Downtown Still Sucks. Why?

Nothing could be more Dallas than installing a “river” where there never was one before. Some city leaders are proposing just that, a “River Walk” of sorts like San Antonio’s.

It’s no secret that Downtown Dallas can be a little morbid after 5PM, but I wouldn’t say it’s so bad that we have to look at San Antonio for inspiration.

The idea is this: flood Main Street. “Three feet deep, pull out the sidewalks, put up the awnings — damn,” said Dwaine Caraway (Dallas District 4). But actually the idea has been studied by Downtown Dallas Inc before. The problem: that canal will flood the historic buildings alongside it. Oops.

As far as San Antonio’s Riverwalk is concerned, I am not a fan. It is crowded, expensive to park and the restaurants and whatnot are mediocre and also expensive. Besides that, few locals I know there actually visit. The same goes for Oklahoma City. The Bricktown Canal is nice but it isn’t exactly a classy place to be. I do applaud their efforts but I think Thunder Basketball is what really saved the area the most. However, the Harkins Movie Theater was a fantastic addition to Bricktown and I visited it pretty regularly. Downtown Houston by the way, has an Angelika theater downtown.

If Dallas’ goal is to corral tourists downtown like the other cities, fine. But to create a place where locals actually want to visit will require a tad more effort.

First, Dallas must address safety concerns Downtown. Manhattan faced the same issue into the 1990s, but solved it with an agressive, multi-agency approach (and technology to essentially spy on the entire island). So far this month, Downtown Dallas had 35 crimes reported. By contrast, neighboring Uptown reported 20 incidents.

Second, transportation is a real concern. So let’s say you’re leaving the Windspear, what to do next? Well DART only has one line through Downtown and parking is expensive and limited. Buses are slow and semi-complicated to navigate. So you’ll likely leave Downtown and go to Uptown or elsewhere. But Washington, DC for example has the Circulator bus. The Circulator is a series of special bus lines connecting many of DCs tourist sites with important transportation hubs. Getting to Downtown Dallas is relatively easy (of course I’m still excited about the Horseshoe Project), it’s navigation within Downtown that gets complicated. It’s a mile and a half between the Convention Center and the museums, for example. It would be nice to park and then not touch my car again until I leave. Fortunately, DART is launching just such a service in August.

Third, let’s talk about attractions. We all remember the Ferris Wheel at Dealey Plaza. What a stupid idea. I’m talking about real attractions. Downtown already has several: the Art Museum, Nasher, Windspear, Klyde Warren Park, or the Farmer’s Market. Some nice clubs and bars would be fun. As would a variety of restaurants (TGI Fridays in the West End doesn’t count).

Finally, and this is already occurring, but more people need to live Downtown, but that won’t happen more until the issues above are addressed. If it were me, downtown housing would resemble West Village or Knox-Henderson. The largest apartment complexes down there now are so segregated from everything else! Besides that, how annoying is it to have to leave your neighborhood just to grocery shop or buy other basics?

Downtown Dallas is awfully pretty to look at but it is high time to have some substance to those bright lights. My issue with the Riverwalk idea is that it is another example of Dallas’ identity crisis. Stop wanting to copy everyone else. I live here because it isn’t like NYC. Or, if I cared so damn much about a Riverwalk, well San Antonio already has one!


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