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Urbanism

Texas Trees Foundation Nabs $2.5 Million Grant for Medical District Redo

| 4 days ago

Last January, Matt wrote a story for the magazine titled “The Woman Who Fought the Sun.” It was about Janette Monear, the president and CEO of the Texas Trees Foundation, and her organization’s effort to bring some sanity to the Southwestern Medical District. The Medical District is a mess. It’s hostile to pedestrians, and, thanks to acres of concrete, it’s also the hottest part of the city. Texas Trees came up with a streetscape plan to remedy some of the problems in the district and make it a place where, you know, people might actually like to walk.

This work isn’t cheap. Through her philanthropic foundation, Lyda Hill in 2018 promised to donate $2.5 million to the project — but the money came with a big contingency. Texas Trees itself had to raise $2.5 million by December 31, 2019. You know how this story ends. Texas Trees upheld its end of the deal, and Lyda Hill’s organization last month confirmed that the matching grant is on its way.

In a letter to D Magazine written shortly before the Christmas break, Monear said: “The great ‘stars’ aligned and together we will redesign the public rights-of-way and transform the Southwestern Medical District into a campus that will have a profound impact on our city, the medical institutions, and all of the individuals, organizations, and businesses within and beyond the boundaries of the district. … During a season of hope and goodwill, we would like to express our gratitude to you for your support. Yes, this support is about a redesign, but truly it is about the gift of giving to create a space where all can enjoy and thrive. It is about enhancing three major institutions beyond the footprint of their buildings. And it is about investing in an area of healing.”

Monear says the design process for Harry Hines Boulevard will begin this month.

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Fair Park

Does the New Fair Park Master Plan Lack Vision?

| 5 days ago

In late November, we shared the draft Fair Park Master Plan created by architecture and design firm Perkins and Will for the new managers of Fair Park. At a glance, the plan offers some significant improvements on the concrete-heavy, State Fair-dominated fairgrounds that have been a thorn in the side of South Dallas for generations. The master plan calls for the addition of a community park, provides for more pedestrian way-finding, adds more green space, and expresses the need to revitalize and reuse many of Fair Park’s crumbling historic buildings.

But is it enough?

One long-time park watchdog doesn’t think so, and the alternative plan that he has now put forward imagines what Fair Park could become if Dallas really wanted to transform the park into a community-minded green oasis in the center of the city.

The watchdog is Don Williams, former chairman of the Trammell Crow Company, who has made advocating for Fair Park a significant part of his retirement life. Williams has long worked with Boston-based architect and urban designer Antonio Di Mambro to create draft visions for the park. You may remember the so-called Di Mambro Plan, which was touted as an alternative to the many short-sighted and unimplemented visions for the park that have been drafted over the years. Williams shared the draft Fair Park First Master Plan with Di Mambro, and he was unimpressed. Here is his full reaction to the plan, but I’ll touch on some of the highlights:

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Urban Design

Dallas: The City That Hates Pedestrians, Pt. 38

| 2 weeks ago

Terry Black’s Barbecue looks like a fine place to eat lunch or dinner. But if you were having a nice walk with a friend to the restaurant, you might not be paying attention to the presumably safe sidewalk below your feet. That’s a mistake! Because this hole exists due to what appears to be a cracked access point.

A pedestrian who I’ll leave anonymous, through no fault of his own, wound up in this hole. He says it came up to his calf. He appears to be OK. He then stuck a scooter in it for scale. This seems like an easy fix for the powers that be. So here it is, in the 3000 block of Main Street! Go fix it. The full image is below:

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Urban Design

What Will It Take for Dallas’ Vision Zero Plan to Work?

| 2 weeks ago

If things proceed as normal, around 70 pedestrians will be killed this year by motor vehicles in Dallas. That’s about how many pedestrians have been struck and killed by cars in this city each year since 2015. As of the end of July 2019, 53 pedestrians had been killed in Dallas, so it’s possible the trend is ticking up. Across the nation, traffic-related deaths of pedestrians and bicyclists are on the rise, and Dallas has the fifth highest rate of traffic-related fatalities of any large city in the nation.

Many cities have responded to these grisly numbers by unveiling so-called Vision Zero initiatives. The name refers to stated goal of reducing the number of people killed in traffic accidents to zero. After all, as we’ve discussed before, it is a somewhat perverse quirk of American culture that we have normalized the deadliness of automobiles. But that may be changing. Last October, the city of Dallas joined with its peers around the nation and revealed its own intention to work toward a Vision Zero Action Plan. The city hopes to unveil that plan by December 2021, or after an estimated 140 more pedestrians are killed by motor vehicles in Dallas.

There are problems with Vision Zero, however, and one of the big ones is that many cities’ plans aren’t seeing results.

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Urbanism

Today Is the Last Day to Make Your Voice Heard on I-345

| 1 month ago

You may have heard by now that TxDOT has begun its long-awaited feasibility study on the future of I-345, Dallas’ connector highway that reaches from Central to I-45, disconnecting the neighborhoods of downtown and Deep Ellum in the process. The first phase is gathering public input. To that end, there have been three public meetings. State Sen. Royce West commandeered the first, in South Dallas (read about that here). The second was at CityPlace Tower. Third was downtown (find our coverage here). And then last week, we gathered a few smart people at our office to talk it out with beer and cheese (read about that one—and catch the video—here).

With all the activity, it’s still not too late to make your opinion known. Consider this your reminder post: Today is your last day to take TxDOT’s survey or email your thoughts to [email protected] As far as I know, there are no rules against surveying over a nice glass of egg nog.

And this has been your last post about I-345 this decade.

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Urbanism

The Public Is Hungry For Research and Data Around I-345

| 1 month ago

The answers to the questions around I-345—the freeway that connects two freeways and divides two neighborhoods—will be what determines its future. But where can the public ask those questions?

Earlier this month, the Texas Department of Transportation launched a two-year study that will produce what it calls its “preferred alternative,” the state’s preference for what to do with the aging highway as it nears the end of its lifespan. But the public meetings that kicked off this process have been criticized by some as lacking context about the potential impact of what’s actually being considered. And partly, that is by design. TxDOT has said it is only beginning its research and isn’t comfortable detailing anything that isn’t complete. Which includes detailed traffic counts, capacity, total cost, and the way in which the plans for the highway—including everything from removal to rehab—will affect the residents who live nearby.

Last Thursday, D Magazine hosted a happy hour panel that acted as a sort of primer on these meetings, the process, and why TxDOT is analyzing the options it is analyzing: a standard upgrade to the existing thoroughfare, the removal of some ramps, burying and decking the highway a la Woodall Rodgers, and the highway’s outright removal.

Panelists included Miguel Solis, the executive director of the Coalition for a New Dallas, which was created by D founder Wick Allison and advocates for removal (D Magazine and the Coalition are independent, separate entities); Amber Sims, the founder of the nonprofit Imagine Freedom Institute who lives next to 345 and has worked extensively in South Dallas; and Patrick Kennedy, the Space Between Design Studio urban planner who got the city talking about tearing out the highway. D senior editor Peter Simek moderated. You can watch it below. Or read on. (Or both.)

The stage was pro-removal, but the focus was on detailing the process of I-345, from how it got built, how it affected the community, and why we’re talking about it today. The tension over its future exists because of its land use: the 1.4-mile elevated highway connects Central Expressway with I-45 but physically separates downtown from Deep Ellum. Removing it, advocates say, will free up an amount of land that’s about the size of Fair Park. But who owns the land? Where will the traffic go? How will it impact the surrounding community?

During the public meetings, the public had those questions but did not get those answers, Solis contended. As for the first part: the state owns the land, but the city controls it. Meaning the city could purchase that land from TxDOT, establish priorities for the land use, and encourage development that would meet its goals. Like adding affordable housing. It’s Sim City come to life, an opportunity to create a neighborhood that most municipalities don’t get.

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Local News

The Case For Grocery Stores In Dallas’ Many Food Deserts

| 1 month ago

Anga Sanders didn’t understand why it required a nonprofit to make fresh food available in her underserved neighborhood of South Oak Cliff. She’d consider the question while assembling a salad at the Uptown Albertson’s. Where were all the salad bars on Kiest?

The introverted human resources CEO is the founder of Feed Oak Cliff, a nonprofit that does what its name suggests: it offers fresh produce and healthy options to a neighborhood that needs it. Sanders, who was one of the first black students at SMU, isn’t blind to how the deep divides between northern and southern Dallas play out in terms of nutrition. She was willing to drive 12 miles each way to Uptown because, while there were other grocers in between, the variety of fresh produce and extensive salad bar couldn’t be found near her house.

She thinks the lack of fresh groceries in southern Dallas is about more than profit. “We have a lot of isms in this country: racism, classism, but this is place-ism,” she says. “[People in southern Dallas] eat chips, Cheetos, and honey buns, but why? Because that is what they have access to.”

Other areas of town have the opposite problem. Drive from the Snider Plaza Tom Thumb in Highland Park toward Mockingbird Station, a distance of just under two miles. There is a Kroger grocery store at Mockingbird and Greenville. Now, drive less than a mile down Mockingbird and you’ll find another Tom Thumb. A left on Greenville is just a mile away from yet another Tom Thumb and a Central Market, which is just across Lovers Lane.

In the wealthier and whiter segments of Dallas, residents drive past big box grocery stores full of fresh produce and affordable food so that they can get to another big box grocery store that they prefer. But in large swaths of Dallas, this is not the case. In 2018 the Department of Agriculture identified 88 separate food deserts in Dallas County. Over half of them were in three southern portions of Dallas. In these areas, the best option for food is often a corner or dollar store, which are both more expensive and less nutritious than the grocery stores that are on every other block in North and East Dallas.

Access to nutritious food is part of a larger problem around those areas’ social determinants of health, which include education, transportation, housing and healthcare deficits. A study by the University of Texas system found that residents in a South Dallas ZIP code had a life expectancy of 26 years fewer than those who lived in East Dallas. Those ZIP codes are just two miles apart.

“When your ZIP code can literally determine your life span, that’s a problem,” Sanders says.

High crime, low income, and a lack of other retailers are often cited as reasons for grocery stores avoiding food deserts. But soon-to-be-published research from University of North Texas professor Dr. Chetan Tiwari and market research expert Ed Rincón is dismantling pre-conceived notions about how these communities spend their money. Their report provides objective evidence that grocery stores are missing an opportunity to make money and improve the health of a city along the way.

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Pedestrian Life

An Update to Dallas Hates Pedestrians, Pt. 34

| 1 month ago

A couple weeks ago, we passed along video of a head-scratcher of a pedestrian scenario under Beckley Avenue in West Dallas, where the sidewalk disappears into a sliver of dirt as cars race around a corner. See photo above. Today, an update in two parts.

Part one: That land sitting below the railroad crossing is actually owned by the Union Pacific Railroad. The city has an easement for 40 feet of roadway and, on the side we’re talking about here, another five feet of sidewalk. But UPRR gets to approve any work within it. Until then, the city tells me, there will now be signage letting walkers know the sidewalk is closed at the underpass. I’m not sure how much that will deter walkers who’ve already pot-committed to their route from Trinity Groves back to Commerce—as I laid out in the last post, there aren’t many other options—but hey, it’s a start.

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Urbanism

Dallas: The City That Hates Pedestrians, Pt. 36

| 1 month ago

So let’s say you’re a major municipality that contains a part of your downtown that attracts something like 7 million tourists a year, according to the district’s own data. Do you do this?

Heads up, everyone but people trying to walk on the sidewalk!

Seems counter-intuitive to me. Especially considering this photo was taken on December 6. The special event starts on December 14. Have fun walking on the sidewalk in the West End until then.

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Transportation

Woodall Rodgers Freeway Remains Dallas’ Most Congested Road

| 1 month ago

There is a subtext to Texas A&M Transportation Institute’s latest ranking of the most congested highways in Texas: roads don’t solve traffic problems. With a few exceptions, the study’s rankings change little from year to year—the same Texas roads are always the most crowded. A complicated set of metrics helps to put a number on the total numbers of wasted hours (529 million) and wasted fuel (204 million gallons) to help come up with a cost related to congestion (roughly $11 billion).

Those are big numbers, and they make road congestion sound like a big problem. But what do these numbers actually mean?

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Urbanism

Dallas: The City That Hates Pedestrians, Pt. 35

| 2 months ago

The photo you see above this post and the three below were taken over the course of about six months in downtown Dallas by an alert FrontBurnervian and pedestrian lover who would prefer to remain anonymous. They are of vehicles parked on sidewalks downtown. As someone who has to move his car from meter to meter every two hours because he refuses to pay $160 or something for a parking spot in a garage, this is frustrating to see. However, I will not go so far as to say I am jealous of the DART officer, the Parks and Recreation employees, or the water softener folks working at the Mercantile building who are so important that they feel they can park on the sidewalk. I know better. Cars are not for sidewalks. They are for people.

Here, some photos:

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