Bridge to Somewhere

Across the new Trinity bridge, a long-neglected but suddenly desirable neighborhood waits and hopes.

Though neither Beasley nor Brown describes the CityDesign Studio plan as a model of "new urbanism," it aligns with many of the movement's principles. "We want to make sure that it's a net benefit in character and quality for Dallas itself...We want to make sure those existing communities, that we respect and honor them," Beasley says.

This community-focused change in attitude toward development is taking shape all over the world, says Beasley, a consultant for the Abu Dhabi government, and it's not simply a matter of beautification through design. A well-planned urban structure that takes into account existing culture and blends people with varying incomes has larger implications. "In taking this approach, it makes the city an economic competitor, and it provides a more balanced social and economic structure," Beasley says. "I'm now seeing that cities who pay attention to design are finding that economic opportunities are opening up to them."

The entire plan, including the protection of La Bajada, didn't come about by a happy accident. Everything that's about to happen in the area is both purposeful and organic in that it's dictated by economic conditions and the needs of the area. "Dallas is going to be different because of that CityDesign Studio," Beasley says.

Felix Losada advocates preserving Bajada for single-family homes.
Danny Fulgencio
Felix Losada advocates preserving Bajada for single-family homes.
CityDesign Studio director Brent Brown designed the surrounding plans for the future of West Dallas.
Danny Fulgencio
CityDesign Studio director Brent Brown designed the surrounding plans for the future of West Dallas.

Still, West Dallas' final shape hinges on the plans of large landholders like McGregor and Anderson. "This is a comic book, according to Larry Beasley," McGregor says, echoing Whitley's description of the plan's built-in flexibility. Whether McGregor sees the CityDesign Studio as a serious governor of urban planning or as an insignificant little project is hard to tell.

"What do you want me to say?" he says. "Larry Beasley said it was a comic book, so what do you want me to say? He's the one that put it together. In my mind, he said, well, it's a comic book. It can be changed. It doesn't mean anything, but it does," he says, making his stance a bit unclear but adding, "I think there are some really good ideas that came out of it."

Asked to clarify what he meant by "comic," Beasley says, "Actually, I have on numerous occasions called the drawing a 'cartoon' because it reflects only one unfolding of development events over time, whereas there are many possibilities of what comes first, second, et cetera. The sense of a cartoon is that the plan is inherently flexible. It has a set of principles and a policy statement with clear guidelines, all of which are very serious and are expected to be 100 percent achieved, but then it can unfold in many ways according to the nature of private initiatives. So the actual overall sketch plan drawing is just one version of what might happen."

West Dallas residents wonder where this is all going. "I don't have any idea," McGregor says. "Only time will tell." Well, time together with market conditions, he adds.

The only certainties are that the area has a carefully developed plan, an iconic bridge on its way to completion and a collection of land purchased by developers who intend to use it to its potential, whatever that may be. Elvove, of the La Bajada neighborhood association, has a "Not 4 Sale, Support NSO" sign on her fence and looks forward to the new development in her neighborhood. "Why not stay here and make this the best neighborhood?" she says, encouraging her neighbors to fix up their homes to transform the area from the inside out. "It's going to be fabulous...It's going to be fantastic, everything that's south of Singleton," she says. But even so, she hopes the character of the place will remain solid. "We are a humble neighborhood."

With that, she calls the white-arched bridge "an embarrassment."

"I mean what's here, give me a break," she says, pointing out the irony of the city building a fancy bridge before it had any notion of where exactly the bridge would lead or who might cross it. "What are they doing putting the cart before the horse?"

Randall White, a board member of the West Dallas Chamber of Commerce, sees her point from another vantage. "When that neighbor says it seems reversed, I understand that. It's basically like building a door into a room when you're not quite sure what the room's going to be like. But the plan for the room is in place. And you helped develop the plan. That doesn't often happen in Dallas development."

In the meantime, Losada is doing his best not to get caught up in the vague competing forces in his neighborhood, and he does his best to protect it from meeting the fate of its name, which loosely translates to "the descent."

"You can understand what this neighborhood means to me," Losada says. "Where would I find another home where I would be so comfortable?" As Losada continues advocating the NSO, the bridge's completion has again been delayed until later than November 2011; West Dallas property is being bought cheaply and at a fast clip, and to the naked eye, the area in the bridge's shadow appears mostly unchanged.

But it's clearly poised for something big, however that something takes shape.

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19 comments
BishopArtsBud
BishopArtsBud

A very balanced, fair and thoughtful accounting of what is happening in West Dallas. The CityDesign Studio is to be given a standing ovation for their smart, inclusive, win/win vision for evolving the area in a senstive way.

In contrast, I live in North Oak Cliff in the heart of something I read about in the paper several months back as the new Bishop Arts Village Something or Other. I had never heard a thing about it until I read about it in the paper. Havent heard anything about it since. Was never invited to participate in its design and if I had not liked some of it, probably would have been ostracized like the people who challenged the Davis Street land use plan were.

There will always be greedy, scheming, behind-the curtain good old boys in Oak Cliff and West Dallas who are out for their own good and couldn't develop in an ethical way if their lives depended on it.

Even if the final result of this skews off-target, at least the target was noble and the people who designed and put up the target had everyone's best interests at heart. It will be the leadership of West Dallas and Oak Cliff, not the CityDesign Studio, we all can blame.

John Finley
John Finley

I was thinking this was going to happen when plans for the bridge were announced. The city should have thought about the people in that neighborhood first. The same thing is happening along Samuels Blvd. in Fort Worth with the new developments there.

Steve
Steve

I just read the entire damn thing at work.

Excellent.

I hope Pagoda makes it. :)

Guest
Guest

The zoning restrictions Losada supports would restrict the heights of new buildings in his neighborhood.

What's the point of that when "the ground" has been shown to be a very flexible concept in Dallas real estate?

Art101
Art101

"Cartoon" in the sense that Larry Beasley referred to it is a common technical term for a large preliminary drawing for a fresco painting; Michelangelo and Leonardo drew them, not Stan Lee and Steve Ditko. One might have assumed that Dallas had long ago evolved to the point where its movers and shakers -- and writers -- would understand the distinction, but evidently not...

sheik yerbouti
sheik yerbouti

The City of Dallas sees only one color and it is GREEN...the poor of any color need not apply.

craig
craig

Everytime I hear the words "signature bridge" I chuckle.

It's SOOOOO Dallas.

cheapoldgeezer
cheapoldgeezer

Bridge to somewhere....like maybe to a Mexican drug cartel. Who the hell would want to live in an apartment on Singleton Ave.

Mister_Mean
Mister_Mean

Yep when the city is not trying to close existing established business they can focus on forcing people from their homes by raising property values so the resident's tax bill will sky rocket. And to think that last legislative session the city (along with the county of Dallas and Collin county) spent around $600.000.00 of tax payer money with former rep turned lobbyist Fred Hill (the darling of municipal spending enabling) to lobby the leg about property taxes. Remember that Fred won awards from municipalities on his work against the proposed lowering of the cap that the appraisal district can raise the taxable value of your homes from 10 percent to 5 percent per year. The city loves it when they drive people out of their homes all for more squandering of tax dollars.

Catbird
Catbird

I hope it works out for the residents but I really think that the "donors" who pay Brent Brown and his little crew down at city hall probably have ideas of their own for the "front door" of Dallas and aren't worried so much about people like Mr. Losada. Nice story though.

Sharon Boyd
Sharon Boyd

Good for Mr. Losada. Your home doesn't have to be in Preston Hollow for it to be precious to you. La Bajada and the community around the old Bataan Rec Ctr are the same kind of neighborhoods that Jerry Jones wiped out in Arlington. Generations of memories mean nothing to politicians. If Rawlings is elected Mayor, Mr. Losada will be forced to move and paid pennies for his home. With Arlington's Mayor & council's help, Jones paid "residential" prices for taking people's homes and land that was going to be used for commercial development. That's what will happen to Mr. Losada, and Rawlings and his cronies will say it's good for Dallas. Homeowners like Mr. Losada are good for Dallas -- people who have roots, commitments and memories. Thanks for posting this thoughtful story.

Coleman
Coleman

*coughstanleeisn'tanartistcough*

BishopArtsBud
BishopArtsBud

Yeah I agree. Sort of like saying "It is SOOOOOO...". Cause you really hear people in Chicago and Boston talk that way.

Monicaannetterodriguez
Monicaannetterodriguez

Look mister old geezer,I live in West Dallas, grew up there all my life in my grandfather's house and still live there to this day. I go to college (SMU), work hard to pay for my tuition, and tutor kids from the neighborhood to encourage them to do the same. If you took your head out of the ground and quit stereotyping all Mexican neighborhoods as drug havens, you would realize that things have changed and there's a new generation coming up. We will do something with our lives despite all the bad mouthing from you!

Rderrickwhite
Rderrickwhite

what a rascist load of crap. not all poor people are criminals. get out of north dallas once in a while, would you...

Catbird
Catbird

Sharon Boyd is accurate - the eminent domain "taking" process is supposed to be governed by an unbiased panel of appointed citizens.

The big problem in Dallas County (everywhere really) is that the politicians who appoint the panel who decides how much a contested property is worth are obligated to the people who want the take the property in the first place...and many of whom are paying Brent Brown's salary and providing him free office space in city hall.

Its the same circle jerk that went on with the old "Dallas Plan". Don't believe that anyone has your back because nobody does.

If I could say anything at all to the individual land owners in West Dallas,I'd say that they should see their end of the Margaret Hill Hunt Bridge (the bridge to somewhere?) as the business end of a shotgun held by a twitchy thug in a brazen armed robery.

It can't get anymore serious than this people - you are about to lose your homes. The only thing in question is how much money you can leverage out of the public/private developer class holding the gun.

Band together now and get yourself the best lawyer you can afford...and not Domingo Garcia either, he and his wife are not on your side.

If you don't you'll be on the street very soon with nothing to show for your decades of hard work.

The is true.

Bob
Bob

uhhh not all racists are from north dallas

also, there wasnt really any indication of racism, I believe YOU are the one linking socioeconomic level/location to race

not really in agreement with OP, but your response was just as weak/lame/stereotypical...gotta work on your trolling brah! :)

Its so sad
Its so sad

Absolutely true. You won't be able to stop "progress" but you can get enough out of it to survive. The Arlington folk that held out the longest made the most money.

So Mr Losada & friends, band together, retain counsel, threaten lawsuits and stall, stall, stall. You will eventually get paid your millions!

Sorry about the memories, but life goes on.

BishopArtsBud
BishopArtsBud

Uh Bob heal thyself. Rderrickwhite's point is that there are Caucasians and Blacks living all around Singleton and West Dallas not to mention Latinos from Guatemala, Costa Rica etc.. To describe the area solely as Mexican...and then say it is Mexican drug cartel.

Yeah, dude, that would be racist. Like saying Preston Hollow is nothing but Italian mobsters.

 
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