Dallas Is Changing Because of its Neighborhoods, Not its Business Leaders

Categories: Schutze

huntatgreenvillemeeting1.JPG
Gloria Levario
Former City Councilwman Angela Hunt and residents of Lower Greenville, who together decided that neighborhood's fate.
Ninety-nine point nine percent of what urban planner Larry Beasley says is brilliant, and usually when I do think I've got him being wrong on some point, it's because I'm not being brilliant. It always turns out to be something I misinterpreted.

That said, I think he may be one tad off the beam today in David Flick's very interesting piece in The Dallas Morning News about the future of the city. Flick quotes Beasley, who is Canadian, saying: "In Vancouver, in my culture, direction comes from city government. In Dallas, the business and philanthropic community has been more influential, and it may be that group that ultimately decides what gets done."

Let's hope not.

More to the point, that's not true. Everything good here has happened in spite of the city's business leadership, usually as the result of bitter battles in which the business leadership, thank goodness, was defeated. All the attributes Beasley cites as contributing to this city's uniqueness -- leafy low-density neighborhoods near downtown like Old East Dallas and North Oak Cliff, hip, semi-walkable mid-rise districts like Turtle Creek and Uptown -- came about only after the business leadership and its vassals at City Hall got beat.

Had it been up to the city's traditional business leadership, Central Expressway would be one long, steaming and roaring, stinking and rattling double-decked expressway, and none of the wonderful revitalization of the M Streets and other adjacent neighborhoods would have happened. Old East Dallas would be riven by fat one-way thoroughfares designed to help people escape to the suburbs, and most of the inner city would look like Harry Hines Boulevard just before a major police hooker sweep.

The "traditional" business leadership (notice I'm hedging on which business leadership I mean) has always operated out of a rigidly hierarchical social and business culture, negatively sensitive to class and ethnicity, in which ultimate Nirvana is a gated community of MacPalaces floating in the Heavens and guarded by the Marines. These are the same people who brought us the Trinity River Project, about to become the single biggest waste of time in modern American urban history.

The very best ideas brought forward in recent years in Dallas have come from ex-punk bicycle nuts like Jason Roberts and company, who thought up the Oak Cliff Trolley line as a way to make downtown more porous, while City Hall and traditional business leaders were still trying to make it more rigidly segregated.

Here's the one good thing about that traditional business leadership I'm talking about. Most of them are so old by now -- one foot in Palm Springs, the other in the grave -- they're about to be no longer with us. Meanwhile a very new and different business leadership is emerging. It really cheered me up, for example, to read over the weekend that the incoming chairman of the Dallas Regional Chamber of Commerce had paid a visit to the Morning News editorial board to inform them that the Trinity toll road project is a dead item.

I bet those editorial writers all looked sidelong at each other as if to say, "So that must be what we've been smelling!" I would have wanted to be a fly on the wall in the News board meeting room that day, were it not for the cobwebs.
Beasley could be partially right if he's talking about a totally new business leadership emerging from the corners of the city's board rooms, but only partially, because the very best ideas -- the original thinking, the winners and the dominant themes -- have come from and will continue to come from the city's eccentric neighborhoods as expressed by their elected political leaders, people such as Angela Hunt, Scott Griggs, Philip Kingston, Adam Medrano and a handful of others.

It's possible, if you think about it, to construe those people and the places they represent as "the market" -- the smart market, in particular. The new style of business leadership, then, may be one that intends to listen to the market instead of giving the market the business. Then Beasley could be onto something. He almost always is.



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25 comments
EricCeleste
EricCeleste

Good points. Lower Greenville, for example, is bustling again, thanks in large part to the sidewalk-widening/road-shrinking work that Ms. Hunt helped push through.

julipo
julipo

They may be the devil incarnate for all I know, but from what the eye can see, the Andres Brothers have done a nice job converting vintage properties to businesses, without ruining the feel of a neighborhood.

Myrna.Minkoff-Katz
Myrna.Minkoff-Katz topcommenter

This article is not at all fair to the businesses that have contributed quite a bit to the improvement of the city, such as At&T.  Myrna has reservations about the motives of business leaders as a rule, but I'd like to get some info on which companies have been active in the community and which ones have not, so a better assessment of their worth to Dallas can be made. 

EastDallasDad
EastDallasDad

You talk out of both sides of your mouth when it comes to the "business community" Schutze. You disagree with them on some matters but lap up every morsel they hand you under the table when it comes to education. 

d-may
d-may

" It really cheered me up, for example, to read over the weekend that the incoming chairman of the Dallas Regional Chamber of Commerce had paid a visit to theMorning News editorial board to inform them that the Trinity Toll Road project is a dead item."

I missed that one. A new op-ed from the Chamber of Commerce? 

MikeWestEast
MikeWestEast

I was surprised at the plaudits laid on the mayor from the 60's.  Other than the airport, he built a lot of stuff that did nothing to stop the tailspin of the city in the following decades.  Avoiding the whole destructive tedious roads discussion, you have to wonder were those enormous funds spent on projects that looked big, but failed the long term test.  Maybe he could have done nothing.  What he did do did not seem to really help.  We have a huge main library used in large part by homeless people looking for A/C.  Was a library palace the best idea?

fred.garvin.mp.713
fred.garvin.mp.713

Jim, thanks for keeping up the good fight. It's great to see that Angela Hunt may finally be vindicated for her efforts to kill the stupid highway between the levees.

It isn't just that it's a bad idea to put another freeway down...way down where all that water likes to flood. It is that building that tollway would be one more chunk of concrete separating the city from itself.

If people still don't understand that concept, imagine how Park Cities would look with a massive overpass over Turtle Creek, or if Mockingbird became a toll road. Not that that would ever happen, of course.

brock81
brock81

"The very best ideas brought forward in recent years in Dallas have come from ex-punk bicycle nuts like Jason Roberts and company, who thought up the Oak Cliff Trolley line as a way to make downtown more porous, while City Hall and traditional business leaders were still trying to make it more rigidly segregated."


Right on point, Schutze!  

Tipster1908
Tipster1908

Jason Roberts was/is mostly a mouthpiece for the big real estate interests in North Oak Cliff. His support of the Bishop Davis rezoning was in opposition to almost every neighborhood group in the area.

PlanoDave
PlanoDave

@bvckvs Holy shit, dude!  WTF?  This is actually a quite insightful observation presented in a mature and rational way.


Who are you and how did you get Sanders' login?

Montemalone
Montemalone topcommenter

@MikeWestEast

Libraries were the Google of their day. 

If you wanted information, that's where you went.

I think investing in libraries was, and still is, a good idea.

Montemalone
Montemalone topcommenter

@fred.garvin.mp.713

Funny thing is the same people that live in the Park Cities and want to build the levee road have fought every attempt to increase capacity on Mockingbird and Lovers Ln. Something about quality of life blah blah.

theslowpath
theslowpath

@Tipster1908 Ahh yes, the secret Illuminati-Caliphate of North Oak Cliff Real Estate Interests (size: large) and their velocipeding mouthpiece. 

Oxtail
Oxtail

@Montemalone That's about the stupidest statement I've ever heard. If the Tollway were to be built in the Trinity River it would only increase traffic in and through the Park cities on Mockingbird and Lovers Lane. If you don't understand that then you obviously don't see what the current tollroad and Central expressway traffic does to the same roads.

Tipster1908
Tipster1908

@theslowpath @Tipster1908 they aren't secret, but they work in tandem and collectively control a large percentage of the most desirable commercial real estate in North Oak Cliff. Rick Garza, David Spence, Monte Anderson, Jim Lake.

losingmyreligion
losingmyreligion

@MikeWestEast @Montemalone  So the giant central libraries in Boston and New York, with their superb collections and beautiful buildings, were about ego? The giant, high-tech central library, designed by Rem Koolhaas for Seattle, was about ego? 

If you keep saying yes, then just about any big building is about ego. And of course they are -- somebody's ego, the architect's, the owner's, the city's. 

But that's not ALL they're about.

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