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Toyota Headquarters Was Headed for Outer Space and Not the Inner City Anyway

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Real estate writer Steve Brown has a story in today's Dallas Morning News about massive apartment projects springing up around the site of the new Toyota headquarters in Plano. Apparently these will be part of an even bigger sea of apartments not far from the J.C. Penney headquarters up there in the suburban deep space. I feel better.

Last month when Toyota opted for the suburbs of Dallas instead of moving into the city itself, our mayor said Toyota had told him their decision was driven mainly by our troubled urban school system. I got into major hot water with some readers when I said I thought the school system was an awfully convenient peg on which to hang a hatful of possible other explanations, as in proximity to poor people generally and poor ethnic minorities in particular.

You know how it is now. If you say anything that even touches on race, you get this huge back-flow from the ultra-whites. They want to tell you there is no such thing as race anymore. Somebody waved a wand.

Oh, but let's not really go there. Like I said, I think today's story is a better indicator of what's going on. This is really about a totally honest and legitimate lifestyle choice -- employees and bosses who never want to be more than five minutes from each other. Think about it.

Everybody who wants to live right next to their place of employment, raise your hand. OK, I couldn't see that, sorry. Limitations of the technology. But take my point: not everybody. Not, for example, me.

For me, what's so great about a big messy diverse city is all of the opportunity it offers me to hide from my employer. I can walk out that office door, plunge into the junky quagmire that is the city, and it's like I left the planet. For somebody else, they want their house or apartment to be kind of an annex to the office. Or the office wants it that way, six of one, half dozen of the other.

I want two things, independent of each other. Office. Not office. Totally separate realms. But in that other culture, there is no true un-office space. Everything is the office. You never leave.

That culture was never going to come into the city. It was always going to seek virgin ground somewhere where it could create its own space station. Reminds me of '87 when J.C. Penney shocked New York by announcing it would move its world headquarters to Dallas, by which they meant Plano. I knew somebody here who worked for them in a high position.

I said, "How are all those lifelong New Yorkers going to adjust to the empty prairies of Plano? Won't they pine for Manhattan?"

He said, "Are you kidding? First of all, they're not lifelong New Yorkers. They're store managers from Dubuque. And they view Manhattan as Hades. Their Nirvana is a place where they can work in brand-new offices, live in brand-new houses minutes from work, be close to brand-new golf courses and brand-new churches and never ever ever come across a scuzzy-looking protester with a beard and an animal rights placard."

He was staring right at my beard.

It's OK. It's their right. Dallas enjoys a huge leg up over lots of other regions because it can offer both things to both cultures. People who love cities and funk can come right on into this one and make themselves very much at home. People who prefer the sterile space-station life can jump into their space suits and toddle on out to Plano/Frisco/Hidey-Ho-whatever.

But for the sake of everybody's basic serenity, we need to get over the idea that this was ever a one-on-one, zero-sum competition. City people are city people. Suburban people are suburban people. Never the twain shall meet.

Well, seldom. Obviously when the suburban people's children reach their teen years and begin suffering symptoms of sensory deprivation, they will all come down to Deep Ellum, have cow bones inserted into their lower lips and get into bits of mischief. That's really a medical issue. We know how to handle that one. What's really called for is mutual respect. I'm going to work on that, promise.

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