on March 30, 2011 / by Downtown Dallas Inc. / in Blog Posts, Clean and Safe, DDI News, Doing Business, Economic Development and Planning

Members, supporters and friends of Downtown Dallas, Inc.,

What was presented to this year’s sold out, record breaking crowd at our Annual Meeting on February 16 was Downtown Dallas 360 – a roadmap for the next phase of Downtown revitalization, shaped with Quick Wins and Bold Ideas.  However, before we were given this glimpse into the future, I spent some time looking at the state of Downtown today, and reflecting on the last decade’s worth of momentum in our city’s core.

Close your eyes and imagine Downtown just ten years ago.  Our first adaptive re-use residential projects were just opening.  Our city center residential population was just beginning to climb into the thousands.  Nodes like Stone Street Garden were emerging.  Planning efforts such as the Parks Master Plan, the CBD Transportation Plan and the Inside the Loop Committee initiatives were just commencing.  It was a time, similar today, full of vision, strategy and promise.

Now open your eyes to the reality that exists today, to the community that has been built in Downtown Dallas.  More than 2 billion dollars has been invested in the heart of our city.  We have witnessed the residential population grow in the Central Business District to over 7,000.  Throughout all of Downtown we have more than 35,000 people living. Our employment population holds strong at 135,000, and we continue to be the largest workforce in North Texas.  Kicking off in 2007 with announcements by 7-Eleven and Comerica Bank, followed by AT&T in 2008, we’ve seen more than 60 companies relocate back to the city center, absorbing more than 2 and a half million square feet of space.

Landmark projects with decades of promise are now complete or underway.  The AT&T Performing Arts Center brought us one step closer to completing the Dallas Arts District master plan.  Woodall Rodgers Park now shows visible signs of progress with beams stretched across the canyon freeway.  The first Calatrava bridge is complete, changing the Dallas skyline forever, and the Omni Dallas Convention Center hotel is within just a year of opening, putting Dallas back on the map as a top tier convention destination.  And the Perot Museum of Nature and Science, a spectacular showcase, is well underway.

Residents, employees and visitors relax and recreate at Main Street Garden.  Belo Garden is under construction.  First Baptist Church of Dallas is in the midst of a $130 million renovation. The Dallas Arts District drew more than one million visitors last year.  Have you visited Main Street on a Thursday, Friday or Saturday night lately?  The District is buzzing with traffic with people from close and afar visiting our restaurants and entertainment destinations.  And we’ve recently hosted three major national sporting events – the NBA All Star Weekend, the World Series and Super Bowl XLV.  Though the games were played miles away, the spotlight was shining on the Downtown skyline.

DART opened its Green Line in 2010, making it now the largest light rail system in the U.S. And MATA is extending – already underway is the Arts District extension, with funding secured for future expansion to Federal – ultimately connecting Uptown, the Arts District and the Main Street District.

Educational opportunities are increasing Downtown.  With more than 30 schools of varying levels, some of our prized facilities include the University of North Texas System and the Universities Center at Dallas; El Centro Community College and their School of Nursing and Allied Health in the West End.  Booker T. Washington High School continues to turn out record numbers – in 2010 more than $12 million worth of scholarships were awarded to their students.  The Pegasus School for the Liberal Arts and Sciences continues to be ranked by US News and World Report as one of the top ten high schools in the nation, and last year we welcomed Laureate Prep charter school to the West End, a prestigious Uplift Education program.

Indeed, there is much to celebrate as we look back at accomplishments over the decade and Downtown Dallas, Inc. is committed to remaining aggressive and continuing with resolute focus on the betterment of the area.

It is with this commitment that we come to Downtown Dallas 360.

Downtown Dallas 360 has been a full year in the making.  Built by workgroups of property and business owners; large corporations and small businesses; real estate and transportation experts; residents and other community organizations – 360 is a true culmination of what Dallas wants to see Downtown, and how we can all work together to achieve these goals.

360 is also a prime example of a public-private partnership.  The City of Dallas’ vision served as the catalyst for the project, and since the launch we have worked hand in hand.  I’d like to particularly thank Theresa O’Donnell, Peer Chacko and Karl Zavitkovsky with the City of Dallas, and Kourtny Garrett and Jim Wood with the DDI TEAM for their leadership and guidance of the plan’s creation.  Literally, every city department and DART have been involved, along with the outstanding leadership of the Downtown Dallas 360 Steering Committee.  Our City Council, Mayor and City Manager have been instrumental in providing the support and guidance needed from the public sector to bring such an ambitious city-changing project to fruition.

360 is arguably the most important project for Downtown going forward.  The Plan will guide future investment, development strategies and the activation of our streets in a tangible way for years to come.  It will bring together the vision of the public, private and community sectors under one common goal – to fuel the creation of a 21st century Downtown Dallas.

The future is bright.  All of the statistics, economic and quality of life indicators bode well for Dallas.  According to the Dallas Federal Reserve, Texas is rising above the national average in payroll employment growth, we sit well below the national average in unemployment, construction contract values showed growth at the end of 2010, home sales are beginning to rise, and Texas exports are raising while the rest of the nation experiences declines.  With over-regulation and increasing taxes to our north, east and west, the market is funneling toward Texas, and even more so toward Dallas…and Downtown.

With Quick Wins and Bold Ideas, Downtown Dallas 360, along with the daily stewardship of the Downtown environment by our organization, we will move into the next year (and next decade!) with strategic, thoughtful development.  Our ultimate vision will continue to develop into reality – a thriving, vibrant and sustainable Downtown Dallas.

As goes Downtown, so goes Dallas!

John Crawford

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