Last week news broke that the Dallas Symphony Foundation sold land at the corner of Pearl Street and Woodall Rodgers Freeway — a half-acre plot of bright green grass underneath a firetruck red Mark di Suvero sculpture. It's one of the shockingly few examples of public art in the purported Arts District. But according to The Dallas Morning News, that corner will soon play home to a 23-story office tower. The local publications covering the sale bemoaned the loss of the green space, noting the promised ground-level retail as the only consolation in a neighborhood that should be walkable. But we'd already given up on the arts district anyway, right?
Not given up, perhaps, but certainly rearranged our expectations for it. When Blair Kamin popped down from Chicago to see the boastful neighborhood in this Texan art outpost, he quoted architects who aptly call the district an "architectural petting zoo." The buildings — beauties that they are — serve as reminders of the opulent wealth it took to build them, rather than reflecting either the city they inhabit or the art they house. This is singularly true of the newer buildings, not necessarily the Meyerson, DMA, and certainly not Renzo Piano's breathtaking Nasher Sculpture Cente (not to mention the highly successful Klyde Warren Park). But here we are years after City Performance Hall opened its doors, and it still sits with just one of the three performance spaces promised. In fact, to even bring smaller theater troupes into the arts district, the AT&T Performing Arts Center had to swipe rehearsal space from the Dallas Theater Center in the Wyly Theatre.
And as Kamin pointed out in 201, and this cannot be emphasized enough, "There are no bookstores, few restaurants outside those in the museums and not a lot of street life, at least when there are no performances going on." It seems fitting that the first ground level retail we've been promised is an Apple Store in the bottom of Hall Arts Center. Not exactly a boon for community building or urban vitality.
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Back to the issue at hand, this new office building. This glass tower built high enough to block the sun from casting your shadow at morning. It will fit right into the arts district, which is quickly reducing its ability to call itself the "largest arts district in the nation, spanning 68 acres and 19 contiguous blocks." Question: What does the ratio of art to business have to be? Does it matter anyway? The Dallas Symphony just struck a deal for $7.2 million, and that's what the arts district is all about.