DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – According to the Downtown Dallas 360 Plan, which the council will vote on during Wednesday’s meeting, the city’s core has the pieces to the puzzle but hasn’t quite figured out how to fit them together.
Downtown has the museums, the theaters, the history and the interest, but its attractions can often be mile-plus trots apart.READ MORE: Russ Martin, Longtime North Texas Radio Personality, Found Dead At Frisco Home
The study’s early, frank hypothetical sums up why downtown doesn’t have the vibrancy it probably should: “A conventioneer in the southwest corner of Downtown may have over a half-hour walk to reach the AT&T Performing Arts Center.”
The 360 Plan hopes to be a 116-page manual on how to fix that, offering up an array of improvements to the city’s core: Mass transit, street-level retail and food options, improved parking and more affordable housing.
“The Central Business District, if you will, can’t operate on its own,” said John Crawford, president of Downtown Dallas Inc., which headed the 18-month study. “It has to be interactive with all the areas that make up downtown.”
As defined by the study, the core of the Central Business District is made up of seven areas locked within the freeway system that encircles downtown’s skyscrapers: The Dallas Arts District, the Thanksgiving Commercial Center, Main Street, Dallas Farmers Market, Dallas Civic Center, Reunion/Union Station and the West End.
These areas anchor another eight ‘supporting’ districts – such as the Design District, Deep Ellum, Victory Park and Uptown – and have “strong connections” with so-called ‘surrounding’ districts, like East Dallas, Fair Park, Oak Cliff and West Dallas.
The 360 Plan aims to connect these areas with one another, making it easier for pedestrians to travel between them. And with the success of many neighboring areas – think Oak Cliff and its Bishop Arts District, Uptown and Deep Ellum – the Central Business District would benefit from having better connectivity with these, the study says.
But city leaders believe Dallas will likely incur a budget shortfall between $60 million and $120 million during the next two years. What about the funding for all this downtown revitalization?
Crawford, however, said he wasn’t concerned about the council balking at approving the plan Wednesday. It is, after all, a set of “clear, targeted recommendations.”
“The way it’s set up, it is unreasonable to expect that anything will go ahead without the proper financial expectations,” Crawford said. “It’s the caveat in the plan itself that funding hasn’t been determined for some of these projects.”
And some projects won’t cost the city a dime. The study hones in on five Focus Areas within the Central Business District and attached a series of what it calls Quick Win Priorities, each of which have a timeline of zero to 18 months.READ MORE: Dallas County Reports 570 New COVID-19 Cases, 10 Deaths Saturday
Crawford said these so-called Quick Wins are meant to capitalize on the study’s momentum to push downtown forward and show the public that the nearly $700,000 study is realistic.
“It’s extremely important the public and stakeholders see evidence of progress being made on a short term and long term basis,” he said. “Greater urban design is not really expensive and some of it is a signature provision or getting approval to do it.”
One Quick Win is to revise street regulations to include more provisions for carts and other ‘glass-box’ street offerings. Another is to form a committee to make suggestions on regulations that will affect the way future developments are built.
Yet another is to set new parking policies, which would be a collaborative effort between the city and the myriad garage and lot owners scattered throughout downtown.
These are all things that could begin to prompt the kind of private-sector support the plan needs to succeed, the study says. Crawford added that planners made “every opportunity available” to include private stakeholders in the planning process.
“They were bullish, to say the least,” Crawford said. “We may have had some lack of understanding or disagreement on certain portions of it, but overall everyone is enthusiastically supporting what this plan calls for.”
And perhaps the biggest thing the plan calls for is more mass transit: Light rail, streetcar systems, inter city rails – a rail that would bring residents downtown from other cities – and buses to reach areas the lines won’t go to. Funding is at least partially secured for some of the projects, while it is not for others.
That, Crawford said, is why the funding options for the plan are left open-ended. The study estimates that some of the more far-reaching projects could take up to 10 years to complete.
The repurposing of Reunion/Union Station into a mixed-use office and residential area, for instance, will likely require long-term improvements of its infrastructure as well as swapping public and private land.
If the 360 Plan is approved, Wednesday’s 9 a.m. vote will be the first step of a long process.
“I was one of the skeptics,” said District 14 councilwoman Angela Hunt after being briefed on the plan in February. “But as we move forward in the process one thing became clear … this won’t be a plan that will sit on the shelf.”MORE NEWS: Parker County Sheriff Larry Fowler Dies At 82
Neither Hunt nor District 2 Councilwoman Pauline Medrano, whose districts will be affected by the plan, returned emails or phone messages requesting comment this week on the Downtown Dallas 360 Plan.