in short order, and the kind of things we are trying to deal with in The Dallas Plan can’t be dealt with in that way.

One of the things that we [Dallas residents] have looked for and looked for for a long time are simple solutions. 1 want to say “sound bites,” really, because that is how we approach things. The intent of The Dallas Plan is something quite different from that. There are no simple solutions for Dallas for the next three decades. They are in fact complex and complicated, and we need to approach them from that perspective.

Karen Walz: Those [early] dynamics are very common. It is very difficult for people who are busy with their day-to-day lives to stop and think about 30 years out. If I am proposing something across the street from your house that you do not like, then you are likely to come out and get involved.

I think it is often the case, and Dallas is typical in this, that people have frustration with government, and they focus on that and on their experiences. It is real common, especially in the first meetings, that you hear a lot of other issues and a lot of frustration about city government that is not directed at the planning process.

We heard a lot from folks in the neighborhoods who said, “We want you to fix some of these things in our neighborhoods. Fix the potholes first, rather than focusing a lot of time and effort on big new major projects.” And one of the aspects of our neighborhood initiative is to do exactly that, investing in the local infrastructure and in things that will make the most difference. So the comments in the early meetings were valuable.

D: The lead planners were not from Dallas. Was that a problem?

Halstead: I think that certainly with the initial efforts there were some concerns that perhaps the lead planner (Richard Anderson, who has since left for a position in New York City] was not as sensitive to the Dallas community as he should be. Because he is very- bright, he learned very quickly. Perhaps he needed to be more inclusive, and he needed to listen better. 1 know there were a lot of problems in the community because there was a conviction in the community that the lead planner was condescending, was simply unfamiliar with Dallas. 1 think that the criticism was justified.

D: Historically there has been a tradition in Dallas to go it alone, particularly in not working with the federal government, Robert Hoffman has said The Dallas Plan has already accomplished one of its most important goal;;-that of having the city of Dallas work more closely with federal and state agencies in planning.

Walz: That is one of the things 1 think of when we talk about a new way of doing business. 1 think the idea of leveraging, getting those other governments’ money to benefit us, the community of Dallas, is one of the key features of The Dallas Plan.

When you look at the amount of investment that is going to he happening-investment by the feds, the state, D1SD, the county, DART-that is a significant chunk of money. And all of those things work to support the objectives the city has and make better use of the money that the city has.

We pay a lot of tax dollars to Washington. It makes good sense for Dallas to get more of a return on that.

Halstead: The goal that has been accomplished that is really critical to this whole discussion is the goal of having Dallas city council members focus on the fact that we need to better access and better leverage the dollars that are available from state and federal agencies. This goes back to the Dallas mentality. We have for years been convinced that we don’t need to worry about the state government, we don’t need to worry about the federal government, and we control our own future and we don’t have to rely on those folks to help us do things.

D: How is The Dallas Plan different from similar plans in other cities?

Walz: It is quite different in thai [The Dallas Plan] is intended to he strategic. It does look long tenu. We are looking out roughly 30 years and trying to anticipate things that will make the biggest difference…We are focusing on six strategic initiatives: core assets (those things where we have the most investment); neighborhoods; economic development; central city (the downtown area); the southern sector; and the Trinity River [including a tree-lined new railway.] The Trinity [River area] is such an opportunity. It is one of the few things that goes from north of Dallas all the way through the city down to the south. It has the potential for touching the lives of everybody, whether [it’s] somebody who works downtown or someone who lives in a neighborhood in North Dallas…

The Trinity River Citizens Committee [that has already been formed] is one of the ways The Dallas Plan is being implemented even before it is finished. And that process is very inclusive. There are a lot of folks who have not been involved in city issues in the past who are participating.

D: If The Dallas Plan is a catalyst for change, what else is happening as a result of this process?

Walz: We have focused a lot of attention on the center city area, the downtown, the idea that it needs to he an active, 24-hour downtown, which means housing and retail and not just businesses and office towers that close down at 5 o’clock. That idea is one of the things that is behind the council’s downtown initiative.

The Neighborhood Renaissance Partnership is a program under way that addresses some of the early concerns about neighborhoods and targeting investment…That is the city’s program where they have identified a number of neighborhoods for investment, storefront services, and working with the neighborhoods. It has been under way since the first of the year. We have stressed intergovernmental relations and funding from other governmental sources. And that idea is behind the creation of an assistant city manager’s position for intergovernmental relations.

D: What can. the city leadership do to build support for The Dallas Plan.?

Walz: I have been ama:ed at the number of people and the number of groups that are working on one aspect of the issues that are part of our initiatives and (at] the concern they have and the volunteer efforts that are going on in local economic development, in affordable housing, in environmental concerns, in the downtown areas…That is a strength that Dallas has had historically-that people have championed projects, have pushed forward.

1 hope that The Dallas Plan and the process it has started will be a framework to fit those individual actions together so that they can build on one another. So that it one neighborhood starts a program that is working, we can get the word out so that other neighborhoods don’t have to reinvent the wheel…

Halstead: One of the things I intend to do is take the plan to the people of northeast Dallas and say, “Look, this is what we see.” This is our road map for where we want to be in the year 2015, the year 2020. Obviously that raid map right now only shows us the interstate highways. Each of us will have to be a participant in building the rest of that system to get us where we really need to be.

We need to help a community see this as an opportunity for them to really determine their own destiny.

D:How would you evaluate the power structure of Dallas today? And is that power stmcture supportive of The Dallas Plan?

Walz: Like most cities 1 am familiar with, Dallas is going through a transition from the typical leadership that was a small group of people. Now a larger group is involved. We have got to make decisions that are inclusive.

Credibility Cap tas the Trinity



DALLAS CITY COUNCILMEMBER Sandra Crenshaw held town hall meetings in her southeast Dallas district in recent weeks to review The Dallas Plan. It was greeted with mixed reactions, including skepticism from people who say they have heard it al! before.

“The people in my district have very little faith in The Dallas Plan. And understandably so,” says Crenshaw. “It is very difficult to think about 30 years from now when they are crying to survive the next 50 days. They are tired of empty promises from politicians. I got into politics in the ’80s when we were trying to work on the flooding. There are folks in Dallas who are still floating.”

Mildred Pope, a longtime activist in the community who attended one of the town hall meetings says that while there ate some good things in The Dallas Plan, “it doesn’t seem like they got much input from the people out here fin southeast Dallas].”

Crenshaw argues that the real problem with The Mas Plan is lack ofcred-ibility of similar plans in the past. ’’There are roads out here that these people were promised years ago in the last bond issue would be extended. But it hasn’t happened.”

Shaking her head, Crenshaw says, “The Dallas Plan isn’t going over too far in my district because they don’t see much in it for them. There’s very little in The Dallas Pian to give shape or direction to the far southeastern part of the city.”

“IT DOESN’T SEEM LIKE THEY GOT MUCH INPUT FROM THE PEOPLE OUT HERE [IN SOUTHEAST DALLAS].”

-MILDRED POPE

Newsletter

Keep me up to date on the latest happenings and all that D Magazine has to offer.

Comments