The maybe-mayoral candidate who presently reps that stretch of downtown due to be widened says that, yes, she's all for it. She was back in January 2009, you may recall, when she asked for a time-out so she could confer with DowntownDallas president and CEO John Crawford and architect Larry Good about how to turn the "sea of concrete" into "a pedestrian-friendly, beautiful entry into downtown," even if means the demolition of some of downtown's most historic structures.
"I am very much a preservationist and hate the idea we'd lose some of our oldest buildings," she tells Unfair Park, following up on our chat with Assistant City Manager Jill Jordan from earlier today. "At the same time, I've worked hard to make sure this thoroughfare is not just a sea of concrete, but that it creates an attractive boulevard and entry into downtown. I understand what Jill means when she says it's a couplet into downtown. Right now it's disorganized. It's not a cohesive entry into downtown, so based on what our traffic engineers have planned over the last several years, this is the best opportunity and it opens up greenspace."
Since we began writing about this (again) yesterday, I've spoken with a few architects and urban planners and preservationists who loathe this expansion. Most, having not heard a word about it for the last two years, figured it had died because of its being an awful idea -- one that has the real possibility of creating a six-lane gulf of traffic between Deep Ellum and Fair Park and downtown. If nothing else, says one architect, is now really the best time to spend $20 million in bond funds on a transportation project -- especially because there will be no bike lane? (Turns out, bike lanes are not part of this plan after all.)
Still, Hunt is adamant: This is a good, necessary idea.
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"Larry Good was kind enough to volunteer his time when I asked if he'd take a look at this project," she says. "As you'll remember, two years ago when this came up it was a sea of concrerte and many, many lanes and no discernable median and wasn't the type of transportation project we'd been talking about, which is one that creates greenspace and provides an attractive boulevard and provides an entry into downtown. This does that. I also worked with John Crawford to make this a better project and came up with what I think is a better project."
I asked if there were renderings, so perhaps we'd have a better idea of the kind of landscaping and greenscaping we're talking about. She said none were available, save for a bird's-eye view of the project. You will find over on the Dallas Fort Worth Urban Forum someone's fingers-crossed CGI rendering of what it might look like, complete with a small pocket park in the middle of traffic, but it dates back to April '09.
Hunt says that ultimately, this is little more than an extension of César Chávez Boulevard as it looks now near the Dallas Farmers Market. And, yes, she acknowledges: "Ideally, this would be a street with bike lanes and gracious sidewalks and we wouldn't get rid of historic buildings. But I just don't know how realistic that is given the traffic patterns. And just because there are no bike lanes there now doesn't mean they won't be there in the future."
I swear -- this is our last item on the subject, far as I can tell. Except for the one coming tomorrow about a potential to save the historic buildings.