The McCity

14 thoughts on “The McCity”

  1. Corrective labor camps, Glavnoye Upravleniye ispravitelno-trudovyh, (Gulag Archipelago) I can’t find anything more appropriate to compare it to. America is the Bible running wild in the wilderness. Your articles reminds me of the last scene in the movie, “Apocalypto.”
    I grew-up in the age of “Shane and Sinclair Lewis, Winesburg Ohio and Mark Twain, and I’m well aware of the pictures of America you present to us since I’ve traveled the Blue Highways from coast to coast.

  2. Crossing America in the early 90s – back then – I had to scavenge every day for something cast truthfully as town or city and found it in fragments in the oddest corners

  3. Interestingly enough I live in the North End apartments so I have first hand experience of the pros and cons of living there. Despite what you might think, the complex is quite a bit cheaper then the surrounding area and near by uptown (the most walkable part of Dallas) so that is the primary reason I chose to live there. They were also built long before most of the building in victory park (half million dollar condos with half occupied store fronts at their base) Victory park still really hasn’t come to itself and there are still a lot of parking garages and lots in the area with half baked master planning. I believe the North End was built before there was anything else in the area. (Remember, the AAC is built on an old rail yard and industrial complex)

    As for living there my experience has been largely positive because of its location. Its awesome to be able to walk to uptown or downtown in 10min, but very annoying that 5 of those are spent walking through the complex to get to one of the limited access gates. My apt overlooks victory plaza but I have to walk half way across the complex then around the block to get to a place I could throw a rock.

    Lot of millennials live here and I know of at least one bartender who works in the trendy new/old urbanistic bishops Arts neighborhood who cant afford to live there so he lives here. Add to that that lots of people work north Dallas which is almost impossible to access via public transit. The car accommodations and close proximity to the toll way make sense to people.

    Will I pay more for my next apartment to have a better urban apartment? Yes, most likely. Is the north end good urban design? Not at all, but its not like Dallas just built this its 15 years old, which for Dallas and the particular neighborhood is old. Will the North End be torn down and replaced with a condo tower? Probably.

  4. Bay Meadows in San Mateo jumps out in my mind as a local example of a big McCity development, albeit not as harsh as the example in Dallas. I mean, even with a train station right there, oodles of cash and a total blank slate, they failed to escape the suburban drive-in blueprint: http://sf.curbed.com/archives/2014/02/25/rendering_reveal_for_bay_meadows_social_street_concept.php

    “Social Street” concept. Is that a joke? Human-scale development must be so alien to them that this is the best they could come up with. Just add a beer garden and we’re good on the urbanism thing, right?

    1. The process of gathering financial backers, the high cost of purchasing land, the tedious system of obtaining entitlements, and then the business of building on a scale that still returns a profit – as well as local zoning regulations – all play in to the resulting suburban form. Like I said, we have an entire culture that only knows how to build McCities.

      1. While not unique to Texas, the difference is that there may be no alternative in Texas? As you essay and photos make clear, the “Cityscape” of Dallas is utterly forbidding except in the context of suburban drive-in living. Who would walk around this “downtown” even if the climate were cooler?

  5. I think a big part of the reason we see this happening is because the preexisting streets are used as boundaries to the development, rather than the spine. What’s on one side of the street has no relation to what’s on the other, so they naturally retreat rather than embrace each other. It’s understandable how this happens, since it’s easier to develop a self-contained property rather than one which spans a public street. It’s easier to acquire too, for obvious reasons. In suburban areas those streets are often huge arterial “car sewers” that are unpleasant to walk along and which you wouldn’t want your house or office facing, so the developments turn inward almost as a defense mechanism. Even in cities there may be ugly parking lots, vacant properties, or the street itself may have been “optimized” for motor vehicle traffic over the years. So turning a new development inward and surrounding it with berms, walls, and planting beds is seen as a way to control the situation, such as it is, but it’s a typically selfish move that only makes the public realm worse.

    1. Excellent points.

      So much of what gets built is a result of the overly large scale. All the institutional players have a bias towards projects that are only feasible above a certain size.

      And let’s not forget that no one will build anything if there isn’t a profitable market for the product. People want suburban style accommodations like off street parking, security, etc. I’m assuming that if someone builds amazing urban properties without these things there might not be enough solvent customers willing to do without parking and so on.

      The question is how do developers build a better version of these places that still hit the numbers, but in a way that produces good urbanism in the process.

      1. Maybe the answer to your question is that in many, if not most, cities, developers do not. Riffing off one of your themes, those who want “urbanism” may cluster in places like San Francisco (once that lottery tickey hits) or older cities that have retained the traditional fabric like Cincinnati?

    2. More than once Ive seen a homeless person sleeping in the dip between the road and fence. Not safe for anyone. Part of the issue is that that the complex was built before the area was “nice” and it is still very close to where pan handlers hang out 3 blocks away. people feel safer with the fence I think, although the area has finally began to have enough foot traffic, especially at night that it might be seen as more of a cage than protective wall. You need density to have eyes on the street to keep them safe. Still, the fence kept the Trump supporters out last week when he was at the AAC so it has some merit …..

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