Piling on the Arts District

Truly, my only intent is to improve it and to do so by increasing awareness of the mistakes that have been made. So, with that said, in defense of my critique thus far of the Dallas Arts District, found here and here. Oh, and here and here. Without further ado, here is Alex Marshall in How Cities Work, Suburbs, Sprawl, and the Roads Not Taken:

It (ed: San Jose in this context) is an example of what David Barringer, in an article entitled “The New Urban Gamble” (ed: Not as in CNU “New Urban,” but more like “New” as in nuevo) in The American Prospect, called “THE CARNIVAL STRATEGY” (my caps).

Cities build a performing arts center, an aquarium, and a sports stadium and hope that the crowds will materialize to fill in the rest of the city. I am extremely dubious about this strategy. Things like art museums and aquariums are great as the capstones to successful places, as amenities and accessories. But trying to make them an economic foundation is to confuse the role of the foundation of a building with that of a decorative window on it.

A museum can be a great reward for a successful region, as can central libraries and other public works. But, even if the crowds appear, they will not replace or even draw the people or businesses that make a center city truly a place.

How many things did he list here that downtown Dallas has: central library, museums, aquarium, sports stadiums, etc. The key here is that American Airlines with as busy as it is, has not saved Victory, or as I like to call it the Potemkin Village. There were just too many mistakes to overcome.

He also goes on to discuss that without successful retail a downtown does not truly function as a center of commerce as it should. It becomes a side act, a novelty. Well, Dallas lost most of its retail despite the Neiman Marcus flagship’s stubborness/loyalty.

Retail in still vital downtowns are vestiges, it survived. Dallas is otherwise, and with our knowledge today, retail and commerce follow people. Downtown needs residents and to do so, downtown must be as livable as possible. Things that prevent livability have been discussed ad nauseum on this blog, just do a search.

The other thing preventing livability in downtown AND retail from working is the lack of neighborhood serving transit, ie modern streetcars or trams linking downtown with Oak Cliff as well as near east Dallas, Greenville, and Lakewood. There are healthy neighborhoods there to be served as well as areas in need of revite. New streetcar would mean an incentive for rebuilding bombed out areas such as along Ross and Live Oak, as well as the Zang triangle.

Furthermore, for the stable neighborhoods it means an easy commute into downtown that is potentially preferable, or at least an offer of choice, rather than dealing with traffic and running up to CityPlace or North Park Mall. The key is choice.


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