Having Fun in Downtown Dallas: Is There a Form You Need to Fill Out For That?

Categories: Get Off My Lawn

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Jack Floyd (I don't really know Jacquielynn personally, but I'm told that's what cool people call her) has a good column today behind The Dallas Morning News pay well today about making downtown Dallas fun.

I know. I know. Right off the top it sounds like a dreadfully dreary topic, sort of like when a new boss tells you, "People, we are going to start having fun around this place." Usually code for massive layoffs.

A side of me almost doesn't want to hear the word "fun" ever. If you have to say it, isn't it already over? But somebody's got to talk about the other F word. She's right, after all. The biggest single issue and problem with downtown Dallas is that it's no damn F.

She makes the very valid point that the city keeps buying things to make downtown more fun, and none of it works worth a damn. Decades ago they put a bunch of fun banners up along Main Street. That decidedly did not do the trick. Now it's parks. I still don't see it happening.

Floyd provides a good quote from our new mayor, Mike Rawlings, who told her: "You cannot steal an idea and just put it in place. You can't get urban vibe out of a can."

He's right. Fun does not come from the party store. But then Rawlings tells her: "We've got to have more fun downtown. And you've got to put some process and discipline around creating that fun."

Uh-oh. Red flag. There it is. Right there. The problem. Process and discipline. Do we not think we already have enough process and discipline? Do we not wonder if that might actually be the problem?

Look, I came here back when downtown Dallas actually still was fun, back before process and discipline killed the joint. The example I always think of is Sol's Turf Bar on Commerce Street, a place where Jack Ruby hung out back in the day.

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City Hall's disciplined vision of what constitutes fun downtown.
It was a big messy welcoming polyglot place where anybody and everybody could get a frosty mug on a three-digit day. People were always sort of meandering halfway outside onto the sidewalk with their drinks. Sometimes a cop would come along and shoo everybody back inside. Sometimes not.

See, that's what you have to have in order to have real F. Mess. Disorganization. Informality. I think you may even need to have one or two poor persons in the mix, although it might be best to handpick them and bring them in by ambulance in the morning.

Downtown Dallas is no F because it is dominated by rich conservative scrubbing bubbles. They themselves never go downtown, because they're afraid of being exposed to non-handpicked poor persons.

Downtown needs what it used to have -- little Greek diners in basements, illegal lottery cards behind cash registers, more wig shops, more street preachers, maybe even a peep show or two. If we have to do it with process and discipline, then we should invent a process by which we can get more guys to come downtown and fleece people with three-card monte games.

Is that ever going to happen? I do not know, but I do have my doubts. I think we're still stuck with leadership that will always try to make downtown more and more like a Soviet military shopping mall mausoleum and then get pissed when the little people fail to get out there and start having their F, whatever it is they do.

What would it take to change all that? A flood of Biblical proportions? Hmm. I'm thinkin'. Could be some hope there, after all.

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Zeeba Neighba
Zeeba Neighba

Downtown Dallas will never be a fun or vibrant place to be.

#1. Parking- I've been to New Orleans several times this year and have yet to had to feed a meter or pay lot fees. Is there ANYWHERE to park in Dallas that won't cost more than an average lunch?

#2. Housing- Sure, there are some really cool apt. buildings, lofts and townhomes, but can you afford to live there? I can't. The only people I've seen that ever actually live downtown are yuppie, lawyer types that are itching for a couple of years of cool, urban cred before moving to Plano and squeezing out their little Jon Benets.

I can't see this area ever being able to look beyond it's own greediness to create any sort of downtown environment that would actually flourish and be more profitably in the long run.

Guest
Guest

What we need, people, is legalized gambling!! 

Andréa Michele
Andréa Michele

more wig shops! that's it. More small business spots. Sedona is gone. The little thrift store Catalina is gone. Pearl is gone. The downtown business model is drive away small businesses for the sake of dog parks & million dollar condos. Two things that don't cater to people visiting. And not attractive to urban professionals starting out.

Brenda Marks
Brenda Marks

What I found most amusing about Jack's column was her suggestion of candidates for her proposed Czar of Fun.  All white, over 40 (actually most were over 60) and basic boring establishment types.  I think JS should write a column with his proposed candidates for Fun Czar and propose a deal to Jack for a Fun Czar election.  What fun that would be!

Montemalone
Montemalone

I nominate Glenn Hudson.He's got nothing else to do now.

Titus Groan
Titus Groan

I think we need to convene a Fun Study Group composed of volunteer Park Cities residents, who will recommend hiring a Fun Consultant for millions of dollars to do a Downtown Fun Needs Assessment and Plan, which the city will then ignore or implement in a half-assed fashion, somehow costing residents way more than projected.

Grumpy Demo
Grumpy Demo

you left out the part where they then pay Hispanics sub minimum wages to have fun, . . .

Sports Cactus
Sports Cactus

What would it take to change all that? Some parking and making it easier to get in and out of.I love downtown, but the thought of driving there takes all the fun out of whatever I was planning. And knowing when I get there I won't be able to park is the final straw every time I think about heading downtown. Hell, just running the buses past 2am would help a lot.

Bill Holston
Bill Holston

met a guy for coffee at the lily pad a few weeks back. It was great. Really enjoyed it. I don't office downtown so I drove. I was there a couple hours. fed the meter twice and still got a ticket.That will  deter my return.

Diana Powe
Diana Powe

"Downtown needs what it used to have -- little Greek diners in basements"

Would that be the one that used to be on Main just west of Neiman-Marcus? If so, I used to eat there all the time when I worked at B. Dalton Booksellers. It was fun.

Ebird
Ebird

Block parties !!!

Julia
Julia

Jim, you like to compare downtown D to the Soviet Union or Siberia from time to time, and I'm here to tell you, people in those places had/have way more fun than is to be found in downtown Dallas! One word reason: Водка.

Downtown_worker
Downtown_worker

Jazz Under the Stars is an absolute blast and I only wish there were more events like this in the spring and fall.

I actually have fun downtown as it is today. Yes, I wish there were more things to do here, but I enjoy walking around the old buildings and having the option of going for a drink at City Tavern, One Eyed Penguin, and many other bars.

scottindallas
scottindallas

Spring and Fall.  The Summer Concert Series at the Arboretum is uncomfortable.  I wish they'd do more Spring/Fall events. 

The Derelict
The Derelict

we need more naked bitches in the CBD and all of the stuffy white people to stay home.

Mister_Mean
Mister_Mean

Why does the statement of bringing fun to down town Dallas (the city’s efforts past and present) remind me of a quote I heard recently "the floggings will continue until moral improves"?

Montemalone
Montemalone

You should stop hanging out with Jeffress.

whodunnit
whodunnit

The real answer is "people"..........lots and lots of people, all of the time.........people of all types, sizes, incomes, races, you know, the sky is the limit....the more the merrier. If there were lots more people downtown, organizations like Downtown Dallas would become a thing of the past (they'd have to close "world headquarters"). With enough "density" of people, the City would organically come to life,,,,,retailers would open shop because there would be lots of business simply because of all of the people........and, it probably would be FUN!

Unfortunately, the City leaders have been artificially "creating" a community/neighborhood in a petri dish, and the science experiment hasn't been (is not) working,

RTGolden
RTGolden

Damn that pesky individual thought characteristic so many people have!  If everyone would just behave in a scientifically predictable fashion, why I'll bet downtown could be as fun as .... well, if we could just get everyone to do what we tell them to.

--Citizen's Council

scottindallas
scottindallas

A streetcar line that runs up and down Main, or Elm & Commerce connecting Deep Ellum to West End would improve the density.  This line could/should connect the Bishop Arts trolley and the McKinney Ave streetcar. 

Ed D.
Ed D.

The AAC could have contributed to a vibrant West End and Downtown if only every single decision Hillwood made wasn't carefully designed to isolate Victory Park from the rest of the city, right down to the placement of the DART station. A developer that wanted to work for the civic good instead of just their own real estate deals could make a downtown baseball stadium a positive for Dallas instead of yet another island in a sea of asphalt.

Montemalone
Montemalone

Vibrant DTs don't have acres of parking lots and huge "plazas" surrounding the buildings for gathering. Buildings up to the sidewalk create density, cause all the people are in a smaller space, and it looks happenin.The "Arts District" is nothing but a museum museum. Too much open space between the places.

JimS
JimS

Man, that is sure true. The whole area looks like where we're supposed to go if there is an attack.

Montemalone
Montemalone

Snow.

Snow would be fun.

And H.L.Green.

Grumpy Demo
Grumpy Demo

H.L. Green, anyone else remember their sign "Complete Weddings from $49.99"?

JimS
JimS

Been noodling this all day since this morning. Lotta ideas. Belo and DDI spend all this money on parks etc, people just too stupid to do what's expected of them. Hurts land values. So what about more authority? I'm thinking something like electronic pedestrian traffic signs, only instead of Walk-Don't Walk, they say "FAE" (frisk about entertainingly) and then after a while they say "OKTERTYWS" (OK, that's enough, return to your work stations).  

3rd Wheel Marketing
3rd Wheel Marketing

Man, I miss the greeks, a roast beef plate and a beer for $5. I remember getting drunk at lunch and running my mail cart into stuff. And the news stand on Commerce (I think). That place was cool, they had newspapers from everywhere... Anyone remember newspapers? (heh)

matt
matt

we need a flea/antique market attached to the farmers market. 

plus having the rangers downtown would be dope.  just make sure they have a roof

Lawrence Sweeney
Lawrence Sweeney

Flea market downtown within walking distance to the farmers market is a great idea.

Montemalone
Montemalone

No need to buy fleas, just pluck them off the homeless folks in Main St Gardens

Augie
Augie

Density.  You need a ton of it for there to be enough folks hanging out doing stuff in a downtown area and ballparks contribute in some way towards that.  Alone, ballparks are not enough, but they contribute in the form of folks coming early, staying after games spending money there, helping keep bars and restaurants busy.  

The "Julie" fun director has some merit.  Basically, someone has to try to plan activities on a regular enough basis, covering a broad enough array of subjects that more and more people will say "I want to do this and its downtown, so I'm going downtown."  So many people in this area will not even consider down town, and many parts of downtown are so spartan and dangerous, who could blame them?  The park should help in this regard as it gives a place for gatherings and events to take place, especially when combined with the other event areas in the arts district.  In this town, we need more restaurants and bars to open in the downtown area to draw folks there. This won't happen over night, but I believe things are heading in the right direction.  More nurturing and hard work and it could happen. 

Heavy Metal Church Lady
Heavy Metal Church Lady

I think the City should hire a consulting firm and ad agency, make a 1:5 model of downtown, then compare it with the 1:5 model of the human brain's architecture in a state of extreme fun based on readings from MRI brain scans (possibly conducted at Parkland).

Another consulting firm (I would like to suggest HNTB) should study the first consulting firm's assessment. A second set of models should be fabricated, discussed by experts, and then shown to a study group. Marketing experts and psychologists could then watch from a mirrored spy room as participants eat free cookies and casually discuss both sets of models.

Finally, a Londoner intellectual--a futurist!-- should be solicited to write an essay for the DMN's Points section that predicts the fun threshold the City is teetering on, and to trumpet the spot-on-ness of Dallas' Funitiative (licensed trademark).

Another possibility is to introduce Dry Canoeing on the sidewalks in downtown Dallas, though this activity will not contribute to the myriad economies that are perpetually assuring us they intend to make Dallas a better place through model-making and study groups and ad campaigns. 

Montemalone
Montemalone

A pickle shaped skyscraper might be fun.

Heavy Metal Church Lady
Heavy Metal Church Lady

Yes, it would be.Though it would be prudent to run this idea by some experts in the fields of consulting, marketing and convention PR. I fear tourists might think an injudicious pickle-icious skyscraper was too much fun. It would establish expectations that would be crushed once they encountered other buildings and bureaucrats as they're being herded off to orchestrated events in revamped margarita busses--replete with the new Funitiative logo (licensed trademark) and Pickins' gas conversion system (licensed trademark).

Too much fun = Not Protestant

Just a little fun = Limited opportunity for increased income (for certain professionals)

Failed fun = Another opportunity (for certain professionals) for increased income by constructing a new pitch to compensate for failure

Kourtny
Kourtny

Over here at DDI World HQ, we can't help but comment.  Recently we had the same discussion with the Mayor.  We agree, the more activity, the more vibrancy - the better socially, culturally and economically Downtown will perform.  Everyone from the resident having a beer on the Lily Pad patio to the CEO of one of our recent corporate moves will attest to that. And yes, we need more "fun".  365 days/year of impromptu programming, ala NYC, is certainly something to strive for.  We're hastily working on ordinance changes and processes (yes, as mundane as it sounds) that will make it easier for the random street musician to occupy a corner on Main Street.  

However, to say there's nothing to do Downtown today is just flat out not true.  Are we bias, and perhaps a bit defensive? It is, after all, our job to promote Downtown, so sure. But you can't deny the facts. By our last rough count, more than 250 events take place Downtown annually.  In fact, the Observer's own Robert Wilonsky was an instigator of Fun just last month with his screening of Robocop at City Hall Plaza, and shout out to the City Design Studio for the Living Plaza series.  And what about Veletta Lill's Arts District Food Trucks?  Outdoor movie screenings at Main Street Garden?  Anyone remember that little victory parade? Homegrown Music and Art Festival?  And for the "messy" fun, let me recommend checking out Main Street on a Friday or Saturday night around 11pm.  Five years ago, the lights were off.  Today you can't even get your car down the street because of the valet and foot traffic.  Coming this fall - Art in October will bring 30-days of jam packed indoor and outdoor programming in the Arts District.  More outdoor movies, Friday Pop-Up Markets and a TX/OU BBQ Cookoff are just a 20 degree temperature drop away. As I'm sure you can guess, I can go on...

Another particular DDI focus right now is communicating these events, we know we could do better at that too.  And, of course, creating some new ideas for programming.  So perhaps all of this interest in Fun will help us with our mission.  We do need help from the City.  We need help from the media to tell our story.  And we need support and participation from the individual hot dog guy on up to the major corporate sponsor.  It's a work in progress we are committed to.  We just ask that you, Community, please pause and check out a web site or two like the Observer events calendar, thedallasartsdistrict.org, or soon our own website (our calendar is under construction but coming back soon!), or even just head down for any given happy hour to City Tavern, Samar or Charlie Palmer, before you write Downtown off as "being no fun".~Kourtny G., Downtown Dallas, Inc.

Grumpy Demo
Grumpy Demo

Kourtny,

Thanks for answering, its great that you "walk the walk", sorry bout the over reacting, but in this forum incoherent sincerity is always better than a "cut and past" PR quote.

FYI, it always a good idea to open your comment  "Schutze sucks".

whackedupside
whackedupside

Kourtny, I don't envy your job.  You definitely have a challenge in front of you.  In regards to your website/wordpress blog, I'd suggest fewer pictures of board members in suits, fewer pictures of buildings, and more pictures of people having fun and doing things in downtown, even if its only people sitting down for a nice dinner.  Board members in suits do nothing to encourage me to go downtown.  If its important to stroke the egos of board members, I'd suggest a separate page listing all of the board members with nice portraits and extensive cv's.

Rtgolden
Rtgolden

"Impromptu programming"??  Do I need to even write what that particular phrase constitutes?  You missed the whole point of the article.  I wasn't around dallas back then, but what I got out of this article was, back in the day, downtown was fun because there wasn't any programming.  People could just go and do the things they wanted to do.  And the city STAYED OUT OF IT.

Alan
Alan

Makes me want to F your D Spot, Kourtny!

Robert Wilonsky
Robert Wilonsky

Fellas, Kourtny's good people -- without her we wouldn't have been able to pull off that RoboCop screening. It was nice of her to pop in and add her few cents' worth. And while I understand the reaction to her post, please don't give her too hard of a time. Thanks.

3rd Wheel Marketing
3rd Wheel Marketing

We all suck. Can you ever forgive us for our bad taste and piss poor planning? I mean the hundreds of people gathered were fools who didn't see things with your clarity. Please start a religion so I can be your first disciple. 

scottindallas
scottindallas

Robo Cop is TERRIBLE.  Why not show good movies.  Why not do some of this in the 9 mos of the year that aren't so hot.  Hey, it's national night out this week, just what I want to do, go hang in the heat.  And, I'm like 10x more acclimated to this weather than most of you.  Stupid, dumb and thoughtless planning. 

Robert Wilonsky
Robert Wilonsky

Grump, you know I love you. So this one doesn't count. And only I get to replace Steve Blow. It's in my contract. Shucks.

Grumpy Demo
Grumpy Demo

Me bad, another "white guy wiff" isn't that strike two?

I get three of those right,  then I get to replace Steve Blow.

Grumpy Demo
Grumpy Demo

Did that just get posted by a PR bot on autopilot?

Hey, Kourtny G. how many of your Board Members actually live downtown?  I see that one of your Board member's favorite downtown spot is the "Meyerson", a hermetical sealed blockhouse that you can drive into and out of without any contact with the neighborhood and is only open a few nights a week with no supporting surrounding amenities, yeah that's what we're talking about here.

Your Board looks like the usual suspects of Park City people http://downtowndallas.wordpres...

A cut and paste press release filled with organic fertilizer, is pretty insulting to this discussion.

Coleman
Coleman

...is that a wordpress blog not hosted on it's own domain? oh, DDI, what are you doing?

CRA
CRA

You are right on Grumpy Demo!!!

The only thing more painful than reading her post, is hearing John Crawford, cheerlead Downtown Dallas in between his golf rounds at Dallas Country Club with Wick and the rest of the Dallas White Citizens Council..............

Grumpy Demo
Grumpy Demo

Just curious, where do you live Kourtney?

whodunnit
whodunnit

Bravo! But, I'm guessing you are the only one at Downtown Dallas who is committed to the neighborhood.

Kourtny
Kourtny

For the record, I live Downtown, actually. In the Cedars. My husband and I bought a loft down here seven years ago. We are moving into the Farmers Market in January, just bought one of the new townhomes.

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