Assistant City Manager Jill Jordan called back late yesterday to discuss those still-in-place plans to widen César Chávez Boulevard from Live Oak to Commerce -- plans that call for the demolition of one of the oldest buildings downtown. The project's been in the planning stages for years, but Jordan says work will begin as soon as the city can complete its "right-of-way acquisition phase," which begins tomorrow, when the council is scheduled to approve spending $1.91 million in '06 bond funds to buy up several properties on Elm Street.
Jordan's well aware that the property owners "aren't happy" with the city's offers. Hence, she says, "the right-of-way phase will probably take a while as we work our way through those issues." A concrete construction time line isn't yet available: "It's a function of how long it takes to get the right of way," she says.
I asked her to address some Friends of Unfair Park's concerns that adding more traffic to that stretch of street downtown would only serve to cut off Deep Ellum from downtown.
"On the other hand, it opens up some open space that reconfigures that portion of downtown that makes it work a little better," she insists. "You have to look at the project in its totality. You're dealing with multiple streets. You're dealing with eight lanes, because there's a couplet down there because of the one-way pattern. What they're trying to do is create more ability to access the property from several directions."
"I'm referring to that whole end of downtown," she says. "If you don't know what you're doing, the roads are so big you get put into the flow, and away you go. Trying to get rid of those existing one-way patterns is a big part of that project. And my understanding is these roads are supposed to have 'Complete Streets' amenities with streetscaping and bike lanes and that kind of stuff added on to it, so it's more than just a roads project. It's not meant to be a high-speed thing, but a road that provides access to and walkability around that area and opens up that part of downtown. It'd be a new start, since there's not a lot going on down there."
As for why there's no mention of it in the Downtown Dallas 360 plan, Jordan says, "My understanding is the 360 plan presupposes this work was done, so it takes it as a given. It's not really in there, because they're assuming it's done by then."
Incidentally, there is a plan that could save the ca.-1896 Preston Loan Building building on Elm. A message has been left with the man spearheading that particular piece of the project.