DowntownDallas Crowd Can't Find the D-Spot

How much do I know about hip? Extremely little. If I found a dead guy by the side of the road, I might say, "This man is not hip." That's how bad it has to be for me to notice.

I just came from a luncheon where I saw something that was not hip at all. I'm sure of it. This was not a gray area. One hint: People were staring at the floor and shaking their heads silently at the "funny" parts.

I guess somebody meant well. But isn't that always the case? In fact, isn't that usually the problem?

Places such as Henderson Avenue, two miles from downtown, are being remade as cool venues. Our downtown's problem, meanwhile, is that it is dominated by uncool people.
Places such as Henderson Avenue, two miles from downtown, are being remade as cool venues. Our downtown's problem, meanwhile, is that it is dominated by uncool people.

This involves that absolutely horrible ad campaign by the Downtown Dallas Association, called "Where is your D-spot?" Get it? D for Dallas. Get it? D-spot, G-spot. Get it?

I just don't want to get it. I don't like it. I know exactly what it is. It's an attempt by the Downtown Dallas Association to be hip.

The Downtown Dallas Association, which has changed its name to DowntownDallas (all one word), is an unofficial fief of the Belo Corporation, owners of Dallas' only daily newspaper, The Dallas Morning News. Maybe you see where we're headed.

The February 22 luncheon I attended was the annual meeting of DowntownDallas all one word. At the end of an otherwise extremely interesting program, they presented a new video, which I believe they intend to post on YouTube unless some public-spirited citizen can obtain a court order first. It features an attractive young couple who are searching for their D-spots in downtown Dallas.

But something is terribly, terribly wrong with this young couple. They're both gorgeous, but sadly they have no chemistry between them. None at all. It's as if they're on a missionary trip to Dallas.

She's white. He's black. But could they be that afraid of touching? When she stands next to him, she holds her arm way back behind her back. Their body language says, "We know each other, but I promise you that we would never do, well, you know...that."

We watch while they go to these horrible places in downtown Dallas—a cafeteria, for example, that looks like a dust-free room at an Intel chip factory. Talk about sterile. The street scenes are even worse.

There they are, standing alone on the streets of downtown Dallas not touching each other. But, ahoy! Who comes hither from yon thicket? Yes, from the distance we observe the inexorable approach of an actress.

And what is it she is acting out? Starts with a P. Oh, I got it! She's a pedestrian! In downtown Dallas, no less.

Is she going to their D-spot? All right, maybe finally some action. The really bad acting, the strange absence of other human beings, the totally implausible settings: This is actually beginning to look like a fair to middling porno movie.

Alas, no. It's just a terribly unhip attempt at a hip promotion of downtown Dallas, produced by the kind of people who dominate downtown Dallas right now, and it says everything about why downtown is so hammered.

But the luncheon was great. I was the guest of the Andres brothers—Marc and Roger—about whom I have written ("Inner City Grows Despite City Hall," November 29, 2007), who wanted me to hear the featured speaker, Christopher B. Leinberger, a real estate developer and author of The Option of Urbanism.

Leinberger's book, published this year by Island Press, makes the case that the nation's post-World War II real estate pattern has inverted in the last decade: All the big real estate investment of the foreseeable future will be in and around urban centers, he says, not in ever-sprawling suburbs.

Leinberger is also a visiting fellow of the Brookings Institution and a professor at the Taubman College of Architecture and Planning at the University of Michigan. Governing Magazine has called him "the boldest prophet of walkability anywhere."

No slouch.

I know why the Andres brothers are so taken with him: His thesis, supported by solid market and demographic data, is an endorsement of what Andres Properties is now doing in East Dallas, especially along Henderson and Lower Greenville avenues. They are taking aging properties—most of them held by their family for decades—and re-working them to create sophisticated "walkable neighborhoods" where a person can live and play without having to drive a car.

Leinberger was riveting. He told an enormous crowd at the Palladium Ballroom on South Lamar Street that the whole back-to-the-city movement is a bandwagon created by the Gen Xers (born in the '60s and '70s) and the Millennials (or Gen Yers, born in the '80s).

"It's not aging baby boomers," he said. "This is the first major trend by the Gen Xers and the Millennials, and I'm sure those of you under 35 are delighted that the baby boomers are finally relinquishing the lead.

"Think about the TV shows you grew up on, you gray hairs out there. Back in the '50s, it was Leave It to Beaver, in the '60s it was Dick Van Dyke. In the '70s, it was The Brady Bunch. All set in the suburbs.

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