Last night a hundred or so folks interested in downtown development gathered at the Dallas Convention Center -- where they were filming an episode of Chase! -- to be presented with the findings from the Downtown Dallas 360 plan and, ostensibly, to provide some input and feedback. Bobsky and I were both there, as he's already told you, and he also thusly linked to the mammoth PowerPoint presentation that says, basically: Strap in, here's the plan.
Downtown Dallas President and CEO John Crawford, as nice a crazy-powerful private businessman as you could hope to find, welcomed the audience and touted the partnership between Downtown Dallas and the city itself, which have a "common goal to fuel the creation of a 21st-century downtown Dallas." Naturally, Mayor Tom Leppert was in attendance to ramp up excitement about his favorite thing, Business with a capital "B" -- Comerica moving in downtown, the convention center hotel, all part of "the biggest commercial arena in North Texas." Leppert promised that the new Perot Museum of Nature & Science is gonna "knock the socks off people" and said we're building a downtown "that fits the needs of the first 50 years of the 21st century." I know -- you're riled up now, aren't you?
The Community Forum PowerPoint was emcee'd by the affable Chris Beynon of design firm MIG, who motivationally spoke us via wireless microphone through the depths of the plan, from the big picture (the world population of city dwellers increases by 200,000 each day) to the very wee one (maybe we'lll do a fun promenade through the Dallas Farmers Market). It kinda felt like we were all going to go do a ropes course after his presentation.
And then it was time for questions. The answers to which were, basically, thanks for your input but we got it, OK?
The Downtowners spent some time talking about shutting down the tunnels beneath downtown, which dismayed many question-askers who kinda like their outta-the-rain and outta-the-hot sanctuaries. To those folks, John Crawford said: "If you can't get through the tunnels, they will come out of the tunnels," and "I'm sorry, you're just going to have to sweat."
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What about keeping the tunnels open, but closing the retail? asked another citizen. That might be a possibility, along with opening offices or storage space down there to keep it, as one citizen said, "safe and dry." But here's the big surprise: They've commissioned a study to examine the issues surrounding closing the tunnels. I know, I see your surprised face.
One downtown resident asked if there was representation from actual downtown dwellers in all of this: "Are there dedicated positions for downtown residents to participate in the design process?" Those folks might see design opportunities that even the best urban planner could miss.
Peer Chako in the city's Sustainable Development Department liked the idea. Ish. "I think you make an excellent point and one that we should consider going forward." And then somebody reminded everybody that the Resident's Council exists, so there.
The plan's expected to be approved by the council in February 2011, so there's really not much looking back now. The group has already identified something they call "quick wins!" (exclamation point and all, it's very corporatastic), such as buying movable furniture for downtown parks and gathering points. It's all happening, you guys! All of it.