Natinsky: Make Sure New Downtown Plan Remains Open to Closing Main Street to Cars

More than one Friend of Unfair Park has suggested it in the past: What if the city closed off Main Street downtown to cars and made it pedestrian-only? If you're among those, what a friend you have in Ron Natinsky, who brought that very same suggestion to this morning's Economic Development Committee meeting, during which the Downtown Dallas 360 plan was, as we said Friday, on the agenda.

More about that proposal in a moment, though. To the meeting itself: Theresa O'Donnell, director of the city's Sustainable Development and Construction Department, was the one charged with updating council this morning, and she's pleased that the council appears pleased with MIG's progress. And by pleased, she means she saw heads going up and down and not side to side: "They need to just nod that we're going in the right direction," O'Donnell told Unfair Park after the meeting. "I feel like we got those nods today."

Today, the council was told in which direction the plan, due this summer, is headed -- toward uniting downtown (and the city's various "districts") with light rail, streetcars and attendant transit-oriented development. And, yes, she acknowledges that the surrounding highways have divided downtown, again and again, but MIG, she told the council, is working on "a good, solid action plan that would lead us to achieving the downtown vision" by spring. (A little vague, sure, but it's still early.) DowntownDallas president John Crawford, who is on the steering committee for Downtown Dallas 360, agreed: "This," he said, "is the most exciting thing I've seen in a long time."

At which point economic development chair Natinsky broached the subject of taking cars off Main.

After O'Donnell made her presentation, Natinsky asked Crawford to make sure that the various plans under consideration did not cut off the possibility of creating a pedestrian-only street -- "if Main Street becomes our pedestrian street for downtown," said Natinsky.

Natinsky's casual reference to this concept suggested the idea had been much discussed.

"There is nothing off the table," Crawford assured Natinsky.

Another idea would be to display different colored lighting under freeway underpasses as a way of inviting more pedestrians to walk there, as in this slide.

Council member Jerry Allen took to this idea. "This is the type of thing we ought to be able to do overnight," he said, snapping his fingers. "All that is is colored lights. ... Let's make it happen."

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Kimberly Thorpe
Contact: Kimberly Thorpe