Boomtown Rats: Why is Dallas Being Left out of Region's Growth? Ask Our Leaders.

Categories: Schutze

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Story in The Dallas Morning News this morning touts Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington as the fastest growing metropolitan area in the country between July, 2011, and some unspecified date in 2012.

Hold on, Dallas. That's not us.

In fact the sad saga of our own city's growth, not mentioned in the story, is that it's never us. Today's article is about the larger metro region, called the "metropolitan statistical area" or MSA by the Census Bureau. And, yeah, that's been gangbusters for a decade.

Not Dallas. We've been left out for a long time. The story in the News is weird in one way -- was it edited badly? -- because it talks about everybody else's percentage growth in the region but not the percentage rate for Dallas. And while it brags on the highest overall raw number of new residents for any MSA in the country, the picture it paints is actually of decline for the larger region.

"From 2000 to 2010, Collin County grew at an annual rate of 5.91 percent, Denton at 5.3 percent and Rockwall at 8.18 percent," the story reports. "But since April 2010, Collin's annual rate of growth has slipped to 2.97 percent, Denton's to 3 percent and Rockwall's to 2.66 percent, the census numbers show."

Yeah, well here's the number the News failed to include. In that 2000 to 2010 period? Dallas "grew" by a measly 0.8 percent while other locales in the neighborhood were racking up 6 to 8 percent growth.

Thumbnail image for wagon train.jpg
Hardy settlers -- forklift drivers, clerks, human resource managers -- toil across the wastes of South Lake, headed for a better life north of Fort Worth.
We did a lot better from 2010 to 2011, according to the census' "Quick Facts" tables.

Oh, wow. We more than doubled our rate of growth in the city. We went all the way up to 1.9 percent. Of our overall population, 23 percent in 2011 were at poverty level or below, versus 17 percent for the state, and median income was $42,251 versus $50,920 for the state.

So why am I glorying in bad news? Ain't glorying, man. Worrying. The story in the News today quotes demographers as saying the biggest factor in population growth is job growth -- surprise, surprise. To figure why maybe we're not in that picture, look to the federal criminal probe of Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price, or, hey, forget Price and just look at City Hall.

Offered a free pennies-from-heaven unsolicited and I would say pretty much totally undeserved gift of 60,000 new well-paid jobs eight years ago in the "Inland Port" shipping center project, Dallas found one way or another to screw it up, slow it down and put it off for more "equity" and "planning." In the meantime Fort Worth did every single thing it could to hustle up public investment in the competing Perot-owned Alliance Logistics Center.

The area around Alliance is now one of the biggest wealth-creators in the country. Last year the Texas A&M Transportation Institute said: "Since 1990, AllianceTexas, a public-private partnership, has had an economic impact of $43.74 billion, attracted more than 300 companies and created more than 31,000 jobs. The development, which was recently recognized as one of the country's fastest growing communities, is less than 50 percent complete."

Look, I don't think this is just envy. I'm saying that should have been us. We need to think about why it's not us. It's one thing to be slow-growth and low-income if you're surrounded by more of the same. But what does it say if you're in the middle of a boomtown and you're the only one who's not booming?

It says something, I know that. I go back to my theory that we don't really have cities here anyway. We have families, like in the Middle Ages. The Perots, one of Dallas's richest, happen to have all their eggs in that basket over by Fort Worth. Is it coincidence that we here in Dallas seem to wind up with eggshells?

When the Allen group came along from California and offered us the Inland Port There was only one right reaction. "Glory hallelujah. What can we do to help?" Instead Commissioner Price and the North Central Texas Council of Governments banded together to demand "equity" and "more planning." You know what "equity" and "more planning" mean in plain English? Get outta town.

Look, this is not to say we shouldn't be glad our region is tearing up the road. That's wonderful. This is to say we should get past the hick-town all-cousin bullshit, push what's left of our own poor old clunker out on that road, put the pedal to the metal and burn that buggy down if we have to, but quit listening to losers and just get in the damn race.


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47 comments
holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

It's the lousy school district.  In those numbers you will find black family out-migration to the suburbs, as well as all the other races who can afford a house in the burbs.  What kept the population out of the loss column is poor Hispanic in-migration.

And I would not compare percentages.  Dallas' number is FAR bigger, so a 5% growth in a small town would be less than 1% in a big one.  Where Dallas loses badly is when compared to the other big cities in the states is whole numbers.

There is no chance Dallas will participate in the new millenia Grapes of Wrath the rest of the metros (check out Houston proper's growth rate over the last census period and compare) are projected to experience . . . 

if we don't bust up the DISD into 5 manageable districts that are more responsive to the parents.

Dallas is the Detroit of Texas.

BTW.  Those who disagree find cover in the fact that Dallas is landlocked, but it's not.

South Dallas has plenty of vacant land and vast stretches of dilapidated improvements (and Trinity Flood Plain which can easily be brought out).  

But nobody wants to build housing in a town that only graduates 60% of its ninth graders.

randi.trollop
randi.trollop

"The story in the News is weird in one way -- was it edited badly? -- because it talks about everybody else's percentage growth in the region but not the percentage rate for Dallas."

They conveniently left out Dallas.  It is the outlier that ruins their math.

kduble
kduble

Development patterns in the U.S. follow cheap and available vacant land. Fort Worth has grown more slowly than any other large city in the Metroplex, with the exception of Dallas, and that's because Dallas is even more built-out.

One thing Fort Worth did better than Dallas was annex land. Dallas allowed itself to get hemmed-in by other cities. The only area where Dallas could still access land is in the southeastern part of the county, and this is mostly flood plain. Fort Worth, by contrast, has had plenty of opportunity to access land to the north, and it has done so aggressively.

I agree with your observations about the Inland Port. But ultimately, the only way Dallas is going to grow again is by infill. Dallas needs to find a way to attract quality residential development back into the center city, and this will require an entirely new way of thinking. such as getting rid of the parking requirements. In essence, we need to begin designing a city for people rather than for cars. This is a radically different way of thinking from the status quo. We don't seem to be up to it, at least not yet.

MikeWestEast
MikeWestEast

Housing in center city is only at a higher price because developers never let the inventory come close to the demand. Unlike the suburbs, downtown has no margin of error and growth will not fix your mistakes. It is a big deal in downtown when someone starts a building with several hundred units. In the suburbs, nobody notices a project that size except the neighbors. Yes demand is higher than 10 years ago. It is still just a pimple on the behind of the elephant that is suburban housing demand.

If those 60,000 jobs appeared, likely < 10% of those households would choose Dallas. Middle class wages enable you to do very well in the suburbs. They might choose Duncanville or DeSoto over Plano, but they will not choose South Dallas.

DISDTeacher
DISDTeacher

Fix the schools and growth will follow.

We need somebody like John Kuhn for superintendent.  Nothing less will fix DISD.  We have tons of families who actually want to give the schools a try, but Miles and Educate Dallas and all the other "reformers" with their outdated methods and greed for public money have to go first.

Maybe a Perot can undo some of the damage done to South Dallas by going out there and getting John Kuhn for us.

bealotcoolerifyoudid
bealotcoolerifyoudid

Is all of Dallas being left out or just parts of Dallas? I suspect the Inland Port would have helped South Dallas, which I suspect has the least growth in Dallas (but I could be wrong).

But look at your own 75206 zip code Jim.  Obviously, Swiss and Bryan Parkway are not going to have growth.  But drive a couple blocks over and look at Ross and Hudson streets which each have multiple townhome developments starting in the last few weeks. 

mavdog
mavdog topcommenter

much of the issue you see is not real Jim, as you are looking a percentage growth figures.

the areas with the highest % growth are areas that a) have lower bases on which to measure, or b) are areas with developable residential land.

City of Dallas is neither, the base number (2011 pop) was high, about 1.15 M if I remember, and it is also a mature market. The only way to add measurable pop is to redevelop single family into higher density multi-housing. Few areas of town are going to see that done.

that does not reflect on your comments regarding the Allen Group experience in trying to develop the Inland Port however. You're right about that issue, although bear in mind that is the Inland Port was successfully developed it would not have added any population either, it's a commercial project that wouldn't add housing.

Scruffygeist
Scruffygeist

Shouldn't Dallas be much more concerned with quality than quantity at this point anyway?

Montemalone
Montemalone topcommenter

Part of growth is having room to grow. Dallas (the part people want to live in) is basically built out. Zoning won't allow developers to go into Preston Hollow and knock down  house on a half acre and put up 10 townhomes. It is happening in the inner city. High-rises are going up all over the place, but when people move here they need a place to live, so they go out on the edge and buy a house that was just thrown up on a cotton field.

If we get serious about changing outmoded zoning and density rules, then we can build more housing inside the city limits in desirable neighborhoods and more people can move into the city. 

Of course, that'll happen right after aliens land on the White House lawn and give us the secrets of the universe.

Edward
Edward

But remember, according to JWP those aren't "jobs" around Alliance, those are just "slaves" working. We wouldn't want that going on in South Dallas.

Guesty
Guesty

Jim,

The reasons Dallas isn't growing as fast as surrounding areas is the very same reason those other areas are growing fast:  Cheap, undeveloped real estate with good schools and almost any daily amenity you could ever desire within a very short drive.  People don't want to live in cities, as much as we want them to love it, because they want yards for their kids to play in, etc., etc.  That is much cheaper in Mesquite than it is in Dallas.  And most people would rather have a 30 min commute each way than send their kids to the DISD (this is coming form a soon to be DISD parent, so I know it isn't universally the case).  These two factors alone are the reason most people choose to live just outside of Dallas.  Jobs are more of a mixed bag, but many are outside of Dallas for similar reasons.  Big office parks would rather locate north, where they can build a brand new sprawling campuses, and businesses that don't need as much space are attracted to lower rents up north.  They also like the fact that they have easy access to large pools of educated people who don't want to live in the DISD and would like to avoid the long commute.

I think the real question is why would a person or business rather locate inside of Dallas than in a suburb? I do it because I call the center of Dallas home (my church, friends, favor restaurants  etc. are all here), I have worked in Uptown or Downtown all my career and couldn't stand the commute, and I can afford to live close in with a nice sized home with a yard close to White Rock Lake.  If I didn't have the resources I do, I almost certainly would make a different choice.  I don't think there is anything the City of Dallas could do to change that outcome.          

ruddski
ruddski

Race probs, crime, shitty schools, traffic, douchebags and bad drivers. Face it, Dallas sucks.

MilkmanDan
MilkmanDan

In D/FW, location of one's job has little to do with where they live. Go read the recent article about commuting patterns. Dallas County has one of the largest inbound commuting patterns in the nation. Because of the relatively easy commutes, people choose to live outside of Dallas. I would imagine that schools and perceived crime are the two biggest reasons people live elsewhere. Housing costs being a distant third.

WylieH
WylieH

[In the meantime Fort Worth did every single thing it could to hustle up public investment in the competing Perot-owned Alliance Logistics Center.

The area around Alliance is now one of the biggest wealth-creators in the country. Last year the Texas A&M Transportation Institute said: "Since 1990, AllianceTexas, a public-private partnership, has had an economic impact of $43.74 billion, attracted more than 300 companies and created more than 31,000 jobs. The development, which was recently recognized as one of the country's fastest growing communities, is less than 50 percent complete."]

Another interesting thing about Alliance, it's very establishment and operation violate the very same agreement that Tarrant County and Ft. Worth used to beat the City of Dallas and Southwest Airlines up over Love Field.  See this old Dallas Observer article for further details:  http://www.dallasobserver.com/1997-11-06/news/hypocritic-oath/

ChrisYu
ChrisYu

pretty sad...Inland Port should be driving this region. btw, 'Boomtown Rats' - sounds like Wilonsky's writing the headlines again.

rubbercow
rubbercow

@kduble there is plenty of vacant land in Dallas. In fact there is quite a lot of it within 4 miles of downtown.

The "built out" argument doesn't hold up.

anon
anon

@MikeWestEast why is it that housing is the one thing where people think the relationship between price and quality/desirability does not hold? by definition, the fact that people are willing to pay more to live closer-in means they are more desirable than the suburbs (or it they pay the same price, they get far more square footage in the suburbs). people are confused because for a while it truly was more expensive to move out to the suburbs because the inner city was considered a wasteland and that mindset does not reverse easily. do we say that a Honda is more desirable because it's cheaper than a Mercedes? no, of course not.

Guesty
Guesty

@MikeWestEast Agree with the last part, but not the first.  A major reason there isn't much development in downtown is simple math.  It is far more expensive to build a large multifamily development in downtown than it is to build the same number of units elsewhere.  Not only is the land more expensive, but construction cost also is much higher per square foot in a 30-40 story high rise than it is on a 3-4 story apartment complex or a development of town homes (assuming you are building to the same quality finish out).  People build up because they have to, not because they want to.    

qualitynotquantity
qualitynotquantity

@DISDTeacher Urban school districts are tied to the success of its population. Raising the economic opportunities and quality of life, will raise the education results. We will still have poor students and drop outs, but additional, better students will change the statistical numbers, which are the results you are reading, in the successful urban school districts.

Guesty
Guesty

@DISDTeacher What does a fullback know about running schools?

But in all seriousness, no one has figured out how to run a large urban school district that takes all comers and is predominately poor.  There isn't a single success story in the world.  We need to stop pretending like all we need to do is "x" when clearly no one knows how to make it work.  That doesn't mean giving up hope.  But it does mean having some humility both in proclaiming who our saviors will be and in casting blame at the feet of those who have failed only where everyone one else has failed before them.  

Kuhn almost certainly would be overwhelmed on day one.  The DISD is almost 100 times the size of Kuhn's district.  There are single schools in the DISD that are about the same size as Kuhn's entire school district.  Think about that:  A single DISD principal runs as large an organization as Kuhn runs.  The kids in Kuhn's district are much wealthier, have better family lives, etc.  I think even he would agree that he doesn't know the answer to the DISD's problems.     
  

RobertStinson
RobertStinson

@DISDTeacher We need to break up the district into smaller, more managaeble sizes before we find our next savior. The system is too big, too unwieldy and too prone to corruption.

JimSX
JimSX topcommenter

@bealotcoolerifyoudid

Yeah. But I drove Southern Dallas recently with a guy from out of town. He kept exclaming at the amount of quasi-rural empty land. Look at it one way, it's a pain in the ass. Look at it another, it ought to be a huge opportunity..

Mervis_Earl
Mervis_Earl

Have you been out to the area around Alliance? They've added tons of new housing, granted it isn't all related to the airport but surely a good part of it is.

Guesty
Guesty

@Montemalone  Dallas has an amazing amount of undeveloped land, far more than any city of its population.  And it has a lot of land available for multifamily development.  People want to live in Preston Hollow because it doesn't have multifamily. It seems like your solution is to destroy what makes certain neighborhoods desirable so that more people can enjoy what was desirable.  That does't sound like a solution to much of anything to me.  

mavdog
mavdog topcommenter

@guesty

the lowest office rents in the DFW market are in Dallas, the CBD and along the Stemmons corridor. Highest rents are in Preston Center and Frisco.

the average lot size in newer suburban communities like Plano, Frisco, Mesquite etc is in the 9-12,000 SF range. not much yards for their kids to play in...

JimSX
JimSX topcommenter

@Guesty

Good points if we are talking strictly about middle income boojies. But if we had been able to add 60,000 good hourly paid jobs, I have to think population and income growth wold have occurred. Remember that the premium for location in Dallas, as in all major US metro areas, is now in the center city, with suburbs beginning their slide to inevitable slumdom. It's difficult to believe your picture in which the city might as well make bad decisions because it can't make any good ones,

kduble
kduble

@rubbercow True. But nowhere near as much as much vacant land as in the 'burbs, where land is far less costly. Also, when building in the 'burbs, there is little cause to worry about lead-contaminated soil and other unforeseen expenses.

cheeseburger
cheeseburger

@anon @MikeWestEast That is only true for certain select neighborhoods in Dallas.  If you cross neighborhood boundaries, the prices drop dramatically because they are, in fact, far less desirable than the suburbs.

anon
anon

@Guesty @MikeWestEast I don't know. Demand is constrained, but it's not constrained by developers. It's constrained by parking lot owners downtown. They are holding out for some big developer to put a really, really large project on the land that can justify a huge price tag. They're holding out for the city to throw a bunch of money at them too in the way of tax incentives. The problem is that the land is so undervalued on the tax records. Low carrying costs mean the option cost is low to wait for your land to be a part of that big blockbuster project that's going to make you rich. In the meantime, you're making a decent amount of money each year on the parking that keeps you patient. This is true of other buildings that have fallen on hard times but are in no way worthless. I'm not saying that increasing taxes will magically unlock development, I'm simply saying that if carrying costs reflected the true market value of many of these properties, the owners would have to shit or get off the pot.

DISDTeacher
DISDTeacher

@qualitynotquantity @DISDTeacher No additional, better students will enter the system unless we expand the magnets for middle school and high school to separate the on-level/above-level kids from the below-level with behavior problems.  You can argue with my assessment, but the numbers in DISD back me up.

Parents of strong students do not want their kids mixed in with all the behavior problems who disrupt, sleep, antagonize teachers, etc.  

DISDTeacher
DISDTeacher

@Guesty @DISDTeacher Most effective people start small and work their way up.  Kuhn has integrity and the right problem-solver mindset.

Scale is not the problem with DISD leadership; the lack of integrity and a desire to truly serve are the problems.  

Miles didn't come from a large district either (2 or 3 high schools?), but that's not why he's a failure.  He's a failure because instead of getting serious about severe behavior problems on the campuses and crony/nepotism principals, all he brought to the table was the micromanaging of what teachers write on their whiteboards every morning.

Miles, overtesting, charters, TFA--they ruin districts and districts across the country are fighting back against their paradigm.  Kuhn is the antithesis of all of that.


DISDTeacher
DISDTeacher

@RobertStinson @DISDTeacher I completely agree but have been told by legislators that it will never happen because the charter operators will lose millions of dollars.  The charter operators are very generous campaign contributors and no one wants to make them mad.  Charters need public schools to "fail" so charters can come to the "rescue" and skim off millions in the process.

I have been told that charters will paint any attempt to fix the district by breaking it up as "rich/white North Dallas vs. poor/minority South Dallas."

Anything that helps DISD hurts charters.

bealotcoolerifyoudid
bealotcoolerifyoudid

@JimSX It should be an opportunity, but the school system holds it back as others have pointed below.  Coming from Austin, I have also noticed how much empty space there is in Dallas.  Look at the area around Live Oak and Collette/Garrett.  How are there vacant city blocks that close to downtown?  East Dallas will eventually get those places filled in (look at Ross and Hall). 

But south of the river is close to downtown too.  Maybe if the City builds a golf course and evicts some small businessman that will help.

cheeseburger
cheeseburger

@mavdog 9-12,000 SF isn't really that small.  12,000 SF is .28 acres which is plenty to play in.  Now, many of the newer homes are built on under 8,000 SF (.18 and .17 acre) lots.  That's pathetically tiny.  

Guesty
Guesty

@JimSX Those poor people want decent schools too.  And they work with or as service providers for the middle class, and need to live close to where they work.  If you were poor, why would you prefer to live in Dallas rather than Plano?   

As to the inevitable, I'm not so pessimistic about the city or the burbs.  Dallas will eventually finish building out the surrounding area.  Once it has, there is no place to go but up, like other larger cities have done.  But it cost a lot more to build up than to build out, so as long as land is available to keep building out, out we will build.  We are getting close to the transition, but we aren't there yet.

As to the slide of the burbs, let me just say I'll believe it when I see it.  City folk (like the people who write the Atlantic) are a lot like surburbanites in their desire to proclaim the superiority of their chosen way of life.  And as a result, they are quick to point to any little blip of data that supports their position.  But I don't think a little data from the height of the housing bubble is good enough to overcome decades of migration to areas surrounding urban cores.    

Anon
Anon

@JimSX @Guesty @MikeWestEast

Jim, that is true, but it takes longer to achieve it. Developers like a fast turn around on their investment.

DISDTeacher
DISDTeacher

@Guesty @DISDTeacher @RobertStinson The whole district is only 5% Anglo and most of that is concentrated at the magnets.  Resegregation is already a fact.

If we as a city want to bend over backwards to prevent some schools from being predominately rich or white, then the rich and the white will continue to move out to the suburbs and Dallas will not grow.

As long as the funding is equal (and Title 1 schools would get more funding than schools too "rich" to qualify for Title 1), why are we afraid of majority black,  majority Hispanic or majority white schools?  Segregation in the past was not merely a race issue; it was more than anything a funding issue.  Race was simply the tool used to keep funding concentrated in the white schools.  

Guesty
Guesty

@DISDTeacher @RobertStinson It won't happen because it would look like de facto resegregation  which in many respects it would be.  Break up the DISD and some of the new districts would be much richer, much whiter, and much better than the DISD as a whole today, but others would be even more hispanic/black, even poorer, and do even worse than the DISD as a whole today.  

JimSX
JimSX topcommenter

@bealotcoolerifyoudid @JimSX

Yeah, but the real secret to economic growth, as we know, is dressage.

DISDTeacher
DISDTeacher

@Guesty @JimSX When our students' parents buy their first house, it is almost always in a suburb and the parents will tell you--sometimes through a translator--it's because of the schools.  The poor-but-upwardly-mobile most definitely want good schools.

Mike Miles has said at his canned "Open Mike" meetings that discipline isn't the big problem in DISD, but it is.  

More magnets would help keep families in Dallas, but Miles has also said "no more magnets."  This is especially hypocritical since reliable sources say his child will attend a magnet next year.

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