Real Estate

Hopes and Dreams for Dallas in the New Year. First Up: Cookin' Up the Arts District.

"In Dallas, sometimes we don't look back," says Veletta Lill, former city council member and executive director of the Dallas Arts District. "It's aiways important to be looking in one's rear-view mirror and, at the same time, keep your eye on the road."

Lill, who kept the wrecking ball away from St. Ann's School and Dallas High School during her tenure on the council, sent me this today -- an article from the National Trust for Historic Preservation about some cities' efforts to keep their vacant schools from becoming empty lots. Dallas is mentioned in there -- specifically, Preservation Dallas's putting on its endangered list this year several Dallas ISD properties going to rot, chief among them David Crockett.

I called Lill to talk to her about Crockett, which she's long hoped would become affordable housing, maybe for seniors or artist or, hell, maybe both. But while looking back, we got to talking about what's to come. Which kicks off a brief series of items we'll post to Unfair Park before year's end wherein we ask a few of Dallas's movers and shakers and do'ers and dreamers what they think will happen in 2011 and what they hope will take place in the coming year.

Jump then. Just keep your eye on the road, lest you bump into a food truck.

As Lill reminds, 2012 is The Big Year for the Arts District, what with the opening of the Woodall Rodgers Deck Park and the City Performance Hall and Museum Tower. But there is something immediately on the horizon -- a January meeting of the City Plan Commission at which there will be a lengthy discussion about rewriting city code to allow food trucks in the Arts District.

It's realistic to expect "that we will have food trucks in the Arts District by the spring," she says. Because four weeks after the plan commission it'll go to council. "And I don't think it's unreasonable" to expect trucks down there sooner than later.

Also on the to-do list: "We will begin to change the linkages between the surrounding neighborhoods and the Arts District. We have a grant to make improvements for the Routh Street underpass, and we have some money and are working with the City Design Studio to make changes. We want to work more with the City Design Studio, and our first project will be the underpass that links Bryan Place with the Arts District. And we'll work with the Office of Cultural Affairs and City Design Studio to make a difference."

"My hope," Lill says, "is that we can come up with a design that will improve Pearl Street and make it a Complete Street. That'll be, hopefully, our first Complete Street project.  And I would like to come up with a way of enhancing Harwood as a linkage to the park, and we have a year to do that. It used to be a very busy street, and right now it's very quiet. So how can we use that street to expand art exhibition and use it as an outdoor space for the district? So we'll look at ways to sort of use the street in a more pedestrian and public-space manner -- maybe put some of our food trucks over there as the park comes online. And the [Dallas Museum of Arts] will be coming up with designs to improve the linkage between the DMA and the park, and we have a responsibility to come up with the design. So I'd like to use Harwood as a positive public linkage to the park."

She's also eager to get a new president and CEO at the AT&T Performing Arts Center, following the sudden adios of  Mark Nerenhausen in July. Matter of fact, she has an interview set up with the head of their search committee next week.

As for the AT&TPAC, Lill says, she hopes "we are able to continue to define the public space and its usages. In other words, we will continue to add public events outside of the walls of the buildings -- everything from yoga classes to public art exhibitions, ways that people can interact with public art. And these would be temporary, short-term. My dream is to work with Shane Pennington to create a light event. They did Aurora last year, and it's something we've talked about for two years now, and we'd like ot be able to expand that to the various neighborhoods -- Fair Park, the Arts District. It's a lot of work for a one-night event, but it's still extremely important. I think it will attract a new audience for us."

Before we go, two other things:

"I hope that Craig Hall will start topping the parking garage. He has until the end of 2012 to secure a building permit, and the sooner the better. That's the most high-profile piece of property in the district. And I hope that the city will find a way to create a sustainable funding stream for the arts."

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Robert Wilonsky
Contact: Robert Wilonsky