Deep Ellum

16 thoughts on “Deep Ellum”

  1. “The more experts that attempt to micromanage new development the harder and more expensive it is to build or do anything. Consequently the only players left in the game are the ones that can build giant complexes at a very high price point – and only in affluent markets.”

    We are definitely running into this problem. The urge to micromanage is STRONG in my profession. And our market is not “affluent” enough to attract the big urban players (yet?).

  2. “Gentrification” of this sort is a reality in at least the 200 or so largest cities in the US and probably 100’s more. Witness Charlotte NC where I have lived for 25 years. Or Asheville, or Raleigh etc. etc. While I think it’s great that youngish adults are moving under and around freeways in or near derelict and empty buildings (and not displacing poor people since none are living there), I also think that municipalities have a responsibility and an opportunity to create neighborhoods and communities and not just promote Doughnut Dormitories. They could start with imaginative district-wide planning. They can create special form-based zoning districts that bring out the best of what remains. And they can put curbs on the size of Doughnut Dormitories and their parking ratios, without disallowing responsible developers from making a handsome return on their investment.

    This takes courage, manpower, and talent in the public sector. It takes infusion of public sector funding up-front for things like street and sidewalk upgrades to mention but two obvious examples. And it takes a huge investment of political capital.

    As far as keeping the small grain Main Street establishments, I think that has a chance in these situations, provided the public sector commitment I mention above is in place. Very likely in Dallas, but not necessarily so elsewhere.

    1. I take precisely the opposite view. The more experts that attempt to micromanage new development the harder and more expensive it is to build or do anything. Consequently the only players left in the game are the ones that can build giant complexes at a very high price point – and only in affluent markets.

      The most dynamic and productive “mom and pop” responses to our current situation exist in half forgotten suburban locations and don’t involve building anything new. Instead, behavior changes in the existing landscape do all the heavy lifting. I’ll be blogging on the topic soon.

    2. CORRECTION: I meant to say in the last sentence: ” Very unlikely in Dallas, but possibly elsewhere, where the public sector is in better shape financially and politically”.

        1. I hope you don’t accuse me of getting in the last word; but here goes. The conclusion of my lengthy email was meant to respond to Larry Littlefield, who seemed to be saying that Dallas is broke. I take his word for it. Other municipalities are not broke, like mine, Asheville and Raleigh. In some older parts of Charlotte, “main streets” are or have been overrun by huge development entities, mostly building Doughnut Dormitories. This is possible for a variety of reasons: strong demand for apartments, large scale developers with deep pockets, lack of zoning restrictions to prevent such incursions, lax political leadership etc. etc. What I am trying to say is that each city is a different context, and each context is affected by a variety of factors. Its a complex stew, not ham and eggs. But there are a patterns. Dallas is not unique and neither is Charlotte. You seem smart enough to appreciate that, but your “unique in its dysfunction” quote leaves me wondering.

          Keep up the good work. Your blog keeps me on my toes.

  3. The key is owning and, as you mentioned, it can be difficult. Artists often move into battered industrial areas because they need loft space, bring back the area, then have to move because it becomes gentrified and they no longer afford the rent.

  4. “The society society that buil[t] Main Street no longer exists.”

    Very true. As members of the society that descended from that one, we should remember that the reason it no longer exists — that there was such abrupt discontinuity from what had come before — is that the children of that society thought that they had better ideas, and that these ideas should be imposed on everyone by means of state power.

    Many times, their intent was to right real wrongs, but they often wrought other ones concurrently. And now we lament they things that they destroyed, some intentionally, others not so.

    I agree with Johnny, though; as long as we maintain continuity with those who imposed the discontinuity, radical change will not occur. And there is no simple restoration with a previous line of continuity; this is ruptured and lost.

  5. One more point, the only way to offset the fiscal damage is to pay so little for housing (or commercial space) that it makes up for the taxes you pay and the services you don’t get. Here and elsewhere.

    So when redevelopment becomes professionalized and building prices get bid up, it’s time to go elsewhere. Mortgage? Given the fiscal realities, buyers already have one thank you, and shouldn’t have to pay much more than the cost of a car loan to assume it.

  6. The fundamental issue in cities like Dallas is fiscal not physical. It is going through the exact cycle that many older Northeastern and Midwestern cities went through decades earlier.

    The White public employees moved to the suburbs decades ago. And they got their suburban state legislators to impose a massive, unfunded retroactive pension increase on the city of Dallas soon after.

    Exactly following the pattern in NYC in the early 1960s. A state law allowed NYC cops, teachers, firefighters, and transit workers (but not lower paid city workers) to live outside NYC, while continuing to allow suburban localities to impose residency requirements. Within a decade — massive pension increases, and public services collapse.

    Because our “dear seniors” who “worked hard all their lives” can’t give anything back, the pay and benefits of current and newly hired Dallas police officers and firefighters, most of whom are Black. Even as the city goes bankrupt due to soaring labor costs, its wages and benefits for new hires are so bad that it can’t recruit even the officers it can budget for. Crime is up. The poverty rate is 27.0% — for New York City, “the most dangerous city in America” as described by Saturday Night Live in the 1970s, it never went above 20.0%.

    Generation Greed sucked the future out of Dallas, even as younger people move in and try to re-create it. Buy one of those buildings and you are buying into a massive tax burden and little if anything from the schools to police to fire to parks. Bootstrapping indeed, paying for nothing while coming home from work and doing a second shift to produce what you have paid for.

  7. well, again I note that the Trump family, with money and skill to navigate through complex laws, seem to be doing well by doing good. but wait! the Clinton family seem to have the same interrelationships, both in property, attend each others weddings, etc. I’m waiting for Obama to marry off his daughters to property developers too.

  8. Similar things are going on here in Houston. The Heights neighborhood is gentrifying at mach speed (tax increases every year and my rent has been raised every year for 4-5 years). Eado (East Downtown – I dislike the name EaDo, it’s not very original), which abuts downtown like Deep Ellum is probably heading towards full on gentrification in the coming years. Houston also has a new plan to redesign the highway system around downtown, which includes decommissioning a stretch of interstate, while adding on more elsewhere.

  9. I like these redevelopments. The current generation entering the work force seem to enjoy these funky little oasis, as do the older element, because they are little self-contained living areas. You don’t need a car, because they are usually near good public transportation; you don’t have a house to manage; you have restaurants and shops galore; entertainment is in walking distance. I think they are fabulous, even if they ultimately attain the same cookie-cutter vision of the outdated shopping malls.

  10. Yeah, this is basically what I see too. I say it’s good. It may not be the nicest thing possible, but it’s livable and much better than what it’s replacing.

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