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Downtown Wish List, Anyone?

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Gail Sachson, vice chair of the city's Cultural Affairs Commission, would love to see more public art installations grace the streets of downtown. Bob Allen, owner of the West End Pub, wants the city to make it easier for small businesses to get established downtown. Mark Stephens, vice president of the Cedars Neighborhood Association, wants a more diverse array of businesses to choose from, pointing out that while there are multiple pizza parlors on Main Street, you're hard-pressed to find a nearby book store or café.

Those were just a few items on the wish list assembled Monday evening at the Future of Downtown Dallas Forum at the Dallas Convention Center. As we've mentioned, in April the city paid Berkeley-based consultants Moore Iacofano Goltsman, Inc. $515,000 to take stock of the scores of city development plans done over the years and then draft one over-arching "master plan."

"We're going to look back, take the good parts of those plans and have 'the best of the best,'" Mayor Tom Leppert told the crowd before turning the mic over to MIG's Daniel Iacofano, who pledged to incorporate the ideas of downtown residents, business owners and other stakeholders into the effort to transform the area.

To kick off the brainstorming session, Iacofano and his colleagues spent more than an hour taking suggestions from the audience and writing them on a massive sheet of paper under the headings "assets," "challenges" and "opportunities." Challenges such as "unfriendly to small businesses" and "lack of amenities" became opportunities such as "more small business friendly" and "public restrooms." People wanted specific things like wider sidewalks, more parking and more creative signage, as well as less tangible goals such as having a downtown that's more diverse and inclusive when it comes to the types of tenants and customers it attracts.

Bill Dewbre, owner of Wild Bill's Western Store on North Market, drew applause when he complained that the city's tenacious approach to booting cars and doling out parking tickets makes the area unappealing to visitors.

"We don't want to tolerate them -- we want to celebrate them," he said. "[Don't] give them tickets. Give them a free 'get out of jail' card."

Will MIG and the city listen to all this? Can they make it happen? Who knows. Ask the stack of previous plans; consult your nearest oracle. DowntownDallas says it'll post further updates in coming days on its blog, where comments are welcome. Till then, well, Kourtny Garrett reads Unfair Park ...

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