PAC It Up, or: Why Dallas Is "Lucky" the Original Arts District Master Plan "Failed"

Monday's the big day -- the grand opening of the AT&T Performing Arts Center, which kicks off at 8 a.m. with South Pacific star Keala Settle performing the "The Star-Spangled Banner" before AT&T PAC president and CEO Mark Nerenhausen, Mayor Tom Leppert and other city officials play ball. Hence yet another national-press piece concerning the AT&TPAC's impact on Dallas and downtown -- this one from former Observer-er Tom Korosec, writing for Bloomberg News that it's just as well the original Arts District plan, conceived in '78 and formalized in '82 by Sasaki Associates didn't work out as quite as planned. Says Margaret McDermott, "We were lucky it failed." (Alexander Garvin, who wrote critically about it in his 2002 book The American City: What Works, What Doesn't, would agree.)

Still, as Newsweek pointed out one week ago, a performing arts center doesn't a city make. And ancillary developments around the AT&TPAC have been put on hold for myriad reasons, most of which, say Lucy Billingsley, rhyme with "economy." To which SMU prof and Dallas historian Darwin Payne says, "Dallas civic leaders and big-money people love to say we're the biggest and best. I can't imagine another city trying to build it in quite the same way."

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