Roberts: The Big Rewards of Thinking Small

Categories: Development
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Photo by Harry Wilonsky
Back in April of last year some Oak Cliff-dwellers introduced that "Think Small" slogan, which was and is intended to counter Dallas's "Live Large, Think Big" motto coughed up by The Richards Group in '04 after six months' worth of focus-grouping. A Friend of Unfair Park points out that on Friday, following up his earlier-in-the-week post on the dangers of big-boxing, Jason Roberts posted to Go Oak Cliff yet another call to (small) arms based upon that pledge, motto, ethos or whatever it is you want to call it. An excerpt:
I don't believe the answer for our city is the mega-church, the big box, the wide thoroughfare, the giant retirement home miles away from the grandkids, the sprawling campus, the massive abstract statue, the megaplex, the monolithic international call center, the never-ending parking lot, the "too big to fail" corporation, the mcMansion, the multi-million dollar loan for the next "big thing", the giant commercial land deal, the imposing government, the enormous hedge fund, or the one-size-fits-all franchise. With time, we've kept getting bigger, and bigger, and bigger ... and when that big thing inevitably dies, it leaves giant holes throughout our city. ... [And] when each big thing failed, it often created larger rifts that separated us from our ability to connect. To make matters worse, when the big things started dying, we all had to throw in together to try and make them stay alive because it was all we knew.
Read the whole thing here. Preferably, while this plays in the background.
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14 comments
fred
fred

My East Dallas friends and I used to laugh about the elevation of "BIG, NEW, MODERN" to religion in North Dallas and the tundra land beyond.

Oak Cliff Townie
Oak Cliff Townie

Dallas thinks Big in Items . But what ever always seems to cost  more than they want to spend .

Bill Holston
Bill Holston

I love Jason's list. Very thoughtful list of the little things that make one big thing.

I love my Casa View Neighborhood, where I've lived for 25 years. I buy Pan Dulce every Sunday at one of the many panderias. I get my hair cut at the Arcade Barber Shop.

Old Lake Highlands is doing some cool stuff. I love heading over and getting tacos at Good 2 Go and Cultivar Coffee is a great spot for a meeting. Green Spot's Saturday Market is great, bought some fun hand mad jams there last week.

Casual Observer
Casual Observer

The only place in Dallas to find "mom & pop" businesses in any number is in Oak Cliff.  I am tired of the "big boxes" and the chains.  I would like to see something with character and local ownership in my neighborhood, but in north Dallas we are way too cool to let that happen.   I might move to Oak Cliff myself.  It is the only sane place left in Dallas that hasn't gone "Dallas." 

MattL1
MattL1

It seems to me that Dallas is impatient and willing to skip necessary steps to get the "big stuff."  I always thought that you get the big stuff once you do the smaller stuff successfully.  Great cities don't just pop up.  They are made through decades, sometimes even centuries, of hard work and leadership. 

Identity and culture can't be bought.  That's like trying to give yourself a nickname.  All are earned.

Dominicide
Dominicide

Very good article by Mr. Roberts. Sooooo anti-Texas. The problem with thinking small is pure lack of imagination. I live downtown, where the lack of imagination is so hilarious. There was a rumor that a Border's bookstore was moving in on Main and I was glad that it was not true and I was glad to see the excitement melt from the faces of the cool folks downtown. Border's! A bookstore! How hip is that? First of all, the concept of hip lacks imagination.

My point goes something like the following. There is an inflection point they say, of around 35,000 residents must live in central Dallas before big box crap moves in. Instead of a small, charming market with character, we have to wait until we are living on top of each other before a chain moves in and tells us what we should like.

A friend of mine put it this way, "if they had it their way, there would be a Walmart, followed by a Chili's, followed by a Kroger, followed by a Target," well you get my drift. What bugs me is that most of the people downtown, agree.

I think I am going to start looking in Oak Cliff. Seriously.

Casual Observer
Casual Observer

Bill, Silly me!  I probably dine in Casa Linda two or three times a week.  You are right, it is a good place.  Old Lake Highlands is showing  good  progress also.  But "new" Lake Highlands has a broom handle stuck where the sun don't shine.  In the Advocate blog, somebody suggested having gourmet food trucks at the Town Center since they can't seem to do anything else there.  By the time the rumor mill whipped that one around, they were going to park mobile homes on the parking lots!  Then there was the LH DART station, along with the Bike Trail, where hordes of criminals will be riding the train to  rape and pilage the neighborhood and carry off all the big screen TV's.  I know that we have all seen many people carrying big screen TV's on the DART trains, that is those of us who actually ride it and not just complain about the people who do.  If I hear one more Lake Highlander say, "I have lived here 30 years and it is just fine as it is," I am going to scream.  Maybe we can convert all the empty store fronts to something useful like another pawn shop or pay-day loan place.   In the mean time, I will drive to Oak Cliff or Casa Linda to frequent locally owned businesses!  By the way, I do love the pork tacos at Highlands Cafe!

Catherine Cuellar
Catherine Cuellar

Don't forget Casa Linda, the Cedars, downtown, Deep Ellum, Exposition Park, Junius Heights, Lower Greenville, Lakewood, Pleasant Grove, and West Dallas (to name a few) - Dallas is full of great neighborhoods thinking small.

Bill Holston
Bill Holston

CO, head on over to Casa View. It's as real as it gets. There's tons of small great neighborhoods over hear, also Casa Linda, Dixon Branch. Parks, little Mexican restaurants. I drive past Ethiopian, Eritrean, Vietnamese, Indian Churches.

balls connoisseur
balls connoisseur

That's what I don't get. We have a creative class right here i.e. artist, architects, entrepreneurs, and so on, but we still go and look for the "name brand" crap. It's like instead of those "Rooms to Go" big box stores they have(where all you have to do is go in, pick out the room you want, and BAM!) the City of Dallas goes and shops at a "City's to Go" retailer. Just think how authentic Dallas could be if it just trusted in it's citizenry to make stuff happen? 

Downtown_resident
Downtown_resident

I can't speak for all downtown residents, but the fact that we *choose* to live here sort of conflicts with your hypothesis that we all want big-box retail downtown. If we did, we would live in Plano or anywhere with easy access to the freeway.

What we do want are choices, especially when it comes to services like grocery and household products. I wouldn't mind having a Kroger or Best Buy downtown as long as it's not the only store within walking distance. 

CrackerDaddy
CrackerDaddy

Right on Bill!  I grew up over here in Casa View.  We had large grocery stores and big box retail when I left in 1980.  When I came back in 2004, most of the large grocery stores were gone and the big boxes were dead or dying.  Now, like Bill says, it is mostly mom and pop businesses and very ethnically diverse.  Far East Dallas has changed and for the better IMHO.

Montemalone
Montemalone

Allow the hoi polloi a say?Are you insane?They might do something without hiring a consultant!

Dominicide
Dominicide

I realize that Dallas is not San Fransisco or Paris but new comers move downtown looking for easy access to there jobs; to party; newly divorced; seeking cool so as to inspire some sort of weird jealousy with their former neighbors, it's all sort of aspirational. Not really part of who they are. Most begin drinking too much (not a bad thing, I have been drinking too much in downtown for eleven years) and forget that down towns can be self- sustaining communities that they can be part of. And alas, agree a Best Buy could be their idea of "choice," because I guess it's better than nothing.

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