Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Texas Sprawl Goes Out With a Bang

They imploded Texas Stadium recently, which was in the suburban city of Irving in the DFW metroplex.  What is Irving going to do with all of that land?  Turns out they have a plan, as described in this story: Texas Sprawl Goes Out With a Bang: Development Sprouts on Irving Transit Line.  

Once the last traces of Texas Stadium are cleared away this summer, Irving intends to dust off plans drafted 10 years ago to transform the Cowboys’ former home and the surrounding acreage into the densest, most walkable neighborhood in the Dallas-Ft. Worth Metroplex outside of downtown Dallas. An extension of the Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) Orange line is slated to run through the stadium footprint on its way from downtown to Dallas-Ft. Worth (DFW) International Airport. . . . The stadium site is the next piece in its urban puzzle.

That piece has three owners -- Irving, the neighboring University of Dallas, and Southwest Premier Properties, a private developer -- whose holdings comprise 468 acres. The plans the three chipped in for 10 years ago (and resulting zoning) call for things like four- or five-story apartment blocks with ground floor retail rather than single-family homes. (The Greater Irving Las Colinas Chamber of Commerce tossed some renderings up on its Web site Monday. “’Urban-suburban,’ is a phrase we’ve been using a lot lately, says Maura Gast, the executive director of Irving’s Convention & Visitors Bureau, referring to the notion of urban densities in a suburban setting. “Everywhere the DART is going is driving more density. The market will support it; developers have started jockeying along that path.” Where the stadium once stood, Gast would like to see something like Chicago’s Millennium Park -- at least she has the acreage.

Part of the reason for the assessment of market demand for urbanism is that the nearby Las Colinas area that is home to corporate offices but lacking in other dimensions.  

The glittering towers featured in the opening credits of Dallas -- one pair seemingly clad in gold leaf, another as black and viscous as an oil slick -- lie not in Dallas proper, but in the remnants of El Ranchito de las Colinas, the 12,000-acre “Little Ranch of the Hills.” The same year DFW opened just west of it in 1973, owner Ben Carpenter unveiled his master plan for a wholly-owned-and-operated city carved from those mesquite-shrouded hills -- the largest urban development in the country. Before a single plot of land was sold, he ordered the dredging of lakes and canals, stocked them with gondolas, and ran a monorail overhead. "It is Disney World for the affluent," Texas Monthly reported in the 1980s.  [paging Chad Emerson!]  "In fact, when executives from Disney World visited the development a few years ago, one of them commented that it was a shame ol’ Walt couldn’t have lived to see the real thing."

What’s most interesting about Irving’s plans to add density in its last undeveloped corner is the tacit admission that Las Colinas’s gold-plated office parks and single-family homes are no longer enough. "The piece that has always been missing from Las Colinas is the human density that’s missing on weekends and at nights," says Gast. The reason for adding that piece is an eminently practical one -- it’s what those corporate tenants, their workers and developers all want. Irving is embracing transit-oriented development because it thinks it can make money doing it.

Matt Festa

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/land_use/2010/04/texas-sprawl-goes-out-with-a-bang.html

Density, Local Government, Planning, Redevelopment, Smart Growth, Sprawl, Texas, Transportation, Urbanism | Permalink

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