Last week, the Dallas Planning Commission approved the ‘urban structure’ guidelines for West Dallas that the CityDesign Studio had developed over a year of meetings with neighborhood groups, developers, designers, landowners and area industries. The CityDesign Studio was formed in 2009 as a public-private partnership with a grant from the Trinity Trust Foundation. The idea, as the studio’s head Brent Brown tells Think TV, is that urban design could help resolve what have traditionally been ugly political stand-offs when it comes to redevelopment (i.e, homeowners and neighborhood associations vs. developers and real estate speculators). Everyone has met around the table in these meetings — discussing what they want, what can be done by the city, what will happen down the road and when.
Redevelopment is almost inevitable in West Dallas, regardless of what happens to the disputed tollway that’s supposed to run inside the Trinity River levees. The Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge, which is scheduled to open later this year, has been the target of a lot of ‘bridge to nowhere’ jokes. Yet it will make many of the 470 acres in West Dallas more accessible, more convenient — in effect, closer to downtown and thus, more valuable. If nothing else, the bridge will mean greatly increased traffic coming through an area of older, single-family homes, warehouses, empty lots and railroad tracks — an area that most Dallasites have simply zipped by on I-30.
Art & Seek on Think TV talked to Brent Brown about what could be done to preserve La Bajada and Los Altos, the older Hispanic neighborhoods — the guidelines’ first priority. We asked why street design could help the area, where artists fit in this project and what does ‘incremental growth’ and ‘cultural re-mapping’ mean.