“How are you guys going to get there?” My friend Daniel asked me a couple of weeks ago when Katrina and I were heading out to a concert downtown.
“I think we are just going to walk and then maybe Uber back home,” I replied.
“Are you sure that’s safe?” Was his response.
I’ve lived on the east side of 345 for almost two years now. When people ask where I live in Dallas I usually shrug and say “east of Downtown” knowing that it really doesn’t do justice to a neighborhood I’ve really grown to love.
Google maps refers to my hood as “Old East Dallas” – kind of a lame title compared to “The Arts District”, “Uptown”, “Deep Ellum”, “Bishop Arts”, etc. But I guess I’ll take it for now.
Lately though all I read about on Dallas blogs is a resounding “Yea!” to the idea of tearing down highway 345 in an effort to expand downtown, bring in more business, and essentially create the next “Uptown”. Normally I’m pro growth in the city, but there are just so many things about this decision that really bother me.
Do We Really Have to Tear It Down?
This seems a bit drastic. Yes, it would free up a bunch of space, but at the cost of the commuter, and Dallas is a commuter city. As a person who lives right next to the highway, I know that it saves me time and is often preferable than getting stuck in stop lights at 35 mph down crummy streets that should be getting fixed, but aren’t.
A lot of people who support the tear down claim that drivers will find alternate routes, but why should they have to? Every highway in DFW is a mess at 5 pm…tearing down another highway probably isn’t the best solution. We didn’t completely demolish Woodall Rodgers when there was a move to connect Uptown and Downtown. No, we built Klyde Warren.
We Can Still Create New Businesses Without Tearing Down
Believe it or not, there’s still a lot of unused land and property around the area. Instead of knocking down a highway, why don’t we use what we already have? There’s a plenty of charm in our downtown and in “east downtown”. But a lot of the buildings are vacant and some land is still going unused. Can we work with these first and try to make downtown cool before adding some cookie cutter clutter of buildings that will no doubt be filled with Starbuck’s and The Gap?
Deep Ellum and “East Dallas” are growing. We’ve seen Joyce and Gigi’s, Method Coffee, and Toad in the Hole come in over by me. Deep Ellum has had Twilite Lounge and Glazed Donuts open in the last year and this year we look forward to Pecan Lodge and Braindead Brewpub to come up in the area, among others. This side of 345 is holding up our end, it’s time downtown started actually becoming worthy of connecting with the east.
Dallas IS A Walkable City
Some people are saying that the tear down would make Dallas a more “walkable” city. But Dallas already IS a walkable city. I walk around the town all the time – from my spot on Ross to Downtown and Deep Ellum and even Uptown. Why does everything have to be “dense” to be walkable? Exercise is good for you! Unless it’s the summer I guess, in which case I’m driving everywhere.
If you are afraid that the area under the 345 bridge isn’t safe, here are some free ideas from me to you, city decision makers:
- Clean up the area under the bridge. Maybe paint it? Make it bright with a bunch of cool, artsy lights. Maybe even do some installations. We don’t have to make it a park, but brighten it up to keep out the riff raff. This would be a lot cheaper than tearing it down.
- Maybe we could continue with those tunnels Downtown? Let’s actually make that a thing. It would be way cooler, and we could walk underground to the other side of 345, plus talk about new business potential!
- Move the highway underground? Zac Crain of D Magazine mentioned this idea. Seems pretty sound to me. Bury the highway so people can still use it and do your new building above ground.
I don’t know, I’m not a city planner, but let’s get innovative here and work with what we have!
I think the idea to tear down 345 has very little to do with making Dallas a better place for its citizens and everything to do with money – taking tax money, and as a result, a select few make new business money. I can’t believe that new housing here will be more affordable than that offered in Uptown or Downtown, despite claims I’ve read that it will offer more affordable housing.
The reason I live in this area now is because of the affordability, but you can’t fool me into thinking that will stay the same or even go down with new development. It just doesn’t work that way. I’d like it to, but I don’t see how it can.
I understand that change is inevitable, and I do welcome it to some extent, but I just think there are better ways to go about this expansion than tearing down a highway that is actually really useful .
Also, Katrina and I did end up walking to the concert and back again without incident.