In Front of Dallas City Hall, Grabbing a Bite on The Living Plaza. "And It Only Took 30 Years."

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Council member Jerry Allen tosses a Frisbee to Trinity Trust President Gail Thomas on the City Hall Plaza today at noon.
I'd intended to spend, oh, maybe half an hour in front of Dallas City Hall today, where, decades after William H. Whyte first proposed the idea of making that expanse of concrete habitable for humans, Brent Brown and Jason Roberts and Andrew Howard and many more breathed life into what they called The Living Plaza. But when I arrived shortly after noon, my parents were already there waiting in the ever-growing queue for crepes and barbecue sandwiches being served out of bcWORKSHOP's solar-powered E and H Commissary. (Sadly, the tamales were sold out half an hour into the event.) So I stuck around for a good hour and a half. And it was, indeed, good. Great, even.

Also milling about were various council members and city employees, many of them familiar names to the Friends of Unfair Park: Delia Jasso and Steve Salazar and Ann Margolin taking a break from their weekly meeting, First Assistant City Attorney Chris Bowers, Park and Rec second-in-command Willis Winters, assistant director of development services Peer Chacko, Dallas Film Commission boss Janis Burklund. Brady Wood was even there. Gail Thomas was there too.

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Photo by Patrick Michels
Thomas, head of the Trinity Trust, was the founding director of the Dallas Institute when, in the 1980s, she brought Whyte to Dallas to speak about making the city livable. She was there when he spoke to the council in 1983 about bringing greenery and food and chairs and chess boards-- and people, most of all people -- to City Hall Plaza.

"It only took 30 years," she told me, smiling broadly. "I'm so proud of Brent and Jason and all these wonderful people. They've made the space ... human."

On the other side are photos Patrick Michels and I took from today's event, for which the Dallas Family Band provided the soundtrack as they strummed and strolled around the plaza on a breezy, slightly chilly, partly cloudy spring day. You'll find some thoughts from Roberts and Downtown Dallas Inc.'s John Crawford, with whom I spoke about The Living Plaza earlier in the week when we were discussing something else not nearly as interesting.


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Photos by Patrick Michels
Jacob Metcalf of the Dallas Family Band
Downtown Dallas Inc. loaned some chairs and tables for today's event, though if Crawford was down there today I didn't see him. But he told me Monday he expects this will be more than a one-off -- he hopes that'll be the case, anyway.

"Back when Whyte spoke here in the 1980s, that was a transition," he said, when asked why it took so long to make his vision a tangible reality. "It was talked about, and nothing was done. We've picked up that ball, and we're trying to run as fast as we can down the field. But we can't do it all, and we can't do it all overnight. I would guess the City Hall Plaza thing will be pretty nice. It won't be like that very day, but as peple call and want to hold events, and as we do those, we can use that as a potential location going forward, which we will do."

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Photos by Patrick Michels
Jason Roberts, one of the organizers of today's event at City Hall
Roberts is even more optimistic: This will happen in front of City Hall again, he says, and spread out from there -- through downtown, then the neighborhoods.

"Our hopes for the long-term impact of the project are to use what we've learned from Whyte's work and apply it to other public spaces throughout the city," he says. "Ultimately, his studies outline simple and inexpensive solutions that have a big impact on the creation of humane, active, and lively places. When you break it down, it's all intuitive stuff like 'bring chairs,' 'create shade,' 'add food,' but we seem to overlook these time and again and pursue
bigger ticket items that don't have an impact on day to day life."

And did I mention: They did all this today for less than $1,000.
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I highly recommend the Nutella crepes, which were but a mere $3.
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Photo by Patrick Michels
Little kids playing giant chess -- that, right there, is how you sell an event. Adorable.
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Photo by Patrick Michels
Organizers converted the useless concrete benches into tables, on which folks spent their lunch hour playing checkers and chess.
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Hey, Patrick Michels, is that a spring in your pallet-chair, or are you just happy to see me?
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Photo by Patrick Michels
And, yes, my parents were really there. The man on the right is my father, once responsible for the very ahead-of-its-time Unfair Park column: "Stuff My Dad Says." Really need to bring that back.

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30 comments
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Mister_Mean
Mister_Mean

Lets see this happen in August when it is over 100 degrees.

stupidisasstupiddoes
stupidisasstupiddoes

I've noticed that every Thanksgiving morning that plaza is PACKED with people!

Robert
Robert

Get off Big Hersh's lawn, baby! What a great photo. Robert Wilonsky looks like a kid next to his dad.

FatFreddy
FatFreddy

It's cool they could do it on the cheap!

What caused the $1000 cost? I don't see or recognise anything that should have been an expense.

TimCov
TimCov

I like this, and hope it happens more often. However, they need to provide some shade. The plaza in front of city hall is fine when the temps are in the 70s. However, it becomes pretty bad once the temperature gets above 85 due to all the heat reflecting back onto you from the concrete.

Ray
Ray

They could cut out the concrete and install sod spaces.

TimCov
TimCov

That would be a lot of help too.

Orangemike
Orangemike

"They did all this today for less than $1,000."

So instead of one bridge design, the city could fund at least 10,700 of these?

abuckley1970
abuckley1970

I went to this event today. Loved it. :) And the great thing is, it will happen again in the future...and again....and again.

hammertimez
hammertimez

i spend a lot of time bitching about the shoot-footedness of this can't do city, but i refuse to spit in the face of people who put heart and ingenuity into making dallas better.

deadnforgotten
deadnforgotten

I appreciate your steadfastness.

hammertimez
hammertimez

no prob, Dn, F.

(seriously, don't stop being funny. you're blowing minds n' stuff)

deadnforgotten
deadnforgotten

You were going to say winning...weren't you? Don't lie. You know you wanted to.

deadnforgotten
deadnforgotten

Wow! That is awesome, seeing all the usual suspects out there posing for the cameras. Contrived? A tad bit...but this is Dallas and I think, a bit contrived, is the only way we are ever gonna reach that attainable goal of "Faux Urbanism". Rock on with yer bad selves!

Ellum08
Ellum08

Wow, I always forget how it is never enough for some people.

If you weren't there, then STFU.

deadnforgotten
deadnforgotten

Dude, don't you remember??? I said that one thing that made you laugh, and then we had that moment of awkward silence, and then split a crepe? Please, don't tell me you don't remember(?). STFU, man you're always knocking em outta the park... aren't you silly.

deadnforgotten
deadnforgotten

Man, this dude sounds like a debbie downer. Oh damn...that was me. Why can't we have a dislike button.

Janis Burklund
Janis Burklund

Hey, I wasn't "posing", no one told me to go out and I didn't even appear in the photos. Just wanted to get something to eat and get a little fresh air. Since this was taking place right outside my office window I actually did stop work to eat. Bring on the food trucks... would love to see this happen all the time! It was a good start.

Juan Valdez
Juan Valdez

NIMBY.Bring back the strip malls, desolate parking lots and lifeless neighborhoods. Can't take this urbanism crap. Its never worked. Think Paris, Rome, New York. We are not humans. We in Dallas are SPAM.

space2k
space2k

I'm sorry but this is nothing without some ironic fedoras.

Also, "Nutella crepes"? Go back to Russia.

JJ
JJ

This is all fine, but it's a bit. It will be gone tomorrow, and the plaza will return to its usual desolation. That space has great potential; it would be a great location for a half dozen (or more) different food trucks to set up shop (if they were legal) as the trucks would (a) give City Hall folks a reason to venture outside and (b) create a draw for other folks in the area (conventioneers, etc.).

Howard
Howard

Food trucks are this year's water taxis, I predict.

Jason
Jason

The food truck ordinance was just adopted by City Council today. So now, it's your turn. You can call in a special events permit and have it approved tomorrow to use the plaza next week. Bring those food trucks out your were talking about...or make your own. Don't wait for someone else to do your great idea.

Remember, it's your city too...do something.

Robert Wilonsky
Robert Wilonsky

This will, more than likely, return sooner than you think.

ghey
ghey

that go for rv's and trailer homes too?

Lakewooder
Lakewooder

RW, your Dad and Stanley Marcus must have been separated at birth.

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