Real Estate

Going Underground (Again): More Thoughts On and Looks At Downtown Dallas's Tunnels

As promised, Patrick "Car-Free" Kennedy has posted his thoughts on the YouPlusDallas video in which Jack Gosnell regales viewers with tales of how Dallas came to bury its businesses beneath downtown. And, like Gosnell and the denizens of the Dallas Fort Worth Urban Forum (where the video likewise prompted a lengthy chitchat about what to do with the tunnels, if anything), Kennedy doesn't offer a solution -- except, maybe, creating "a decriminalized drug/red light district" (he's kidding) or turning them into data centers (which several folks in that line of work have dismissed for myriad reasons).

Writes Kennedy in the intro to his lengthy essay:

Jack is right about everything he said in the video. It seems to be have finally permeated the conventional wisdom that the tunnels have been a net negative on the viability and vibrancy of downtown. But the first thing we have to be sure we don't get caught up in is assigning singular blame or promise of a magic bullet. The tunnels alone didn't kill downtown. Rather, they were a piece of the puzzle including (but not limited to): single-use zoning (generic and cut/pasted across the country), new construction tax breaks for both commercial and residential property, federal highway $$, state and federal road standards that reduce necessary network complexity, adaptability, and local mobility, artificially low gas prices, etc. etc.
Incidentally, after yesterday's post several Friends of Unfair Park asked, both in the comments and via e-mail, for further details about downtown's underground maze, which many of them had never visited -- which, right there, says something about the tunnels and the damage done. I directed them to this kinda-sorta guide to the tunnels and the elevated walkways and this 2005 essay on the tunnels written for something called Johnny America, which reads, in part:
These corridors were built in a time where function triumphed over form. In some corners, however, you can still see the faint ghosts of decoration: an unlit fossil display, a faded mural, signs advertising shopping areas long derelict. The tunnels were built with the noble purpose of creating a subterranean fusion of business, shopping, and leisure. Now, they merely shuttle sun-weary businesspeople between cubicle prisons.
I also see that on his Flickr account, Friend of Unfair Park Noah Jeppson posted back in '09 an old, brief essay in favor of the tunnels titled "A Sheltered Environment for Pedestrians."

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Robert Wilonsky
Contact: Robert Wilonsky