A New Dallas
A New Dallas is a community outreach campaign initiated by urban planner Patrick Kennedy. For the past several years Patrick has been an outspoken advocate of walkable urban planning in his adopted city of Dallas, and his blog Walkable DFW has been a popular destination for people who believe that Dallas’ dedication to car-centric infrastructure can be overcome. In late 2012 Patrick introduced the topic of tearing down a decaying highway (called IH345) that separates two major parts of downtown in order to revitalize the community and economy of the area. In 2013, designer/web developer Justin Childress offered to work with Patrick on a pro-bono basis to create a website that could communicate Patrick’s data driven ideas in a way that would be accessible and engaging to the mainstream population of Dallas.
At its core, the proposed project itself addressed the Living Principles; environmentally, the highway teardown would limit high-speed vehicular traffic through the city’s core, replacing that with residential and pedestrian areas that would be walkable. It would re-instate the pre-existing grid system of the downtown streets, and allow for over 25,000 new downtown residents. This would effectively remake downtown entirely and reinvigorate the area for generations to come.
Based on national surveys conducted by Christopher Leinberger of the Urban Land Institute, 40% of the entire country wishes to live in a walkable neighborhood. Only 3% actually does. The area that would be opened up to development by a highway teardown could become one of these people-centric neighborhoods, whereas the highway is solely focused on high-speed commuting and cars (the majority of which are on north/south routes to either the northern suburbs or Houston). Downtown is currently a series of disconnected pockets with very few necessary amenities (such as grocery stores), and a dense urban development that mirrors Dallas’ Uptown area would revitalize the residential and commercial core of our city.
Economic impact studies show an enormous amount of underdeveloped land around IH345, mostly consisting of vacant land, surface parking lot, or excessive public right-of-way. The economical potential of the area is incredible, with property tax revenue alone increasing from $3,584,832.20 to $110,043,972. In terms of repairing it or rebuilding IH-345 instead of tearing it down, no funding has yet to be identified. TxDOT is $17 billion in debt. The economical advantage of the teardown should be clear to even the most casual observer.
Finally, the highway currently divides two of the most culturally vibrant areas in town (the Arts District and Deep Ellum), and without it those two populations would be allowed to merge and thrive in a totally new way. While Dallas likes to brag about having the “largest dedicated arts district in the country,” it currently is an island to itself due to the highways that choke it. if IH345 didn’t exist, the area would be easily walkable from both downtown (and therefore accessible to the new downtown residents) and the creative class that tends to gravitate towards Deep Ellum and the live music opportunities there.
Patrick Kennedy and his collaborator Brandon Hancock had almost five years of technical research on things like traffic patterns, economics and comparable projects that needed to be culled into a readable form for the everyday person. Over the course of 6 months or so, Justin worked with Patrick to take the technical documentation that was available and craft it into an engaging narrative that would be both inviting and educational to a citizen of Dallas who had no prior exposure to the idea of a highway teardown. Patrick gave Justin free reign to format the content and design the site per his expertise. When the site launched in 2013 the response was incredible. It received over 20,000 page views within the first 24 hours, received coverage in multiple news arenas such as the Dallas Morning News and D Magazine, and was even discussed in a segment on the local sports radio station in connection with the question of where in the city it made the most sense to build new sports facilities. The mayor was asked to give a statement on it within the week, and TxDOT was required to address whether or not they had considered the teardown option. Within a few months, Patrick, Brandon and Justin had gathered enough momentum to start a 501(c)(3) non-profit, and Patrick started giving regular talks to community groups in order to make this one time pipe dream into a reality. D Magazine dedicated an entire issue to the topic, including the cover. In early 2015, Wick Allison, founder of D Magazine, engaged with Patrick and Justin while creating a PAC called Coalition for a New Dallas with the mission of backing city council candidates who supported the highway teardown initiative. Wick publicly acknowledged that the A.N.D. website had been the thing that “started it all.” Within a few short months, the idea of a highway teardown movement became not only a mainstream topic but one that was one of the major platform topics in the 2015 Dallas City Council election.