At Downtown Dallas Inc.'s Annual Meeting, a Call To "Invest Yourself" (And Your Cash)

MarySuhmatDDIMeeting.jpg
Photos by Anna Merlan
Mary Suhm picked up her award from Downtown Dallas Inc. at its annual meeting today at the Omni.
Around lunchtime at the Omni today, a crew was dismantling those enormous red Christmas balls that have been heaped up on the lawn for the past couple months, while in the Dallas Ballroom upstairs, Downtown Dallas Inc. was holding its annual meeting. It was a $100-per-head affair ($125 for non-members) that crammed a three-course meal and a whole bunch of optimism into scarcely over an hour. Some 1,300 people were in the audience, including reps from quite a few banks and law firms, a virtual sea of suits and intimidating high heels. They hustled through plates of fried chicken and listened as the accolades on the state of downtown poured in.

The theme of this year's wingding was "Invest Yourself," and in what DDI president and CEO John Crawford called "the economic, cultural and social vitality of the heart of our great city." But besides fundraising, the other purpose of the luncheon was to hand out the "Chairman's Award," which this year went to City Manager Mary Suhm.

"You've got a tough job," said David Lind, DDI's chairman and an architect at Corgan. "I dunno how you do it." He praised Suhm for "creating a business-friendly city," as well as having "the vision and gumption to get projects done."

"I think I'm the luckiest person in the world," Suhm said, accepting a glass bowl-shaped award she fished out of a large navy-blue box. "And I have the best job in the world." She thanked her "amazing board" and the city's 13,000 employees, adding, "Downtown is an amazing place right now. I can't believe anyone would want to be anywhere else. Like my trainer tells me, the core of the city is like the core of the body. If it's not strong, the city's not gonna be strong, no matter how many bicep curls you do."

CrowdatDDIMeeting.JPG
Taking the stage again as Suhm made her exit, Lind had plenty of specific things to get excited about downtown, including its beefed-up safety patrol, the new anti-panhandling ordinance and a bunch of new security cameras (there are 132 of them total -- good to know, right?). He was also proud of, among other things, the "130 days of programming" that brought people to various arts and culture events in the CBD in 2011, the "increased video boards and super graphics to increase vitality" in the area, along with more sidewalk cafes, street furniture and outdoor lighting. He said DDI invests some $4 million annually back into downtown each year, in the form of public safety, capital improvements and maintenance.

Lind also had plenty of promises for the coming year: the priorities in 2012 include "monitoring liquor and package stores" (been there), creating "vibrant streets and public spaces," and what he called "streetscapes and beautification issues." Also mentioned, of course: the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge, Belo Garden and the Woodall Rodgers Deck Park, all scheduled to open this year.

"Positive perception is built through positive experience," he told the crowd. "We're focused on engaging the community through first-hand experience in downtown Dallas." (We think that means he wants you to go there.) He promised to help "build programs that attract large corporations and small businesses to the city core." They'll also be working with the city to "encourage alternate mobility," which means pedicabs, bike shares, better walkability and "a permanent streetcar system."

It's all part of what Crawford called the "funnel concept," which is, in his words, "pushing economic vitality from the east and west coasts to the center of the country."

"Texas has become a third coast economically, culturally and recreationally," he said. "Our new downtown, I think, is the epicenter."

The last event on the agenda was the keynote speaker, Carol Coletta, former CEO of CEOs for Cities and current president of Coletta & Company, which, per the program, "accelerate[s] creative placemaking across the U.S." That apparently involves a lot of focus groups; she encouraged the audience to try to attract college-educated 24- to 35-year-olds to the city, who she said account for "58 percent of the success in any community." She said her research shows these elusive youngsters want to live downtown, near their jobs, and in a "spruced-up, clean and safe" environment.

Coletta praised Downtown Dallas 360, which she said would help attract "millenials" by creating "compact, walkable, mixed-use neighborhoods" where being a pedestrian is "pleasurable."

"You have a good plan," she said. "Don't take too long to execute it."

My Voice Nation Help
20 comments
Sort: Newest | Oldest
GusMitchem
GusMitchem

Video Boards increase vitality? I thought they were there to blind me when I drive on Main street to make it easier to hit a distracted pedestrian. Huh, now I know

 

MattL1
MattL1

I had my Wild Turkey at the ready, just WAITING to read the words "world class."  What the hell are you trying to do to me, keep me sober?

Titus Groan
Titus Groan

Take a shot anyway and call it "training."

MattL1
MattL1

I'll be okay.  Been in what some may call "midseason form" for about a decade now.

baghdad4lovers
baghdad4lovers

And then they all filed back into their cars and drove off, back to their homes in Highland Park and Preston Hollow....The End!

Grumpy Demo
Grumpy Demo

So you can get an award for not being able send people a correct water bill while wasting millions of dollars in the process?

Think of all the nice amenities Dallas could have installed for the money she's wasted.

Mister_Mean
Mister_Mean

Now Now Grumpy Demo-just like in kindergarten they should get an “award” for their “self esteem” as everyone should be aware it is a hard job being incompetent and doing a poor job by wasting monies on failed, ill conceived  or over budget projects. 

UnFair Pork
UnFair Pork

Oh... mybad.

I must've been lulled into a stupor over the last 20 years or so when "...wasting monies on failed, ill conceived or over budget projects." has been defined by my local and federal government officials as "Progress" or "Success".

Suhm is still a very handsome fella' though, and I'm not surprised by the workout comment. It must take a lot of iron pumping to maintain that linbacker physique.

Mister_Mean
Mister_Mean

Highlights that come to mind within a few seconds: *White water rafting in the Trinity (over budget and designed to kill people) *Suspension bridges over a dried river bed (when it is not flooded – quick check the river out as due the heavy rains it is probably at flood stage). *Now that the Trinity is at flood stage how about putting a toll road in it! (cost billions of dollars). *Decking Woodall Rogers (wonder how they will keep the plants alive with the drought restrictions while our lawns shrivel up and die?) Do I need to continue my list of questionable projects by the city?   The DO is constantly reporting on screw-ups by the city, county and school district and I should be happy on how my property tax dollars are spent?

Rangers100
Rangers100

The chicken was "pecan-crusted."  Baked, not fried.

I was amazed to see that many people at the event.  How did that turnout compare to last year?

Robert Wilonsky
Robert Wilonsky

Anna's not a meat-eater, so on that point you'll have to cut her some slack. As I also explained to my mom, who was there and noted it was "dry" but not bad for that number of people." She also said the sauce rescued the entree.

Rangers100
Rangers100

Slack cut.  Just a fwiw.  For a rubber chicken lunch it was actually surprisingly good.

Any idea how many people were at last year's event?

Anna Merlan
Anna Merlan

I just emailed DDI's media rep with to ask how many people came last year. I'll let you know if I hear back. 

My mistake on the chicken. My vegetarianism renders me unable to read menus, apparently. My pasta and veggies were delicious. Eggplant and stuff. Should've asked Mrs. Wilonsky about the poultry. 

Downtown_worker
Downtown_worker

When is the promised "ancillary development" to the Omni Hotel supposed to break ground? Dallas CVB was supposed to move into a new 4-story building by this summer, but nothing has happened since the announcement over a year ago.

Speaking of gyms, maybe (Gold's Gym and Omni parent company) TRT Holdings should build their new headquarters downtown and open a new flagship Gold's in the bottom floor.

Robert Wilonsky
Robert Wilonsky

Omni will be announcing tomorrow, at city hall, that it's moving its the TRT HQ to Dallas.

Amy S
Amy S

They already own our building ;)

Now Trending

Dallas Concert Tickets

From the Vault

 

Loading...