Last Night, A First Look at CityDesign Studio's Latest West Dallas "Urban Structure" Plan

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Photos by Patrick Michels
Large copies of the tentative plan for West Dallas were on display for discussion with folks from the Dallas CityDesign Studio at the Mattie Nash-Myrtle Davis Recreation Center.
As advertised, Brent Brown, Larry Beasley and the rest of the Dallas CityDesign Studio crew welcomed 100 or so friends, neighbors and urban planning devotees to chat about their latest "Urban Structure" plan, meant to put a walkable, complete-street face on the development explosion everyone seems to expect once traffic starts pouring in through the city's new arched monocle over the Trinity.

In fact, folks from La Bajada, the major residential neighborhood inside the plan's boundaries, said they've already seen it happening. Raymond Salinas, president of the month-old La Bajada Neighborhood Association, said investors were crawling over the place for a few months last fall trying to buy up property ahead of the rush. In November, he told us, that all slowed down.

"We knew we had a gold mine of land, but nobody was interested in us until they came up with the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge idea," said Eva Elvove, who said she's lived in the neighborhood for 65 years. Now the neighborhood's working with the city to ensure they aren't redeveloped into oblivion. There's a plan in the works to limit new buildings in the neighborhood to 30 feet tall, and the "Urban Structure" draft includes plans for extra-narrow, traffic-deterrent intersections through residential streets.

That's just one corner of the plan, of course, and while it's not the kind of mixed-use soothsaying that'd drive a developer wild, it went over well with the Mattie Nash-Myrtle Davis Recreation Center crowd. As Brown put it to the room, "Our long-term vision and dream should be to realize the long-term potential in our existing communities."

Brown led the crowd in a quick look at "Urban Structure" guidebooks they'd passed out, explaining how things like street character and public spaces could be nurtured as larger development moves in. The plan includes a three-phase look at how this pocket of West Dallas -- bounded by Sylvan Avenue, Interstate 30 and the Trinity River levee -- might fill in after 10, 15 and 17 or more years, to a target population of 24,000.

Those guidebooks were just a "Reader's Digest version" of a more detailed plan that's now available at the CityDesign Studio's website, according to their associate director David Whitley, who said this plan would set a precedent for planning well beyond West Dallas, "a new way of thinking about the city."

Whitley said they're looking for as much input as they can get on the plan before it's presented at City Hall -- first on January 20 in a Plan Commission briefing and finally penciled in for a final vote from the City Council on March 9.

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Brent Brown flips through a copy of the West Dallas "Urban Structure" guidebook.
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