Wendy Donahue's Chicago Tribune dispatch from her recent trip to Dallas begins with her family driving their rental car across the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge, the "symbolic hub of Texas-sized ambitions." She notes the breeze passing over the grasses along the Trinity and that the bridge is otherwise empty.
"Here," she concludes, "is a city at a crossroads."
"Its image often reduced to fast cars, fervent shopping and the fall of JFK, Dallas is striving to diversify that view while uniting its sprawling metroplex with a string of architectural marvels downtown."
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Has it worked? Sort of. Donahue casts a somewhat bemused gaze at the "vermilion walls of the Winspear Opera House and the aluminum tube-covered cube of the Wyly Theatre," packed in a bit more closely than in most cities, as she drives toward vacant, depressing West Dallas. But she keeps going a ways and finds that she really likes the vibe in Oak Cliff.
And, of course: "No trip to Dallas would be complete without gawking at the ritzy homes and the Dallas Country Club along Beverly Drive," so she spends time shopping in Highland Park Village, capping it off with a ride down the Katy Trail on borrowed bikes, which leads Donahue to wonder about the absence of bike lanes.
The takeaway from all this is that Dallas is changing for the better, though it tries a bit too hard to impress with shiny new arts buildings. Which isn't too far off, really.