DowntownDallas Crowd Can't Find the D-Spot

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"Think about the TV shows you grew up on, you gray hairs out there. Back in the '50s, it was Leave It to Beaver, in the '60s it was Dick Van Dyke. In the '70s, it was The Brady Bunch. All set in the suburbs.

"Now flash forward, starting in the late '80s, early '90s with Seinfeld, then Friends, then Sex and the City. And in essence all of these shows showed an entirely different version of what life could be lived like."

Interesting, right?

"I don't know about you," he added, "but I have five kids, and not one of them has ever even thought of moving to the suburbs. All in their 20s and 30s. All in the city. That's pretty much where it's going these days."

If I had been at the front of the room, where the members of DowntownDallas all one word were sitting, I'm sure I would have heard many of them whispering to each other, "What's Sex and the City?"

It's not that D-spot video, that's for damn sure.

But it was my good fortune to be on the outskirts of the room, where I was surrounded not just by the Andres brothers but by many key players in the kind of urban revival that is actually working along the margins of downtown as opposed to downtown proper. Barry Annino, president of the Deep Ellum Foundation, was across the table from me. Not far away was Emma Rodgers, who represents District 5 on the City Plan Commission, and a short distance from her I saw Neal Emmons, the commissioner from District 14.

All of these, if I may say so, are my kind of people. They have been fighting the good fight for decades to create livable neighborhoods in the city. And, remember, you gotta live before you can walk.

Sadly, all of these folks have been involved in tough internecine battling in recent weeks. Last week the Andres brothers withdrew under fire from their application for a mixed-use development at Ross and Henderson avenues, two-thirds of a mile from my home. Their retreat came shortly after Whole Foods doused its plans for an ultra-cool new super-store, also near where I live.

Having lived through the bone-breaking battles between neighborhoods and the downtown morons for the last 30 years, I know exactly why the neighborhoods are so extremely chary of anything that involves pushing the envelope on existing zoning laws. You put a pinhole in that thin fabric, one tiny exception, and the morons come trampling through like elephants.

It's what they are trying to do with "ForwardDallas" (all one word), the new so-called masterplan for the city. With aid and comfort from the city staff, the developers who have always run City Hall are using ForwardDallas as carte blanche to attack neighborhoods and impose big fat buildings that cut off the sky and jam residential streets with too much traffic, like the up-zoning case at Routh and Woodrow near the Katy Trail that my ex-boss Lee Cullum wrote about on the Morning News op-ed page last week.

The same downtown people who for decades ran roughshod over neighborhoods and bled the city to pump their own real estate holdings in the suburbs now want to come riding back in and run roughshod over us in the other direction. It doesn't do any good to tell them that everything in the city depends on sophistication and self-control, because those are qualities they don't have. Along with a G-spot.

But at the same time, Leinberger's evidence of a massive surge back into the city in the near future is very persuasive. The neighborhoods that hunker down and shut the door to exciting new mixed-use walkable development are going to be sorry. In the city it goes one of two ways—up or down. Nothing stands still.

The wrong people are at each other's throats. Somehow there has to be a way to re-work the politics and the bureaucracy so that cool neighborhoods can happen and big fat overdeveloped junk piles can be stopped. If we look at the enemy more closely, we will find that the enemy is not us. It's those D-spotters.

Just for example. I was embarrassed that the DowntownDallas all one word luncheon the other day opened with an invocation by a young clergyman who went on and on about Jesus. I'm not going to go into this in detail, because what's the use? But Jesus talk is very offensive and a really bad signal at things like this, and in my neighborhood we'd know better.

Is Jesus going to find his D-spot in downtown Dallas? Don't answer. But I'm beginning to see how this whole thing may end. Dallas will have a big doughnut of cool urban neighborhoods all around downtown, and downtown itself will be used for paintball tournaments.

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Jim Schutze has been the city columnist for the Dallas Observer since 1998. He has been a recipient of the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies’ national award for best commentary and Lincoln University’s national Unity Award for writing on civil rights and racial issues. In 2011 he was admitted to the Texas Institute of Letters.
Contact: Jim Schutze