Learning From Dallas, TX

November 8, 2006 7 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

Our final installment of the Downtown Texas comparison series takes us to the big city of Dallas, TX. While Dallas is in the midst of its own revitalization process, it is an excellent example of what can happen when rail transit is introduced to a sprawling metropolitan region.



At 400 square miles, Dallas is the 3rd-largest city in Texas and the 9th largest in the United States. Founded in 1841 and named after George Mifflin Dallas, the 11th US Vice President, today the city is globally known as a center for telecommunications, computer technology, banking, and transportation.

However, up until 1871 (the year the railroad came), the city was just another frontier town.  By the turn of the century Dallas was the leading drug, book, jewelry, and wholesale liquor market in the Southwestern United States, as well as a cotton, grain, and buffalo center.  The landscaped changed in 1930 with the discovery of oil, transforming the city into a major financial center.

Today, Dallas is a leader in urban revitalization.  From Uptown (one of the hottest real estate markets in the country) and Deep Ellum (urban entertainment & loft district) to downtown, thousands of projects are underway, transforming this community from a massive suburban one, to one with a vibrant pedestrian friendly core.

Unlike the previous comparison threads, we're not going to list improvements that should be taken advantage of in Jacksonville.  This time around, we'll let the pictures speak for themselves.  Enjoy.


Dallas Population 2005: 1,213,825 (City); 5,819,475 (Metro - Includes Dallas) - (incorporated in 1856)

Jacksonville Pop. 2005: 782,623 (City); 1,248,371 (Metro) - (incorporated in 1832)

City population 1940: Jacksonville (173,000); Dallas (294,734)


Victory Park is a master planned urban infill project, just northwest of downtown.  The development is a $3 billion, 75 acre site that will contain more than 4,000 residents and 4 million square feet of office and retail space at build out.  This picture shows the new American Airlines Center and Victory Plaza.  Victory Plaza is being billed as Dallas' answer to Times Square and will contain the largest and greatest number of digital billboards overlooking a plaza anywhere in the world.


Another project recently completed at Victory Park is the 33 story W Dallas Victory Hotel and Residences.  The entire development, constructed on a former rail yard, is connected to the downtown core by Trinity Express Commuter Rail and DART light rail lines. 

The West End Historic District sites between Victory Park and downtown.  Once an industrial district, the buildings now house clubs, bars, and restaurants, such as this TGI Fridays.


The DART light rail system forms the boarder between the West End and downtown.  The DART light rail system opened in 1996 and now has a daily ridership of 62,400 and is the 7th most ridden light rail system in the country.




The McKinney Avenue Trolley connects Uptown Dallas to downtown.  This streetcar loop opened in 1989.  Since then, Uptown has blossomed into one of the countries hottest and most desired urban neighborhoods.  The trolley cars are actually the same cars used at the turn of the century on Dallas' streets.


Last but not least, Dallas has one other rail line. The Trinity Railway Express, a commuter rail line connecting downtown Dallas to downtown Fort Worth.  The "TRE" opened in 1996 shortly after the opening of the DART light rail system.



Historic Union Station is where the TRE, DART, and Amtrak meet.



Dallas' downtown includes a lot of small things we've taken for granted over the years.  This community has spent considerable time turning the core into a visitor friendly zone with mounds of directional signage, interesting banners, way-finding information and a series of convenient rail stops.  The result is an urban core that's easy to navigate for even the non-savy map reader.

The Dallas skyline is dominated by contemporary high rises designed by nationally acclaimed architects in the 1970s and 1980s.  This view is taken from South Dallas.

Dallas is a town that has learned to take advantage of its history, even its tragedies.  The Sixth Floor Museum is located in the former Texas School Book Depository building.  This is the site where assassination of President John F. Kennedy took place. 

Heading into downtown, legible signs notify you of the particular urban districts you enter.


If you're on foot and don't know where to go, help is only one block away, in the form of large urban directories.


The Main Street District in downtown, has been renovated to present a unique atmosphere.  This photograph shows night lighting enhancements.


Even in the midsts of suburbia, the city retains many unique urban treasures.  These include the 399ft Magnolia Hotel (1923) on the right and the beautiful 312ft Adolphus Hotel (1912) on the left.


The Magnolia Hotel and street level


Sexy in the City: The Davis Building (center) is in the middle of a restoration project into lofts.  Large banners, such as this tend to add to the flavor and excitement of an urban area being reborn.


This alley off Main Street has been converted into a lushly landscaped pedestrian walkway with restaurants and sidewalk cafes opening up into the unique corridor.

When constructed in 1903, the Wilson Building was said to be the finest office building south of St. Louis.  It was originally the home of Titche-Goettinger Department Store (this chain later became Joske's, which was eventually purchased by Dillards in 1987).  Today it is the home of 135 loft-style apartments.


This pocket park is located at the corner of Main and Akard Streets in the heart of downtown.


An upscale restaurant, called The Iron Cactus, opens up into the park.

They do things big in Texas, including parking garage signage.


The Urban Market is Dallas' only full service downtown grocer.  Unfortunately the grocery has bled cash since its opening last year.  While downtown continues to add residents, with the goal of having 10,000 by 2010 (sound familiar), the specialty market lost more than $1.2 million.


To keep the store open, the city recently provided the business with a $1.1 million dollar loan.  Leaders believe, although the downtown housing market isn't there yet, once the thousands of units under construction open, downtown's population will be large enough to support the store.




Uptown is a 125 year old neighborhood north of downtown bustling with new urban infill projects, since the 1989 opening on the McKinney Ave Trolley.  This district is dominated by the West Village Shopping District

Infill projects include the State Thomas neighborhood, a historic area that has been infilled with a massive amount townhouse and row house developments by Houston-based Post Properties.  This Uptown neighborhood is connected to downtown by the trolley, which takes riders to DART light rail stations to the north and south of the neighborhood.

Midrise housing with street level retail continues to spring up along the trolley line (photo taken standing on trolley tracks).


Deep Ellum is an arts and entertainment district, just east of downtown.  Originallly an industrial district, the neighborhood became a distinguished jazz and blues hotspot in the South, during the 1920s & 1930s.  By the 1970s, the area had revolved back into a warehouse and industrial district which began to attract artists because of the availability of cheap loft space.  In the 1980's, Deep Ellum bacame the de-facto home of the area's bourgeoning punk scene, despite no promotion from city related associations.  The 1990's were a high point for Dallas' livelest entertainment district.  At this point, the funky neighborhood had 57 bars and nightclubs, along with restaurants, tattoo parlors, retail shops and high end loft space.

In addition to live music, Deep Ellum is a hot-bed for graffiti.  Many music venues use graffiti artists to advertise music shows.  In the late 1980s, the city allowed a number of local artists to paint the walls of the Good-Latimer tunnel, a major entry to the neighborhood and shown in the photograph above.


This photograph shows the neighborhood's location, just outside of downtown Dallas.


The Clearview, a Deep Ellum long stay, got its beginnings back in the 1980s when some guys started having regular parties with DJs at the old Clearview Louver Window building.  Today, its still in operation, which is unique for a nightclub business.


Elm Street runs through the heart of Deep Ellum.  Parking meter fees are only required at night to help encourage more restaurants and businesses to open during the day.


A mural at the Elm Street Bar.  The expanse of local artwork in this district, definately gives Deep Ellum a unique flavor and vibe, considering the architecture is nothing more than small industrial buildings.


The conversion of under utilized warehouse space into loft uses has resulted in urban residential spaces being as low as $129k for 760 square feet.


Naturally, being an entertainment district, Deep Ellum gets pretty crowded at night.  In closing, here's a photograph of composed of several images to give viewers a feel for the night scene.


Part 1: Houston - http://www.metrojacksonville.com/content/view/196/57/

Part 2: San Antonio - http://www.metrojacksonville.com/content/view/205/57/

Part 3: Austin - http://www.metrojacksonville.com/content/view/225/1/

Part 4: Fort Worth / Sundance Square - http://www.metrojacksonville.com/content/view/236/5/

Part 5: Dallas / Deep Ellum -