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#105350 Central Tourism District

Posted by Dismuke on 31 August 2017 - 05:47 AM in Urban Design and Planning

I can't speak for Doohickie, but I'm sure the implication isn't that the idea is wrong, just that the tagline is used with every...single...new...development.

 

As long as they aren't describing it as "awesome."  That word was so overused a few years ago that I groaned anytime I heard someone use it - and I was hearing people use it constantly.

 

How about "Vegetate. Innovate. Recreate"?  And for good measure we could add "procreate."  That would spice things up a bit - and perhaps help increase demand for the units with extra bedrooms.  .




#105102 SBC/AT&T Building

Posted by Dismuke on 20 August 2017 - 12:54 PM in Fort Worth Architecture

As a follow up:  I just followed a link on the link I just provided and found this page about the Dallas phone exchange building - with interesting information and multiple photos of its tower

 

http://www.thecentra.../Dalltandem.htm

 

The same site shows other central offices in other Texas cities.  Observe the trend - the ones that were built in the 1930s and before are usually very attractive. The ones built after that tend to be butt ugly.  (The old Pershing Exchange in Fort Worth's West Side is a very attractive building apart from the modern elements that have been added to it).  

 

http://www.thecentra...om/Texas/TX.htm




#105101 SBC/AT&T Building

Posted by Dismuke on 20 August 2017 - 12:46 PM in Fort Worth Architecture

I am guessing that this building serves as a local hub for the switching and the mechanical processes of their business; and is a result of a time when rotary phones were the thing of the day. I am guessing that a hub such as this one would not be located here given today's technology.

 

 

That building actually dates back to well before rotary phones and to the days when one had to call up a live operator who would patch through the call.  If you were calling a different exchange the operator in your local exchange would have to patch it through to the other exchange.

 

Long distance calls were also very complex in those days.  Basically the call had to be patched through multiple offices in order to reach its final destination. Telephone offices actually had people on staff that would determine the most appropriate route to patch a call through.

 

So, for example, if you were to place a long distance call from Fort Worth to San Francisco (which would not have even been possible for a number of years during the building's early history) it might have been patched through to the phone office in El Paso which would have patched it though to the office in Phoenix and from there to Los Angeles and from there to San Francisco where an operator would have put the call through to the local number.  This process could take twenty minutes or longer.   So the person who originated the call would usually hang up and the operator would call back once the party on the other end had been successfully reached.   You will sometimes catch a glimpse of this process in old movies from the 1930s -  you will see an important business person being notified that "your call to San Francisco is on line."

 

As you can imagine, long distance phone calls were extremely expensive for many years and something used only for important business or extreme emergencies.

 

I remember as recently as the 1980s certain areas of the Metroplex did not yet have direct dial calls to the UK -  and I remember having to call an operator to put one through to my British grandparents.

 

As for the old phone exchange buildings - my understanding is that they are still very much useful.  If one has AT&T U Verse all of that is routed through the old phone exchange buildings.  And I strongly suspect important parts of the Internet are probably located in such buildings.  Given today's technology, however, I wonder if they need as much space as they once did.   At some point the old pre-Internet LAN lines are going to have to go away as it becomes increasingly difficult to maintain a network that has fewer and fewer subscribers - so I would think that would further minimize their space requirements.

 

Here is an article that describes a bit of the background as to what those towers on the Fort Worth and Dallas phone buildings were used for http://www.drgibson.com/towers/  

 

That microwave relay technology was actually what was responsible for the eventual demise of the AT&T's phone monopoly.  MCI stood for Microwave Communications Incorporated which built its own network of microwave relay towers.  Key FCC rulings made it legal for outside networks to be connected to AT&T's local phone systems - something which AT&T fought for years.  I remember some people I knew having this really odd but nifty service called MCI -  they would dial a certain phone number and then dial in their account number and the number of the person they wished to call and the call would be completed at rates lower than what AT&T charged.   A couple or so years later an anti-trust suit broke up the AT&T monopoly and made such dial around unnecessary.




#105100 SBC/AT&T Building

Posted by Dismuke on 20 August 2017 - 12:08 PM in Fort Worth Architecture

 

 

A few years back, the communications tower was removed from the AT&T Building on Live Oak in Dallas.  The building was located outside of downtown and the communications tower was built out of concrete and was a part of the building's structure.  It looked like a large drum on the roof of that building.  When it was removed, the height of that building definitely appeared to be diminished. 

 

 

Yes.   The big difference between the tower in East Dallas and the one in Fort Worth is that the East Dallas tower was kinda cool and, in my opinion, made the building look more interesting and enhanced its appearance.

 

I moved to Fort Worth before the Dallas tower was taken down.  I only noticed it after it had been removed - and to this day the building to me still looks very odd and incomplete without it.

 

At some point in my childhood I remember the building being expanded.  I also remember the tower being expanded from one level to a second level with a smaller circumference added to the top.  I seem to think that the expansion of the tower occurred later than the expansion of the building - but my memory is fuzzy.

 

My understanding is that the East Dallas building, like the one in Fort Worth, is actually a much,much older building that had been expanded many, many times over the decades due to the complexities of physically moving a big city phone exchange to a new location..

 

I think they should have kept the tower on the Dallas building.  It enhanced the building - and my guess is that its being made out of concrete would not have added too much of a maintenance burden.  And, whether it would have been structurally possible or not, it certainly would have made for a really neat place to locate a revolving restaurant.

 

Here is a link to a photo I found online of the building before the tower was taken down.  You can see the original portion of the tower at the bottom and the newer portion on top of it.  https://www.emporis....i-dallas-tx-usa

 

As I mentioned - the skyline over East Dallas simply has not looked "right" ever since the tower was taken down.




#105097 SBC/AT&T Building

Posted by Dismuke on 20 August 2017 - 11:30 AM in Fort Worth Architecture

Yeah this is definitely Soviet Block style architecture at it's worst. Lol

 

Yes.  That tower box is where Big Brother's big sister Ma Bell would sit and eavesdrop on and record our phone calls.  They don't need the tower anymore because Ma's getting up in years and they were able to outsource the job to the NSA.  

 

And the designer of the building, while trained in Moscow, was actually North Korean.  The massive windowless wall was originally put there on the premise that it would hold a giant poster of our Dear Leader.   But, as it turned out, Big Brother is camera shy and does not allow himself to be photographed.




#105096 Abandoned grocery store on Camp Bowie

Posted by Dismuke on 20 August 2017 - 11:11 AM in Ideas and Suggestions for Projects

For Lidl's sake, I hope somebody raised and they carefully thought through certain red flags about putting another grocery store in a location where so many have already come and gone.  There is such a thing as a "burned" location (no pun intended with the 1969 Western Hills fire).

 

Observe that once one goes westward down Camp Bowie past the Tom Thumb shopping center there is an abrupt transformation to where virtually all of the retail consists of ageing buildings and strip centers that now cater primarily to businesses that require low rent type space and do not rely on traffic generated by a cluster of other nearby retailers. It is as if there is a certain mental boundary beyond which people from the opposite side of I-30 do not associate with the Camp Bowie shopping district and will drive past only when they need to get to a certain Point B (for example, to access destinations beyond the traffic circle.)

 

I suppose one could explain away some of the location's previous closings.  Winn Dixie, for example, had been in a long decline in this market (and elsewhere) so its pull out from Texas was not necessarily reflective of this given store.  On the other hand, one wonders if Winn Dixie's going into that location in the first place was more out of desperation to move out of its tiny 1960s locations and this space just happened to be available. 

 

The failure of Kroger to make a go of the location ought to give pause.  Kroger is the most capable of the traditional grocery store chains that operate in the Metroplex - and they are the only one that has maintained and even expanded its market share in the face of competition from both Walmart and specialty type stores.  They successfully operate stores in both upper and lower income neighborhoods.  If Kroger could not make a go of the location - that suggests to me the problem might be with the location.

 

All of this brings to mind a conversation I observed on a different forum where I sometimes lurk.  Several people were expressing concern that Lidl is being reckless and taking on a lot of risk in their USA expansion.  The company is entering the USA market for the very first time and is, from the start, expanding very quickly.  While they are highly successful in other countries there are differences between counties that one must understand and learn about.   Lidl is expanding quickly on the east coast and then jumping all the way over to expanding in Texas - which is very different culturally than the east coast.  So they must very quickly learn the ins and outs of a new country plus learn the significant regional differences within that country while, at the same time, worrying about the normal logistics of a rapid expansion.

 

There is a reason why strong regional chains such as H-E-B, Publix and Wegmans tend to dominate their markets and make things difficult for the larger Krogers/Albertsons-Safeways/Walmarts:  They understand the nuances of their local markets and operate their companies accordingly.  Big clunky national chains have a harder time being as agile.

 

Examples of successful chains expanding without testing the waters abound.  Walmart expanded into Germany and was one of the few examples where the company pulled out of a market entirely.  They did not fully appreciate that what worked in the USA would not resonate in Germany where even high income people are often more frugal in many respects than are Americans with much lower incomes.  Walmart usually goes into a country and blows away the less efficient legacy operators.  But the Germans figured out efficiency and low prices long before Walmart entered the market. Given the country's long history of discount retail, Walmart never was able to offer a price advantage  - and given that, why go there?  Closer to home was Food Lion's massive and expensive expansion into Texas in the 1990s.   They built a bunch of brand new rinky dink stores that were carbon copies of what they offered in the southeast. They were a total flop.  At the time, Texans valued big stores and convenience and were not as price conscious as people in the southeast.

 

By contrast, Lidl's German competition Aldi South (which operates USA Aldi stores) and Aldi North (which operates Trader Joes) were in the USA for decades prior to their recent rapid expansion.

 

In the end, the question for Lidl in Texas is going to be: given that Aldi and Trader Joes are both here serving their respective price conscious demographics and are expanding and given that outside of the Metroplex is H-E-B which is a full line, full service grocer with extremely competitive pricing - what does Lidl offer that they don't and why should one go to Lidl verses the other places?  I don't know the answer to that as I have never visited a Lidl.

 

And perhaps everything I have written here will turn out to be utter nonsense.  I am not an expert on commercial real estate and my only experience with the grocery business is as a customer and observer.  I certainly have no money at stake on this - so if nothing else, it will be fun to see an additional player come to the market and see how it all turns out.




#104846 Museum Place

Posted by Dismuke on 12 August 2017 - 04:04 PM in Commercial

This week I did a Google search for images of the Kimbell sculpture and courtyard mentioned in the articles.

 

I now understand and even appreciate to a point where the Kimbell is coming from.  I can see how a tall building would detract from the room as it currently exists and spoil an aspect of it that some  may regard as special.  I will even go so far as to say it would be sad.  So the Kimbell certainly has my empathy on this - but they still don't have my support in terms of stopping the hotel.

 

I also enjoy the views of downtown offered by the cultural district - and, yes, a tall building in the near distance would spoil that view and would be something I would regard as sad. But I don't support them on that either.

 

The problem is if all the many differences between people's preferences and desires that inevitably emerge were settled on an ad hoc basis by emotion and sentiment, the world would quickly become a much more brutal place.

 

The fundamental question here is:  if you own a piece of real estate, what sort of obligations does that impose on other people - and is protecting a view one of them?   I consider the premise that there exists a right to a non-contractually agreed upon "protected view" to be highly dubious.

 

Unless one is out in the middle of nowhere with a large tract of land, it is impossible to put up a building without blocking somebody's view of something.

 

When I was a child the backyards on my parents' side of the street in the suburban tract home development we lived in overlooked a horse pasture, the surviving remnant of an old farm.  We loved that view - and were saddened when eventually bulldozers came in and the pasture was filled with tract houses and the view from our back windows became that of the backside of a couple of ugly houses. 

 

Think of how absurd it would have been for us to make some public demand that the owner of the land forever do nothing with it because it would destroy our backyard view.  And, of course, some years earlier, the construction of my parent's subdivision certainly ruined the view that older houses on the opposite side of that pasture once had. So on what ground would preserving the view from my parent's subdivision be regarded as valid but preserving the view destroyed when that subdivision was built was somehow not valid?

 

Of course, one difference between the residents in my parents' subdivision and the Kimbell is that, unlike the Kimbell, the residents did not have connections and the support of prominent and influential people and no media outlet would have even considered running articles to air their concerns.  In the same way, it is apparently acceptable to destroy serene countryside views with a sea of giant wind turbines in "flyover country" in the name of "green energy" but not ok to build them off the coast of Massachusetts and destroy the seaside views enjoyed by the wealthy and politically powerful.

 

So let's acknowledge from the get-go that, given opinions over what sort of view is considered special and worthy of protection is largely a matter of personal preference (some people couldn't care less about art and others think skylines are an ugly blight on nature) getting a particular view protected is more a matter of having the right political connections than it is about the veracity of one's case.  Again, pretty much every building blocks somebody's view of something.

 

Back in the early days of Fort Worth the view from downtown of what is now the Cultural District would have been that of rolling hills covered with native prairie grasses - which my guess is must have been beautiful.  Should Fort Worth have been forever stunted from expanding to the west in order to protect that view?

 

For a number of years the clock tower of the Tarrant County Courthouse was visible from all parts of town.  It is an impressive building and I am sure that it was the focal point from many vantages that made for a number of special views - views that were later destroyed when the downtown skyscrapers started being erected.  Should Fort Worth have forever banned skyscrapers in order to protect the multiple views of the courthouse that people may have enjoyed - the same skyscrapers that views of which the museums are now saying must be protected?

 

One of the things that stands out when one visits a remote rural area is the nighttime sky - there are so many stars and one can see the Milky Way. It is spectacular.  Here in Fort Worth most of that is invisible at night because the lights that enable us to be safe and continue on with our lives after sunset have blocked out that view.  And if you travel by road a certain distance beyond of the Metroplex at night and look back a significant portion of the sky in that direction consists of an ugly glow that contrasts with the natural darkness in the opposite direction.  Clearly you and I are, by virtue of going about our lives after dark, destroying views that people find special - views of the stars and views of the natural nighttime horizon.  Should we, therefore, ban all artificial outside lighting at night and mandate special curtains to prevent interior lighting from escaping so that people can enjoy the same nighttime sky that our distant ancestors who rarely lived past age 35 once saw?

 

One what basis are the museum's demands for the protection of a specific view somehow more valid than similar demands in the examples I provided? 

 

What such demands essentially ask for is that some aspect of the world be allowed to remain forever static when, in fact, the world around us is constantly changing.  I understand why people have such a desire - sometimes changes come along that we do not like.

 

There have been trends in architecture, popular music, in fashion and personal appearance that I do not care for at all but am constantly exposed to. Do I have a right to stop it?  Plenty of people who live in small towns hate it when the nearby city expands and new residents and developers come in forever changing and even destroying the small town/rural life they loved. Do they have a right to stop them?  Some people do not like it when large numbers of people from different demographic backgrounds or who speak a different language move to a particular neighborhood in large numbers forever altering for existing residents the feel and culture of that part of town. But by what right do they have to stop them?

 

Our personal preferences and our passions - however strong they may be - do not give us a right to demand that the rest of the world remain static and that other people's lives stand still. That is essentially what the museums are asking for.




#104691 Museum Place

Posted by Dismuke on 05 August 2017 - 07:18 PM in Commercial

This particular property is an extremely important and impactful location (Camp Bowie at Van Cliburn) to the city as whole. 

The City is being asked to provide millions of dollars in incentives to help this project.  That gives us, as the public, the right to reasonably demand that this design is very good to excellent.  This building will stand for 100+ years probably and we all deserve for it not to be a very mediocre design (as is the current design) that has not done everything it can to be compatible with its surroundings.

 

My guess is the majority of "the public" - i.e, the 850,000 some odd residents of Fort Worth - have little, if any at all, familiarity with the intersection the hotel will sit on. Most can probably count on their fingers the number of times in their entire lives they have visited the Cultural District for reasons other than going to the Stock Show.  And if the Stock Show were to move to Six Flags, apart from the extra drive, I doubt that most would care.

 

And I guarantee you that the vast majority of those 850,000 people do not have particularly strong opinions about architecture.  People like you, me and the others here who are architecture geeks are the exception, not the rule.  Most people would regard our passion and interest in the subject as eccentric at best - and some would go so far as to regard us as being borderline freaks. And the vast majority of the population has little to no interest in art museums and the only time they will ever step inside one is as children on school field trips.

 

I also guarantee you that the vast majority of "the public" is not aware that they are being expected to provide "incentives" to subsidize a five star hotel that will cost more per room per night than any hotel most of them will ever be able to afford so that affluent out-of-towners (who can easily afford a taxi or rental car) can instead take a leisurely stroll to their visit to the museums.  

 

My very strong guess is that if "the public" actually was aware of what was going on, the only "demand" that they would have is that the subsidies be withdrawn and be either returned to them or redirected towards something that they feel would be relevant to their lives.  Most of the population struggles to make ends meet - and they are not particularly keen on the notion of providing subsidies to those who do not face a similar struggle.

 

Personally, looking at the drawings presented here, my own opinion is that the proposed hotel is butt ugly.  Perhaps the finished product will look better than the drawings which is sometimes the case. I visit the Cultural District fairly frequently as it is one of the places I like to go to when I take a long walk. It is not a building that I would particularly want to look at - but there are a lot of buildings that I feel that way about both in the Cultural District and everywhere else in the city.  At the end of the day it is just my opinion.  I tend to have very strong opinions when it comes to architecture.  I guess what makes me different from others is that I don't pretend that developers and property owners somehow have any sort of obligation to take my opinions into consideration - especially in cases where I am not even a potential customer for the project's end use.




#104689 Museum Place

Posted by Dismuke on 05 August 2017 - 03:12 PM in Commercial

 

If I were the property owner and this proposal somehow gets derailed, I would divert all of the resources I could muster to cover that plot with a Chicken Express, a CVS, and a drive through bank.  Talk about sticking up an architectural middle finger.

 

Yep.  My sentiments too. Except I would put in a Dollar General - with a big parking lot complete with oil stains and tacky looking light poles that emit a harsh florescent glow at night.  And I would hang strings of multi-colored shiny foil triangular flags running between the building and the furthest light pole. And along the perimeter of the parking lot nearest the street I would have portable stand up signs advertising lotto tickets and cheap generic cigarettes.  And maybe I could get the T to install an extra large bus stop shelter along the sidewalk  - one that could offer temporary refuge for homeless people and others caught outdoors during a downpour (we do want to be compassionate to the less fortunate, don't we?).  And my guess is the Dollar General would actually do a brisk business both from the surrounding neighborhood and from visitors of the museum.

 

I am all for people having good taste and high aesthetic standards - something which has often been lacking in recent decades.  But, nevertheless, I can't stand pretentious self-appointed aesthetic cops and good taste Nazis.  People build all sorts of buildings that I think are ugly or which I dislike for a variety of other reasons.  I don't take it upon myself to try and stop them.  

 

Freedom includes the freedom to do things that other people do not like and that other people do not approve of - and that is especially true when it comes to anything having to do with the arts and aesthetics.

 

Perhaps the Kimball will someday decide to show paintings that certain people - maybe even a lot of people - disapprove of.  Maybe those people will regard the paintings as morally and aesthetically degenerate and suggest that they are not a "good fit" for Fort Worth and the Cultural District and are inconsistent with the community's aesthetic aspirations.  Maybe those people will start squawking enough and try to intimidate the Kimball into not showing the paintings.  After all, certain people do not like the paintings - they do not approve of the paintings and they do not feel that displaying them is good for the city.

 

The Kimball has no more right to dictate how other people design buildings than other people have a right to dictate what art the Kimball does and does not show.  And if the Kimball wants control and veto power over what does and does not get built on property adjoining its museum then it needs to raise funds to either buy up neighboring properties or else move to a location where it can build a museum within a certain perimeter of land that it does own. 




#104687 Central Tourism District

Posted by Dismuke on 05 August 2017 - 01:46 PM in Urban Design and Planning

 

 

Of course shoppers couldn't get too excited about downtown pedestrian malls when many other malls and shopping centers were being constructed in the fringe suburbs during the '60s and '70s.  Thanks mainly to convenient access afforded by the automobile.  And why go downtown to shop at a mall or do anything else there the amenities are nearby your neighborhood

 

Yes, that is true.  But here's what's interesting: many downtowns across the country managed to eventually enjoy a revival despite the fact that that the automobile remains as entrenched as ever as people's primary means of transportation.  And Fort Worth actually had the distinction of being among the first USA cities to experience a downtown revival.

 

So why did the efforts in the 1960s and 1970s fail while later efforts were successful?

 

I think Fort Worth's downtown revival offers some clues.

 

I think the biggest reason why Fort Worth's revival worked is that its efforts did not attempt to challenge or compete with the rise of suburban shopping centers and malls.  Suburban shopping offered conveniences and advantages that downtown stores were simply not able to provide. Trying to compete with the suburbs on their own terms was a losing battle in the same way that a mom and pop retailer trying to compete with Walmart on price is not likely to succeed. Yet trying to compete with the suburbs was the premise behind many of the downtown pedestrian malls and they completely failed to address the actual reasons why people were abandoning downtown in the first place.

 

In Fort Worth, by contrast, the Bass family's successful efforts did not even attempt to take on or challenge the reality of the suburbs.  Instead, they found a way to differentiate downtown from the suburbs and drew up their plans and marketing to provide people with a reason for coming to downtown.

 

What they did was actually quite innovative:  in an era when the most vocal mindset held that old buildings and surviving remnants of the past were eyesores that needed to be removed in the name of sterile, Brutalist "progress" they fixed up and revived a bunch of old, decaying buildings.

 

Now, people could have done that all along. But observe that what they drew upon for their branding and marketing was something that no newfangled suburban shopping center could ever offer: a sense of place and a physical connection to our history and heritage.

 

Observe that the Basses named their effort Sundance Square after a late 19th century bank and train robber who visited downtown Fort Worth a handful of times.  But he wasn't just any random thug among the countless criminals who have spent time in our city - he had what you have to admit was a really cool and catchy nickname and one that was very well-known as a result of recent Hollywood movie depictions.  This was an era in which people still watched television and movie Westerns and a romanticized fascination with the Wild West still part of the popular culture.   And downtown Fort Worth was part of all that - and it offers a physical connection to the time, events and people of our past that you, too, can be part of by walking those exact same streets.  And that's kinda cool.  How many suburban shopping centers can offer that?

 

There are all sorts of other eras between the 1840s and today and countless famous individuals who have been to downtown Fort Worth just as often and most likely more often than the Sundance Kid that one could tell a fascinating story about and legitimately capitalize on.   But the Sundance angle was undoubtedly one of that made a lot of sense.

 

Of course, there was more to it than just fixing up buildings and marketing a slice of history.  It is not as if history museums and historical parks are overflowing with large crowds of visitors.  The history was the "hook" that got people's attention - but people need more than that to keep coming back after an initial visit.

 

The other thing they did was focus on attracting businesses that did not directly compete with suburban shopping centers - businesses that people visited during their leisure time.  Most people don't want to put up with time drains and hassles when running shopping errands - suburban shopping has a strong advantage in that area.  But people tend to do leisure type activities when they are not as pressed for time - thus downtown's convenience disadvantage is not as much of a factor when it comes to that.

 

Unlike the pedestrian malls of the 1960s and 1970s downtown Fort Worth did not fight the reality of the automobile- it accommodated it by providing plenty of parking.  Had the Basses instead lectured people that automobiles are evil and that one ought to ride the bus to Sundance Square, few would have bothered to show up.

 

And, importantly, downtown Fort Worth was able to successfully make people feel safe coming downtown during an era in which there was a widespread perception that the central city was high-crime and venturing downtown was dangerous.  In some parts of the country such a perception was valid - in others not so much.   But this is one of those cases where the perception sometimes is more influential than the actual reality.   And even if the decaying downtowns of the era were not actually dangerous, the decline meant that after business hours those remaining on the streets tended to be increasingly poor and destitute.  Most panhandlers aren't dangerous to anybody but themselves.  But even people who are highly compassionate about the plight of the homeless do not particularly enjoy being panhandled.

 

Over time, after the initial efforts were successful, enough critical mass was achieved in downtown Fort Worth to attract people for reasons other than the Wild West angle.  In fact, my guess is that there are plenty of young twenty somethings walking the streets of downtown who would would be hard-pressed to tell you who the Sundance Kid was.  Today a romanticized version of "urban" life is popular and there are people whose initial draw to the center city is based upon that.  But in both cases there is one common denominator:  people drawn to downtown based on a certain novelty factor of it NOT being like the suburbs.  Ask someone why they have moved to downtown or the central city and their answer will usually be that it offers them something that they cannot obtain in the suburbs.

 

The problem in the 1960s and 1970s was that there was no way to reverse the downward spiral that was happening in downtowns across the country.  They were experiencing a phenomenon similar to what we have seen in recent decades with "dying malls."   After a certain number of important tenants move out the mall begins to lose the critical mass of drawing power that its success depends on and it becomes increasingly difficult get it back.  Eventually, to at least bring in some sort of revenue, the owners resort to leasing space to technical schools, barber colleges and other businesses that need cheap rent but whose customers will go to pretty much anyplace they happen to be located.  At that point the only thing the mall has to offer tenants is cheap space.  Over time the low rent might not even be enough to cover the costs of maintenance - in which case it might make more sense for the owners to just close the building down entirely.

 

That is essentially what downtowns were experiencing in the 1960s and 1970s - and putting in a pedestrian mall was about as effective as a mall on its last legs building an improved food court without having signed up any tenants for it.  Yes, the automobile was a major influence on what was happening to downtowns in the 1960s and 1970s - but, as with dying malls, the same phenomenon can happen in cases were automobiles are not a factor. 

 

What the Basses did was not so much stop the downward spiral in downtown Fort Worth but rather start over and create a brand new upward spiral. It is example of why, rather than struggling to overcome one's weaknesses and disadvantages, the best course of action is often to mitigate them to whatever degree one can and instead focus on building upon one's strengths and the qualities that make one unique.




#104365 Central Tourism District

Posted by Dismuke on 22 July 2017 - 11:13 AM in Urban Design and Planning

We haven't discussed much the future transportation scheme for downtown Fort Worth (or any major city's downtown).  My futuristic vision is for a downtown entirely devoted to pedestrian access and people movers.   It could be by electric trolley car, overhead monorail, subway, or even a hyper-loop system.  But no more access by automobiles.  Of course that would mean either demolishing the parking garages and parking lots or converting them for other uses.  This would make our downtown a more "user-friendly" trafficking place, for commercial markets, government offices, residential housing, or tourism businesses.

 

It sounds like it would be a neat idea for somebody who is able to live, work and shop downtown and rarely has need to venture beyond its boundaries. 

 

But what about people in the vast geographic area of the Metroplex beyond downtown?   Would this make them more inclined to go downtown or less inclined to go downtown?  If it makes large numbers of people less inclined to go downtown, what impact would this have on the decisions of employers, shops and restaurants to locate downtown?   For obvious reasons, the preferences and convenience of employees and customers is something that any business has to give serious consideration to.

 

In the end, unless such a vision is just a fun exercise in fantasy (and there is nothing wrong with such fun and the seeds of valuable practical ideas can sometimes emerge from it) for it to be an actual success it has to pass the test of whether sufficient numbers of real life ordinary people will look upon it as a benefit and support it financially.

 

In the 1960s - 1980s downtown pedestrian malls were very trendy with central planner types as a means of reversing the decline of downtowns and making them viable and relevant in the age of suburban shopping malls.  And if one were to look at such proposals from the period in an out of context manner, they did sound kinda cool -  streets would be converted into nicely landscaped walkways where people could quaintly stroll to shops and restaurants in a picturesque setting not having to worry about the noise, smell and hazards of traffic and crossing streets.  Cities all over the country jumped on board desperate to do something.   By the 1990s, with a handful of exceptions, they were an utter failure and only accelerated the rate of decline. Most ended up being either ripped out completely or significantly modified to bring back the traffic.

 

I am sure one can come up with a lengthy list of the various factors that contributed to the failure of the downtown pedestrian malls. In the end, they all boil down to this:  once they were built the same public that supported the idea and vision of a downtown pedestrian mall and supported the use of taxpayer funds to construct them failed to support them in the way that actually mattered.by personally going downtown on a regular basis and spending money at the businesses along the mall.

 

In other words, the very same people who supported the idea of a downtown pedestrian mall were not motivated to actually use it themselves because it had no relevance and offered no benefit or convenience to their actual day-to-day life.  Perhaps they visited it once or twice to check it out and "show support" but beyond that, they had no compelling need or desire to go there.

 

Such people hold what I call the "Field of Dreams premise: "Build it and other people will magically appear to enthusiastically support it because.....well, because it is such a darned good idea!"    Who these "other people" are, where they will come from and why they would even want to show up in the first place is not thought of beyond the premise of "well...they ought to show up because it is such a darned good idea."

 

Most people's daily lives have to contend with two constant obstacles to their goals, dreams and aspirations: a shortage of time and money.   Any idea or proposal that requires them to spend some combination of time and money that does not give them in return something they perceive as being of greater value is going to necessarily be viewed by them as either an inconvenience, a hassle or a burden.  The world is filled with all sorts of projects and endeavors that failed because people have this inconvenient habit of not supporting things that they regard as an inconvenience, hassle or burden.

 

The very people who supported the idea of pedestrian malls did not support them when they were built because they regarded the expenditure of time and money to support them in the only way that actually mattered to be either an inconvenience, a hassle or a financial burden.   Such malls failed to address in a serious way the reasons why downtowns were declining in the first place - and, in some cases such as the parking hassles and extra expenditure of time associated with shopping downtown, were made even worse.   The "other people" never came out of the woodwork - because there were not enough people whose lives would have been sufficiently improved by showing up and spending money.  

 

The world is full of "darned good ideas" - more than any single person could possibly support.  Most people don't have much bandwidth left after dealing with the day to day challenges of their lives - so they are choosy as to how they use it.

 

I often spot the same fallacy in conversations about public transit: people who I suspect would be very unlikely to actually use public transit themselves are passionate about the idea of public transit and passionately support various proposals on the premise that if it is built "other people" will come out of the woodwork and enthusiastically use it because...well, because it is such a darned good idea!

 

So the idea envisioned here - well, it sounds cool.  But the question is: who will show up? 

 

If I live elsewhere in the city and get around by automobile, is this something that is going to make it easier and more enticing for me to go downtown?  Or will the fact that I will have to spend time finding a parking space on the outskirts and then spend additional time waiting around for some sort of people mover to, at an additional expenditure of my time, take me where I want to go?  If so, what benefit would I get in return to make that expenditure of time worthwhile?   What if I work downtown and have to spend that additional amount of time getting to work each morning?  How many people would welcome having to spend even more time getting to and from work than they do already? 

 

If the answer is people will use transit to get to downtown instead of an automobile - then the same questions apply.  There is a time expenditure as well as logistical concerns associated with transit - including the time and logistics of getting to the nearest transit stop to one's home. And what about people who, with an automobile, run multiple errands after work on their way home?   That can be very difficult with transit - one is limited in what one can carry as well as limited by the selection of shops in convenient distance from transit stops plus the time spent waiting for a streetcar/bus to get back on after each stop.

 

If one attempts to implement some sort of project or vision without addressing such practical, day to day issues - the project is most likely doomed to become an expensive failure.  Private companies using private funds tend to be good about such research and inquiry (though not always) because they have limited access to capital and face financial and career consequences if the endeavor fails.  People who propose public works projects are not as good at that - because they are spending other people's money.

 

A project or vision does not have to appeal to everybody.  But it has to appeal to enough people for it to be a self-sustaining success and not a failure. I am not saying that the futuristic vision offered here is not possible.  I am just saying that if it is possible, there will have to be a large enough number of real world people who will derive real life everyday practical benefit from it for reasons beyond the fact that it sounds like a darned good idea. 




#104312 Central Tourism District

Posted by Dismuke on 17 July 2017 - 05:39 AM in Urban Design and Planning

 

It is odd for me to accept that parking one's car in a suburb is to be considered an amenity; and a free one at that.  Even if paying for parking downtown is onerous,  replacing a car 1-2 times in 10 years, fueling it, servicing it, etc. is equally as onerous. 

 

 

 

But most people who live in downtown Fort Worth already have a car.  It would be extremely difficult for most people to live there without one - so they, too,  have to fuel, service and eventually replace a car.   Besides, you were the one who staunchly disagreed when I suggested that it was absurd to expect a downtown resident to be inclined to make the same sort of grinding commute to Dallas that lots of people in other parts of the city make.

 

 

How many actual hours of use do you derive from having a car? How many actual hours of use do you derive from living in a downtown that can be active reach a 1-16 hours of lifestyle each and everyday? Of all the amenities that one could cite as being preferable about living in suburbia as oppose to living in a downtown neighborhood, the satisfaction of car parking strikes me as the least among them.

 

Well, if you haven't already noticed, some people are REALLY into cars.  They enjoy having them and they enjoy driving them for reasons above and beyond the fact that in our part of the world they are also a practical necessity.  Some enjoy it to the point that they have more vehicles then they actually "need" for purpose of getting from point A to point B.   You may or may not share that passion and that is your choice and prerogative - just as it is theirs. .

 

 

And to the suggestion that one can prefer the neighborhood in suburbs over a place that has been purposefully downgraded as a place to be inhabited by the dictates of the auto and affiliated industry is unfair to downtown.

 

There is nothing fair or unfair about it.   People's preferences are what they are - and they base them on their own needs, desires and values.  If, for some reason, they choose to act contrary to their preferences out of some sort of sense of obligation or need to be "just" that doesn't change what their preferences are. They are simply acting contrary to their preferences.

 

And I would add that someone choosing to ignore their actual preferences and living downtown when they would, in fact, prefer to live in the suburbs because downtown "needs" more people and, according to you, has somehow gotten the short end of the stick - well, I would suggest that would be a horrible act of self-sacrifice.

 

And, guess what?  It is not as if downtown would even be aware of the sacrifice to be grateful to it - just as downtown is not aware of nor can it feel the pain of the injustice that you say has been inflicted on it. Downtown is not some sort of conscious, living and breathing entity capable of experiencing joy or pain or anything else.  Downtown is a geographic space occupied by streets, lots and buildings - i.e., it is a collection of inanimate objects.  The concepts of fair and unfair, just and unjust are only applicable to human beings.  To apply them to inanimate objects is to anthropomorphize.

 

 

Women in Saudi Arabia may prefer riding in the back seat of a car, but is it really a preference when it is dictated by the interests of others? It is unfair to those women's ability to drive if given the chance.

 

 

That is actually a horrible example.   The situation faced by women in Saudi Arabia is NOT merely a matter of being "unfair."  Women in Saudi Arabia are victims of raw, savage brute force inflicted upon them by a barbaric culture and a barbaric government - and if they disobey they are subjected to unspeakable and brutal consequences.  It is the same as suggesting that the Holocaust was "unfair" - to say that diminishes and negates the full scope of its evil.   I KNOW that it is not your intention to do this - that's why I wanted to point this out.

 

In Saudi Arabia women are not allowed to have a preference - period.  People here do have a choice to live downtown or not.  And the fact that downtown lacks certain things that would entice more people to live there is not the result of Saudi Arabia like brute force.  Much of it, in fact, is marketplace driven - i.,e, the cumulative result of other people's choices and preferences.  For example, Fort Worth does not have any decent Indian grocery markets - I have to drive to Irving to find one.  That is not unfair at all - there simply aren't sufficient numbers of people here to have the interest in supporting one.  By contrast, there are lots of Indians who live in Irving.   You might be able to make a case that public policy decisions in the past have artificially boosted the suburbs and handicapped downtown - and I might even agree with this to a certain degree.  But even so, that is not something on a Saudi Arabia scale.   That would be along the same lines of someone trying to equate the mandatory seat belt laws in Texas to the prohibition against women driving in Saudi Arabia.  Both are examples of compulsion - but to draw equivalency between the two lacks not just a sense of proportion but minimizes the sheer evil of what occurs in Saudi Arabia.




#104303 Central Tourism District

Posted by Dismuke on 16 July 2017 - 06:02 PM in Urban Design and Planning

 


 

 

#1 - Yes; a point that has been conceded earlier as being valid in specific situations. However, can it  "truly" be his preference when most of what the post-war boom did to redefine cities was determined by the auto/highway industry, the housing industry, big-box malls/retailing industry.  Instead of stating ones preference, one would be more precise is stating that what has been dictated to one is what one likes.  A preference is only truly a preference when one has a viable option, like when one prefers "chocolate ice cream to strawberry ice cream".

 

This is degenerating into hair splitting and becoming unnecessarily complicated.

 

All johnfwd did was make some fact-based observations about the current state of downtown and indicated that it is not a good fit for him given the options available to him elsewhere. That is ALL he said - nothing more.  It really is that simple.

 

To use your ice cream example - most people when offered a choice of chocolate or strawberry ice cream either choose one or the other or they politely decline ice cream altogether. They don't come up with thoughts that, because coffee, coconut and cinnamon flavors were not also offered, it means that they were not "truly" able to express a preference or that because they happen to be lactose intolerant the lack of a dairy-free option  means that they never had a choice to begin with. They either say "chocolate please" or "strawberry please" or "no thank you."

 

 

Of course, somewhere near to 99% of American cities do not have a viable option today, but those very few cities that offer options have a population that in significant number love and prefer an auto-less lifestyle where consumer goods and services providers have been eager to deliver; and at reasonable prices.  I

 

Yes.  And there are also plenty of people who have left such cities for places like Texas and are glad to be rid of them.   For example, I have heard a lot of people over the years express how delighted they were that, after moving to Texas, for the same price as rent on a cramped not-so-nice apartment in New York City they were able to afford a mortgage on a house that was downright huge by comparison with its own back yard and/or pool.   Others couldn't care less about having such things and there are still others who think owning a house with a back yard is evil and a mortal sin against Mother Gaia. It all depends on what one regards as important and what one values.




#104301 Central Tourism District

Posted by Dismuke on 16 July 2017 - 12:14 PM in Urban Design and Planning

 

 

For one, there are no major supermarkets or discount department stores in downtown Fort Worth.  The Walmarts, Targets, Tom Thumbs, and the like are apt to locate outside the CBD.  There used to be a Woolworth's and a 5-and-dime store, but no longer.  I don't like shopping at the downtown retail specialty stores for clothes, as the prices are too high.  For food and other consumer products, the Walgreens drug store on Texas Street doesn't fit the bill, its prices are too high and they don't stock produce.  Those tiny storefront beer-and-cigarette convenience stores here and there downtown don't impress me.

 

 

It is certainly true that downtown, unlike the urban areas of certain other cities, is pretty much a void in terms of shopping within easy walking distance.  A downtown resident who does not have access to a car is pretty much in the same position as residents in so-called "food deserts" who lack transportation and whose only nearby shopping options are convenience stores and, if they are lucky, maybe a dollar store or Walgreens.

 

Most downtown residents, however, do have cars.  And for them the stores you mention are no further away than they are for many residents who live in the suburbs.   There is a SuperTarget, a Tom Thumb and a Natural Grocers a short drive west on West 7th.  There is a Walmart Supercenter a short drive up Jacksboro Highway and another a short drive away at 121 and Beach.  I suspect that there are many suburban areas where the drive to such stores is just as far if not further.  Plus the drive from downtown to the nearest Central Market is a lot shorter than it is for most suburbanites.

 

I think the big point here is that, unless you have unique circumstances, having a car is a necessity even for those who live downtown.  And yet owning a car downtown is a hassle.

 

I was driving through the dense urbanesque portion of Dallas known as Uptown a couple of years ago with a friend.  I was wanting to go to a chain Mexican restaurant that had a location there and discovered that the only parking available was valet parking.  I hate valet parking - it is a hassle and I do not like handing my vehicle over to someone else. I didn't even bother to inquire if I would have to pay extra for that "service."  I just pulled out my Google Maps and drove to a location further out where I knew I would be able to park without a hassle.

 

My friend pointed out that the so-called "urban" districts here in the Metroplex are at still at the point where they offer the WORST aspects of both urban and suburban areas and the advantages of neither.  They offer the worst aspects of the suburbs in that it impractical for most to get by without the expense and hassle of owning and maintaining a car.  They offer the worst aspects of urban areas in that everything is expensive, shopping options are limited and traffic and finding parking is a time-consuming hassle.

 

In the big cities with urban areas that are actually practical to live in, it is possible to enjoy the benefits of BOTH urban and suburban life.  For example, I have a friend who had to move from Houston to Boston for career reasons.  He and his wife went from a rented three bedroom house to a cramped studio apartment in the Back Bay that cost much more than the rented house - and, of course, there was no way they could have afforded to keep their cars.  They were able to get by without a car just fine.  But the nearest grocery store was a Whole Paych...errr, I mean, Whole Foods.  And all of the other stores were expensive as well.   But Boston had ZipCars which one could rent by the hour.  So what they did was rent a ZipCar once a month and drove out to the suburbs where they would visit big box stores and stock up on non-perishables, toiletries and such at prices low enough to offset the cost of the car rental and the travel time.   It amused me when I noted the similarities to what people in rural areas do - the small town stores have very little in the way of selection and prices are high.  So rural people usually make a periodic trip to the nearest regional population center in order stock up on items that they cannot obtain locally.

 

The advent of  two day and even same day delivery by online merchants such as Amazon is likely going to be a revolutionary godsend for people in both urban and rural areas in that it will bring suburban pricing and a range of selection that is even better than what is available in the suburbs to their doorsteps.

 

And, in reverse, if one lives in the suburban outskirts of Boston or New York, all one has to do is hop on a transit line to enjoy everything the city has to offer - and when they get to their destination they can go anywhere they need without a car.   Here, when one gets off at a T stop or a DART stuff, that which is available within easy walking distance is limited, and, in some cases, EXTREMELY limited.

 

In that sense, our area doesn't even have an "urban" area in the same sense as what exists in New York or Boston.  A car is still a necessity for the vast majority of people and the lack of a car usually translates into hassle and lost opportunities.  What we have are "urbanesque" areas.  But if such areas continue to do well and reach a certain critical mass, that could change.  And technology could change things too.  The advent of Amazon same day delivery, services such as Uber and who knows what else is on the horizon could potentially bridge a lot of gaps.




#104300 Central Tourism District

Posted by Dismuke on 16 July 2017 - 11:11 AM in Urban Design and Planning

 

Yet to the finer point surrounding car parking "suburbs v. downtown", doesn't the final analysis depends upon the situation that can make for different realities?

 

 

Yes.  Exactly.  Which is what I pointed out in my posting.  

 

In the suburbs a dwelling that did not include parking would be perceived by most prospective residents as being significantly flawed.  Developers are not going to build suburban housing that does not include parking because the discount they would have to offer in order to sell or rent such a property would far exceed the relatively marginal cost of including parking spaces.  There are people who live in the suburbs who do not use cars - for example, people with disabilities that make it impossible for them to drive.  But even they would be ill-advised to request a house to be built without parking in order to save on the cost of pouring a driveway because of the extreme difficulties and reduced offers they would encounter in the event that they or their heirs put the property up for sale.

 

In Manhattan, by contrast, the lack of space makes the cost of even a tiny amount of square footage extremely expensive  If a seller or landlord were to include parking in the price of a dwelling that price would be cost prohibitive to most buyers/tenants. Thus including a parking space would make it more difficult to find a buyer or tenant in the same way that not including one would make it difficult to find a buyer or tenant in Plano.

 

Because of the scarcity of space, owning a car in most of New York City has been highly impractical ever since cars were first introduced.  For that reason the pre-automobile era infrastructure in New York and a few other cities in the USA remained in place to such a degree that one still can get by without a car.  In the rest of the country, for example, here in Texas, that pre-automobile era infrastructure began to slowly disappear as soon as cars became increasingly affordable.

 

 

If johnfwd, who must surely realize the difference between an auto and a transit oriented city v. "cars", can admit that his preference cannot be actualized in Fort Worth; then he will admit that his preference cannot be a reasonable choice.

 

I think you are misrepresenting johnfwd's actual position and trying to find a point of contention that does not exist.

 

Johnfwd made certain observations about downtown that are entirely factual: downtown shops are high priced and offer limited selection and that one has to pay extra for parking.  He then suggests that he prefers having certain amenities that are available in the suburbs but which are either not available downtown or which are only available at a higher price.

 

One can certainly say that one's own personal set of priorities and preferences are different than johnfwd's - but there are no grounds to suggest that his preference here is somehow unreasonable.  Most people prefer to have handy, affordable and hassle-free access to the amenities that are important to them - and it is eminently reasonable for them to do so.   Johnfwd was not knocking downtown.  He was simply pointing out that it currently lacks certain amenities that are important to him and thus living downtown is not a fit for him. I saw no indication that he was in any way suggesting that it might not be a great fit for someone else who might have different priorities and preferences.

 

My own attitude towards lifestyle preferences is really simple:  so long as they don't involve the initiation of force or fraud against someone else, your lifestyle preferences are your business and nobody else's.  Life is short - know what is important and precious to you and live your life accordingly.




#104293 Central Tourism District

Posted by Dismuke on 15 July 2017 - 06:21 PM in Urban Design and Planning

If you are paying for your residence in the suburbs, you are paying to park.  The cost is rolled into your house payment, rent, etc.  It didn't come with the house or apartment for free.

 

Yes, that is of course correct.  But in the final analysis - not so much. 

 

It is like the "free" water that pretty much any restaurant will give to customers.  The water, of course, is not free.  The restaurant pays a water bill to cover all of the costs associated with piping it to the restaurant.  The restaurant also pays for cups and for the costs associated with making the ice - both of which cost more than the water itself.  But those costs are so marginal that to break them out and pass them on to customers as a separate fee would end up being penny wise/pound foolish on the part of the restaurant. 

 

Sure, the savings from not having to subsidize the cost of "free" water could be passed on to customers who either drink nothing or who pay for drinks such as coffee or soda.  But the savings would be so minimal as to be irrelevant to most customers.  More importantly, if such a restaurant charged for water, it would be received negatively  by a number of customers who would perceive the owners as little more than anal retentive cheapskates who seek to nickle and dime their customers.   The damage to the restaurants reputation and customer satisfaction would cost far more than any savings that might result from not subsidizing "free" water.

 

It would be an entirely different matter if certain circumstances were changed.  For example, if the restaurant were located in a part of the world where the local water supply was not safe and the only water fit for drinking was bottled water the owners would most likely not be in a position to provide complimentary water because of the costs associated with providing bottled water - and that would be something most customers would be able to understand and not hold against the restaurant.

 

A good example of how something like this can vary according to different circumstances is hotel rooms with private bathrooms.  Up until a little less than a hundred years ago, if one wanted a hotel room with a private bath it was common practice for one to have to pay extra.   Most hotels provided shared bathroom facilities  - a room with a private bath was considered a luxury.   Over time, however, the cost associated with installing plumbing fell to the point that hotel rooms without a private bathroom were no longer built.  The only place one will still find them today in the United States are in older hotels in places such as New York City.

 

Sure, a hotel could still save money on construction costs by building shared bathroom facilities rather than a private bathroom in each room.  But the savings would be so marginal as to not be worth it.  Let's say that over the course of however many years the savings could result in a $5 per night reduction in the price of a hotel room.   How many people would be willing to endure the hassles associated with staying in such a facility just to save $5?   Chances are the discount the hotel would have to offer for such a room would far exceed the savings that would be obtained by omitting the private bath.  Therefore, when you book a room at even the lowest end budget motel chain, a "free" private bathroom will be included with your room - along with "free" use of a TV, and other things. Most hotels now offer "free" internet - something that, a few years ago, had to be purchased as an add-on.

 

The same principle applies with regard to suburban parking spaces.  Of course such parking spaces are not free.  They occupy space which presumably has a certain value per square foot and, of course, the material and labor to pave the parking space is not free either.  But just as it does not make economic sense to build new hotel rooms without private baths, it makes no sense to build a suburban housing without parking.  Yes, there would be a certain cost savings by omitting parking - but the reduction in property value or the rent one could charge would far exceed any such savings.  For that reason, no suburban developer in his right mind would build houses that did not include a driveway and most likely they would not even build a house that did not include a garage.   Therefore, parking is "free" in the suburbs just as water is in restaurants and bathrooms, air conditioning/heat, the use of a TV, etc is included for "free" whenever one books a hotel room.

 

The only reason parking is not "free" in urban areas is entirely due to land scarcity - which, of course, makes the cost of providing such parking expensive.  In this case, it makes sense to break the cost of parking out and bill for it separately because tenants who are able to get by with one parking space instead of two or perhaps with no parking space at all results in a significant savings that can be passed on.

 

So it is entirely reasonable for johnfwd to prefer to park his car for "free" in the suburbs than pay for parking downtown.  In the suburbs the cost of a parking space is a marginal part of the price of the property and is, therefore, included with it.  In downtown parking is scarce and thus one has to pay a steep price for it. It is not as if the cost of downtown housing is less expensive than suburban housing due to the lack of included parking.  Quite the contrary - even without parking downtown housing is expensive.  Therefore, there are certain premiums one has to pay and/or hassles one has to endure in order to live downtown.  For some people it is worth it - for others it is not.  How would you enjoy staying in a hotel where you had to swipe your credit card to activate the television, the shower, the toilet and to ensure that the air conditioner/heater continues to operate for a certain number of additional hours without realizing any sort of cost savings by your not using such amenities?  You probably won't appreciate it very much - but it is conceivable that some people might be willing to do so if such a hotel were able to offer some other value that made such costs and hassles worth enduring.

 

My strong guess is economists have a technical name for the principle involved here - I just don't know what it is.

 




#104040 Central Tourism District

Posted by Dismuke on 02 July 2017 - 03:08 PM in Urban Design and Planning

Bud Kennedy proposes something a little different. Central Education District?

http://amp.star-tele...e159270849.html

 

I wonder if there are any colleges looking to perhaps relocate to a more vibrant area.  Wouldn't it be neat for a college to go into some or all of the historic buildings XTO is vacating?  There certainly are colleges that are located in urban buildings that had previous uses.  The article mentions colleges in Boston. One of those is Emerson College which is located in various older buildings - including two very historic theaters that the college has restored.  And New York City's 10 story Asch Building built in 1900 and the scene of the horrific and infamous 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire which killed 146 people has been part of the New York University campus since about 1916. (I checked the building out once when I was in New York though was not able to go inside. It was very creepy standing there remembering the photos of I had seen of bodies on the same sidewalks decades earlier. I can't imagine going to class on the floors where it all happened without thinking about it)

 

Given the layout of XTO's buildings, one could easily include a few floors of dorm rooms.

 

My guess is that there probably aren't all that many colleges looking to move - and I have no idea of how the cost of buying the buildings would compare to other options for a campus.   But it would nevertheless be cool.




#104025 Central Tourism District

Posted by Dismuke on 01 July 2017 - 12:44 PM in Urban Design and Planning

 

(1) If people live in WR or CTR, they will be living there for reasons other than employment.  Why can't people live in Downtown for reasons other than employment?

 

 

People can and do live downtown for reasons other than proximity to employment.  And that completely misses the point.  People currently do live downtown because of its proximity to their jobs.  If those jobs go away so will the people who live downtown for that reason - and thus downtown will no longer be able to serve that segment of the residential market that it currently serves. 

 

If such people cannot live in close proximity to their jobs in downtown Fort Worth they will find someplace else to live - and not necessarily in the Metroplex.  There are  people who put up with punitive taxes and high costs of living in certain cities simply because they offer lifestyle options that places like Fort Worth are not in a position to provide. Residential districts in other parts of the Metroplex are not the only competition the downtown housing market faces - people can always choose to move to another part of the country altogether.
 

 

2) It is generally an accepted fact that a significant amount of workers commute from Fort Worth to Dallas. If the jobs are in Dallas, why do people continue to live in Fort Worth. Again, it seems evident to me that people live where they live for reasons other than employment.

 

 

 

And the operative word here is: such people "continue" to live in Fort Worth.   My very strong hunch is that most people who have nasty rush hour commutes to Dallas/Dallas County are those who already lived in Fort Worth before beginning their current jobs and either cannot afford to relocate or have the logistical difficulty of having to sell a house before a relocation is possible or because their spouse still works in Fort Worth or because they have school/social ties that they do not wish to break.

 

Not many people who have a Dallas County job that pays well enough to afford a downtown Fort Worth apartment are going to choose to relocate all the way out to downtown Fort Worth where their free time will be sucked away sitting in one hour plus traffic congestion two times each weekday.

 

If Downtown is populated by a greater proportion of renters than ownership, what is the harm to Downtown. When consuming services, purchasing food, patronizing restaurants, entertainment and cultural events, what does it matter to the businesses in Downtown how the customer provides for their lodging..

 

 

It doesn't particularly matter to retailers and entertainment venues whether their customers own or rent - they are more than happy to take anybody's money. In fact, my hunch is that a high proportion of renters is a plus for such businesses because the types of renters who have plenty of disposable income tend to place a higher priority on restaurant and entertainment venues than do people who "settle down" and live in the suburbs whose time and spending priorities tend to be in other areas.

 

Again, all of this misses the point.  Where rent verses own is relevant in this context is not how people spend their money but the degree of people's mobility and thus their stability in terms of how long they tend to stay in one place.  

 

A neighborhood where people own is more able to withstand changes in the overall marketplace because it is not as easy to relocate if one owns a home as when one rents.  If the economy takes a nosedive people may be "stuck" in their houses and unable to move without extremely adverse consequences if they are upside down in their mortgages.  Renters in a down economy have more flexibility to seek opportunities elsewhere when their leases expire.  And rental districts are much more subject to fluctuations in terms of what is popular and trendy.  If some other part of town becomes "hot" or newer apartments with more enticing features are built somewhere else, higher income renters can and will move in a heartbeat.  Meanwhile, people who buy houses are not likely to be as quick to move simply because some other neighborhood that is nicer or more trendy springs up elsewhere.

 

And, by the way, one of the potential pitfalls of an area having a high concentration of renters - even if they are high end renters - is the area can go into a downward spiral very quickly if it falls out of favor.  That can happen to areas where most people own as well - but because owners tend to stay longer and be more stable it takes much longer for it to happen. 

 

I remember in the 1990s aftermath of the 1980s apartment building boom and subsequent real estate crash going through parts of North Dallas that were built in the 1960s and 1970s.  The houses in that part of town remained solidly middle-middle to upper middle-class.  But many of the apartment complexes built along the major thoroughfares had completely fallen out of fashion and in some instances spiraled down into pockets of poverty and crime  surrounded by a sea of fairly affluent neighborhoods.

 

 

Austin, Texas seems like a perfect example of what I am saying: It is a city with a high proportion of residents being transient/college students. The demand for apartment living there is why there are so many towers in its Downtown Austin and why there is such a thriving entertainment district along the lake front.

 

Yes.   And if the university were to close its doors or the state government were to relocate to Amarillo those apartment towers would start emptying very quickly.

 

Any human life as well as any building, neighborhood, city, business, institution or other human endeavor must have some sort of economic basis on which its future viability and existence will depend.  If one of its current means of economic support go away then either some new source of support must be found or that person, building, city or institution will be forced to go through significant changes in order to adjust.

 

If the downtown Fort Worth housing loses an important portion of its current market then either new markets must be found or downtown Fort Worth will undergo some not necessarily pleasant changes. 

 

You seem to think that just replacing that lost market (and a whole lot of other things as well) is easy because you see it as good and desirable.  Very few things that are worthwhile in life are easy - and dead-ends and failures are always more frequent than successes. 

 

Desire and optimism are great - but only when they are exercised in the context of looking at cold hard reality.  Otherwise it is no different than the child who, in response to being told by his father that the family is unable to afford a trip to Disney World replies: "That's silly Daddy - all you have to do is ask your boss for a pay raise. I'll start packing now."




#104003 Central Tourism District

Posted by Dismuke on 29 June 2017 - 10:38 PM in Urban Design and Planning

 

In closing, I think any job is a good job if it provides dignity and respect to the job holder.  Many people hold jobs that you may not find attractive, but these workers make certain industries possible.  I never categorized the jobs; never will.  I think if you read some of the remarks made by you and others you will find the individuals who did so.

 

 

 

Let's see... for some reason that I can't quite figure out you claim that I have misrepresented you by suggesting you said something that you didn't say.   But you then do the exact same thing you accused me of doing by suggesting that I disparage certain types of jobs.  I have done no such thing - that is so far from factual and my actual views that it is downright bizarre.

 

What I did say was that people who support themselves with low paying jobs are not in a position to afford things such as pricey downtown apartments and frequenting downtown restaurants and pubs.  That is a simple observation of an obvious fact.  If people don't earn much money they don't have much money to spend.

 

I also pointed out that local economies where the only jobs are low paying jobs are limited in terms of opportunities for economic advancement. That again is a statement of obvious fact.   All one has to do is look at places such as West Virginia or rural Kentucky where what jobs do exist mostly pay minimum wage.  Such places have high rates of poverty and the only hope to escape it for most people is to move someplace else.

 

Making such observations of fact in no way constitutes disparaging certain types of jobs.

 

And pointing that higher paying jobs have a more beneficial impact on an economy is also a statement of the obvious.  Higher paying jobs create a ripple effect in a local economy which makes a wide variety of other jobs possible - jobs that would disappear if the high paying jobs were to disappear.  A local economy that is able to generate high paying jobs is an economy that is able to provide opportunities for those in lower paying jobs to improve their standard of living by moving into different jobs.  To suggest that some jobs are "better" than others does not disparage any job.  It is a statement of fact - a statement of fact that anybody who has ever worked a low paying job knows very well through first hand experience.




#103981 Central Tourism District

Posted by Dismuke on 28 June 2017 - 05:31 AM in Urban Design and Planning

 


 

 Unless I missed it, there has never been any objection to the either Walsh Ranch or Chisolm Trail Ranch because of the absence of "jobs" within their prospective development.  The objections have been largely concerns about sprawl and decentralization.

 

 

I have addressed this - I am not sure what i can say to make it more clear. Let me give it one more try.

 

The proposed developments you mention will be, to the best of my knowledge, primarily bedroom communities.  People move to such developments knowing full well that they will not likely be able to walk or bike to work and will have a commute.   The issue for them is how far the commute is. My guess is most prospective buyers in that area will have jobs within the central portion of Fort Worth or at least Tarrant County.   I seriously doubt many people who have jobs in North Dallas or Plano will be interested in living in Walsh Ranch.

 

By contrast, one of the major appeals of living downtown is a lifestyle where it is possible to walk or bike to work or, at the very least, have an extremely short commute.  If as you suggest, most decent paying jobs downtown leave downtown,then downtown will no longer have such an appeal to that particular segment of the market that it currently serves - a segment of the market a place like Walsh Ranch is simply not able to serve in the first place.

 

People choose live in places such as Walsh Ranch for reasons that are entirely different from those who choose to live downtown.  That is why there is no "double standard." For the context of this discussion we are talking about apples and oranges.

 

 

If Downtown does not change and continue to depend upon a old model, then we will continue to lament the gap between Dallas' Downtown and Fort Worth's Downtown; as the business decision makers in the region have shown where their preferences are.

 

And if jobs disappear from downtown Dallas the way you say that they will disappear from downtown Fort Worth then the exact same thing will happen to downtown Dallas but more so.   Getting around in Dallas traffic can be brutal.  Have you looked at rents in central Dallas lately?  It is difficult to find anything that is not a run down dump with sketchy tenants for less than $1,000 per month - and not just downtown but also Old East Dallas and The Cedars.  I know because a friend of mine is currently looking for a place.  A big reason people pay such prices is so they can live close to work.




#103976 Central Tourism District

Posted by Dismuke on 27 June 2017 - 09:17 PM in Urban Design and Planning

There seems clearly to be a double standard being applied to Downtown where the standard is that it must incorporate jobs to be sustainable neighborhood while other neighborhoods get a pass.

 

Now when you look at the proposed neighborhoods of Walsh Ranch or Chisolm Trail Ranch, jobs are not an essential or even a  component to either of them being declared as sustainable.

 

I believe the CBD should be given the same standard or at least not be held to a much narrower standard when seen as being a qualifying as a sustainable neighborhood.

 

https://walshtx.com/facts

 

/http://ctr-ftw.com/

 

 

There's no double standard at all.  Those neighborhoods are subject to the exact same laws of economic cause and effect that downtown is subject to and every single one of is subject to

 

Unless their purpose is to attract retirees, the success of the proposed neighborhoods you mention will be dependent upon the existence of jobs within a reasonable distance that will enable prospective residents to feel confident enough to buy and pay for houses there.   If a significant amount of the jobs in the central portion of Fort Worth move away to Collin or Dallas County suburbs or even to Fort Worth's Alliance district, that would have an adverse impact on those developments just as it would downtown.

 

People's primary consideration in where they live is based on their ability to find a way to make a living and pay their bills. If you can't pay your bills, then finding an income stream becomes your primary objective - other desires and goals become secondary.   I suspect a great many people in the Metroplex would prefer to live elsewhere - but they don't because it would be difficult to impossible for them to make a decent living in such places.  

 

That is why many more houses and apartments are being built in Dallas and Collin County than in Fort Worth.  It is not because such locations are necessarily nicer places to live - it is just that there are a whole lot more jobs available there than there is here.

 

The only real difference between downtown and those proposed neighborhoods is the type of housing.   Downtown consists mostly of renters who do not have children.  As such, that tends to be a much more transient population - so if their job moves to a location where they are suddenly faced with a brutal commute it is comparatively easy for them to move with it.   The other difference is that living in very close or even walking distance proximity to one's job is one of the reasons why people are attracted to downtown.   If the jobs go away so goes the appeal downtown had for them to be there in the first place.

 

Sure, downtown has bars and restaurants.  But so do the suburbs.  And, even if one prefers the downtown bars, restaurants and amenities such as Bass Hall, having to waste one's life in a nasty commute five days per week isn't worth the convenience of being in close proximity to an entertainment district on the one evening per week when one's after hours time is not drained away sitting in traffic.  If one were a renter, it would make much more sense to live close to work and simply drive to downtown for its entertainment offerings - which are typically in highest demand after the rush hour traffic dies down.

 

At the end of the day, you cannot separate the vitality of a residential neighborhood from the need for nearby jobs for its residents.  To the degree the jobs go away so does the vitality of a neighborhood.   To the degree that the jobs that are available require lengthy commutes the less the people who live there have to spend on housing due to the higher costs associated with the commute.  That places a downward pressure on housing prices/rents. And because most people would prefer not to waste precious time sitting in traffic they tend to place a premium on housing that is close to where they work - and conversely are not as willing to spend top dollar on housing of equal desirability if it is far away.

 

The same is true even in highly urbanized areas.  Rents in Brooklyn or Queens that are in very close waking distance to stations on the subway lines into Manhattan go for much more than a similar amount of square feet in a neighborhood that requires a lengthy walk or having to catch a bus to get to the same station.  It is all about access to the employment centers where there are a concentration of higher paying jobs.




#103939 Central Tourism District

Posted by Dismuke on 26 June 2017 - 05:31 AM in Urban Design and Planning

 

(1) If you can cite another neighborhood in the Fort Worth is the source 100/75/50/25% employment to 100/75/50/25% of its residents, it would be important to this debate to know.  What I am reading is that parameters are being placed upon Downtown that are not placed upon other neighborhoods in the City.  Your argument that people live where they work is quickly disproved by the countless commuter patterns crisscrossing the region; commuters where people drive 30-90 minutes per day traveling between home and work.


 

 

Yes, of course, lots of people in our region have such commutes.  But unless they are low income and thus are limited in housing options, I would speculate that most of them are people who own their homes rather than rent them.  Selling one's house to move to the other side of town to be nearer a job is more difficult than simply signing a new apartment lease elsewhere when the current one expires.   Plus one has other factors such as desirability of schools and the fact that kids may have developed beneficial roots n their current schools.

 

Most downtown residents rent and not own. And most do not have kids. And a motivation for many living downtown is the benefit of avoiding a commute. If downtown's proximity to large numbers of nearby jobs changes, then so will the mix of people who live downtown.  Sure, SOMEBODY will rent downtown apartments just as SOMEBODY will rent the rooms of a motel on a highway that gets bypassed when a new highway opens and traffic patterns change.  But the owners may not be able to change the same rent as before and those somebodies might not be one's first choice in tenants. And they most likely owners will not be looking to expand the number of units any time soon.

 

 

 

Is there a ceiling as to how many household can be created in Downtown?

 

 Yes, at any given time, there is absolutely a ceiling as to how many households can be created downtown - just as there is, at any given time, a ceiling on how much in wages you or I could realistically expect to earn from an employer. 

 

Unless you just happen to be serious underemployed, one's answer to some sort of immediate challenge in one's life cannot be "I will just double or triple my income."    To realize such a dramatic change on one's wages one usually has to do something significant such as acquire more experience, learn new skills, change jobs, etc.  And there are factors beyond your control.  If the overall economy is bad that is going to be something that will likely make it more difficult.  If you are, to just pick a random profession, let's say, a restaurant manager there is an upper limit to how much you can earn without changing professions entirely.   Such a manger, for example, cannot hope to earn on the job more than the restaurant takes in.

 

Yes, one can certainly aspire to double or triple one's income.  But one must almost always put in a lot of time and hard work to do so and hope for the best.  And there is a limit to how much one can realistically aspire to even with hard work, dedication and ambition  - limits such as one's intelligence, talent and age.  For me personally to aspire to earning as much money as Jeff Bezos or Bill Gates - that is just not real-world.  For me to talk about what I will do when I make as much as Bill Gates would be to indulge in a flight of fantasy.

 

Saying "let's just double the number of residents downtown" is no different than most people saying "I'll just double my income."  It is easy to say but much more difficult to do.

 

 

 

 

If demand is created, then a supplier will meet that demand.

 

 

"Demand" alone is not sufficient.  Lots of people would love to have a fancy new sports car - so there is a "demand" for it.  Problem is that most people are not in a position to afford one.   So nobody is going to be cranking out extra sports cars to meet such "demand." 

 

Again, easy to say much harder to accomplish.

 

If it were that easy then all sorts of towns in other regions of the country would not be in the dilemma they are in dealing with declining population.  All someone would have to do is say "let's just create demand for people to live here and people will move in."  Sure, if such demand were to be created, so would the new residents.  And that is, again, the same as my saying "If I just doubled my income I could afford......"

 

 

No one expects another 9/11; our guard is imminently superior to what it was 9/10

 

 

YIkes! Please don't say stuff like that - that is approaching "famous last words" category.

 

And I don't think the people who are tasked with keeping guard on such matters are as blase about it.  Chances are the odds of an exact replay of 9/11 are slim as people now know what to look for.   But what happens if terrorists get hold of anti-aircraft missiles?   All the airport screening, air marshals and passenger awareness in the world won't help then.




#103933 Central Tourism District

Posted by Dismuke on 25 June 2017 - 01:55 PM in Urban Design and Planning

 

(3) Here is where the opportunities to evolve the central core into a different and more sustainable place/neighborhood.

  DFWI published its 2014-2015 Downtown Residential Survey of 2,456 households.  The study found that these households spent each visit, $100.64 at clothing/retail businesses; $76.63 at restaurants; $48.49 at bars/pubs; and $35.99 at sundries.  The average monthly spending by these households was $1,229.14. or $4 million spending per month from 2,456 households.

 

 

But where does that spending power come from?  Where do the people downtown who have it get it from?   Before people can spend wealth, they must first somehow acquire it. 

My strong guess is most downtown residents pay their bills out of the cash flow the get from having a job.  Among the reasons people want to live in a downtown/urban setting is so that they can live close to work and not have the expense,time drain and hassle of sitting in traffic jams.  To the degree that jobs leave downtown so goes a major reason why people want to live their in the first place - which means that such people will choose to live elsewhere and take the purchasing power from their jobs elsewhere..

 

And every single one of the examples of spending you mention are to industries that are notoriously low-paying and in which a large percentage of employees are part time.  Not many, if any, retail, restaurant,or pub employees downtown earn enough money to afford to live downtown and and most probably don't earn enough to even patronize other downtown shops, restaurants or pubs very often.  

 

And retail stores?   We now live in a zone where Amazon Prime is able to offer same day shipping - even on Sundays. And there is now a beta test of Prime Wardrobe - you pick out some clothing items and Amazon will ship them to you to try on.  Don't like them?  You get free scheduled UPS pickup to send them back.  Want to keep them?  You get a discount depending on how many items you choose to keep. We are getting to the point where people like me who HATE the hassles associated with shopping will rarely have to go shopping.

 

My wider point is this: At the end of the day downtown's residential viability depends on decent paying jobs in reasonably close proximity.  And high paying jobs are pretty few and far between in the retail, restaurant and hotel industries unless one happens to work in the corporate offices

 

 

(4) If Downtown Households could be increased (doubled), Downtown would be even more sustainable.  The target should be 10k households.  It is the city that should be giving incentives to achieve this goal.

 

Gee - you know it would be even more sustainable if the number of households could be tripled instead of doubled!  Heck, while we are at it, why not just increase it ten-fold?  Let's make the target 100k instead of 10k!   With that kind of population, all sorts of cool things could be possible for downtown!

 

The only problem is: Where in heck are these additional number of households going to come from?  Where are the jobs that will enable them to pay their rent and other bills going to come from?

 

City incentives?  Where are they going to come from?  The City of Fort Worth doesn't have a money tree. The only way the city can fund incentives is by either cutting existing services or by confiscating the funds from existing downtown or other Fort Worth residents.  To the degree that existing residents begin to look upon this as a burden they will leave Fort Worth just as many people in our area came here in the first place to escape similar declines in services and the tax burdens which were imposed on them and their local economies in other regions of the country.

 

Doubling the population downtown is great.  But that extra population must first have a reason to live there.  And merely wanting to live there is not sufficient. I can think of any number of places where I would like to live.  But I don't live in such places either because I cannot afford to or because it is difficult to earn a living in such places.

 

When areas experience a decline or rise in population (for reasons other than war or political upheaval), it is usually the result of the availability of jobs.  The reason why cities and towns in many regions of the USA are smaller today than they were 100 years ago is because the jobs are no longer there. And those that are currently experiencing experiencing explosive population growth do so because people come from elsewhere to find better employment opportunities.

 

It is simply not possible to set a "target" to double the population of an area and achieve it without first addressing the fundamentals that make such an increase possible in the first place. In this case the fundamental is why will people want to and how can they afford to live downtown if there are not a sufficient number of jobs within a convenient radius to support their living there.  Without addressing such things the "target" becomes little more than an exercise in wishful thinking.   One can certainly do that if if one wants to - but why?   Wishing does not make it so.

 

At the end of the day, if your premise is correct that downtown is no longer viable as an employment center for decent paying office jobs and that such jobs are doomed to move to the suburbs then that has serious ramifications about the continued viability of downtown as a desirable place to live.

 

 

 

If XTO has taught this City anything, it is that commercial business and their employment is never a sure thing.  There is a real opportunity to look at the CBD as a tourist/entertainment district (CTD)

 

Please tell me of ANY sort of business or employment in today's world that is a "sure thing."  If you know please advise as there is no shortage of people who would love to know what it is. 

 

In truth, such a "sure thing" has never existed. But as technology continues to accelerates the speed of change, it is easy for people to look back at a period when the speed of change was slower and perceive it to have been more stable by comparison.

 

As the old saying goes "the only constant is change."  I would go further and say that the only thing riskier than change and risk itself is the quest for a "sure thing."

 

And an entertainment district is anything but a "sure thing."  Look at the turnover in tenants in the competing entertainment district down the street on West 7th.  Bars, restaurants and entertainment are discretionary expenditures and tend to be the first area in which people cut back during economic downturns.  A lot of very smart and savvy people in the restaurant and retail industry circa 2006 looked at current trends and aggressively opened new locations. The data they used suggested that the future demand was there - so they seized the opportunity to get in on the ground floor.  In hindsight, of course, it is now clear that they simply did not realize how much the assumption behind their trends and thus their risk exposure was based on the overall health of the housing market and the stock market. 

 

A hundred years ago the entertainment industry was dominated by vaudeville and silent pictures.  Song hits were tracked by sheet music sales.  Radio and a reduction in the price of phonograph records killed off sheet music sales.  The advent of talking pictures killed off the vaudeville circuits in less than five years and threw thousands of musicians out of work because there was no longer a need for musical accompaniment to silent pictures.  The big name stars of network radio were either thrown out of work by the advent of television or had to make the shift to television. The disc jockeys who subsequently dominated radio began to disappear with automation and satellite feeds - and now the future of both broadcast radio and television is in doubt with the advent of the Internet.  Records gave way to CDs - and who buys those anymore?

 

Conventions and tourism?   Both are mostly discretionary expenditures that get cut in a downturn.  And there is no guarantee that such expenditures will return to their previous levels when the economy recovers.  A hundred years ago Mineral Wells was a major tourist destination.  In 1929 the lavish 14 story Baker Hotel whose ruin still dominates the skyline opened right as the stock market crashed and the Great Depression began.  When the Depression ended the tourist trade never came back - the only thing that kept the hotel and the city limping along was a military base that came along as the result of World War II.  When the base eventually closed so did the hotel and the city and hotel declined to the state that you see them in today. 

 

One of the things that is hurting retailers other than the rise of online sales is the fact that, after the economy began to recover, it became clear that Millennials turned out to be quite frugal and have nowhere near the degree of  interest in buying "things" that their parents did.  That has huge long term implications for industries that depend on discretionary consumer spending. Economic downturns lead people to make new habits.  People who used to have a habit of eating out several times per week develop new habits of cooking at home or picking up prepared meals at the grocery store. When the economy recovers the new habits are set and they never again eat out with the same degree of frequently

 

And with regard to the tourism industry - that, of course, is closely tied to the health of the airline industry.  Remember how airline travel and thus the tourism took a nasty hit in the aftermath of 9/11?    What if such attacks return with regularity?  Will people be less inclined to make business and leisure trips by plane?  Will the security needed to prevent such attacks get to the point where travel related lines and hassles are even worse than they are now?  If so, will people be therefore less inclined to travel?  A few years ago energy prices were sky high and people were squawking about "peak oil."  Then energy prices collapsed as new technologies and massive new discoveries of supply emerged. How many people at the time predicted this would happen?   What if, for some reason, the situation completely flips back again?  What impact would high fuel prices have on travel and tourism?  When such factors eventually fade away, will people return to their former travel habits? 

 

So you are correct.  Commercial business and its employment is never a sure thing.  And neither is anything else.

 

My point is that commercial business and it employment is currently one of the pillars that hold up the viability of many downtown buildings both in terms of the space that they occupy and the jobs they provide to the people who live in downtown housing.   If commercial business goes away so does their demand for space and so do the jobs that make it possible for people to live downtown.  There is a limit to how much hotel space downtown can support.  And if we get to the point where downtown buildings become empty and downtown housing becomes increasingly low rent, then that is going to be a downward cycle that will make the area increasingly less enticing to tourists - just as there wasn't a lot of tourist activity in downtown in the 1970s when the area was depressed and many buildings were empty.   One can't just say "well, if this pillar of economic activity that holds the area up goes away we will just do something else and it will work out because it is desirable and a lot of people wish for it to happen."

 

And, for the record, I have no particular reason to believe that commercial activity and jobs are going to be leaving downtown Fort Worth anytime soon - and there are some very smart people whose last name is Bass who will certainly do everything they can to prevent that.  I am merely accepting your basic premise for the sake of argument and challenging you on what the implications would be.




#103918 Central Tourism District

Posted by Dismuke on 24 June 2017 - 02:22 PM in Urban Design and Planning

I see entertainment and hospitality as falling under the general category of "business". Unless it becomes >50+% residential, CBD seems appropriate and a term understood by most people, No need to introduce a neologism and start confusing people.

 

I agree with Rename that "Central Business District" is no longer an accurate term in the way that it once was.  In many respects, technology is giving us a world that is increasingly decentralized.   Just as one example, when I was a kid, there were three TV networks plus PBS plus a couple of independent stations that ran reruns. Today even cable TV with its hundreds of channels is becoming antiquated given the proliferation of on-demand content that is more convenient and easier to tailor to one's budget. 

 

As individual human beings alive today, the new ability for diverse niches to emerge and prosper is exciting and wonderful.  Never before in human history has it been so possible to aspire to and create a lifestyle in sync with one's unique tastes, passions and eccentricities - and to live that lifestyle in harmony with others.  Yes, there will always be segments of the population, sometimes of significant size, dominated by GroupThink and narrow-minded and provincial attitudes - that, too, is part of the diversity.  But I cannot think of any other time in human history where it has been as ok for a peaceful, non-violent person who is in some way eccentric or "different" to prosper and find and enjoy the company of others who do not view him as some sort of outcast or pariah.  But one of the results of this new world is that a lot of things we once all had in common are disappearing as is the notion of a "pop culture" that everybody is expected to be familiar with.  

 

A one sized fits all "central business district" in such a world is as much of an anachronism as the days when you could count on most of the people around the water cooler at work having watched the same Big Three Network TV program you did the night before.   And, in fact, such a district has not existed in decades.  Our region has all sorts of business districts - and each are very different in terms of the market it serves.

 

I also don't see any benefit in the term "Central Tourism District" and I can even see how it would be harmful in terms of causing people to pigeon-hole downtown into a self-limiting category.

 

If Fort Worth has a "central tourism district" then the closest thing we have to that is the Stockyards.  Perhaps the Stockyards district has something to offer that I am missing out on, but the only time I go there is to show it to someone who is from out of town. Like most tourist districts, it is largely Disneyfied and fake.  Nothing wrong with that - but that makes it hard to give non-tourist locals a reason to keep coming back.

 

While downtown Fort Worth does attract tourists, I would hardly call it a tourist trap.  I suspect most tourists in downtown are people who are either here on business or here to visit people in the area they know.  The tourists who are not here on business trips are probably on the streets of downtown for the same reason that locals are also on the same streets - to enjoy downtown's amenities.

 

I also don't see it being viable as primarily a residential district.  Downtown housing is not inexpensive and unless one is retired or has their own independent source of income, to live there one has to have a job.  To the degree that high paying jobs move out to the suburban campuses then downtown Fort Worth becomes an increasingly less attractive place to live because of the necessity of a commute.  Take it from someone who has had to commute to jobs in Dallas County for most of the years he has lived in Fort Worth - it sucks and it drains time out of one's life.  I love Fort Worth - but there are times I question my decision to buy a house here.  Were it not for the fact that if I were to move closer to work a change in employers even within Dallas County might necessitate a new lengthy commute, I might have moved away by now.   People who live in and own downtown housing might commute to Los Colinas or North Dallas every day if they lose their downtown job and need new employment.  But how many renters who work in Los Colinas or North Dallas are going to choose downtown Fort Worth given the amount of time out of their lives they would lose?

 

For downtown to continue to have a robust housing market, there needs to be viable employment opportunities within a reasonable distance.  For downtown to prosper and remain viable there needs to be a mix of jobs, housing and nearby amenities such as shopping and restaurants.  Without that mix it will once again go back to its former state of decline and decay.  Given the fact that we live in a world where the notion of a "central" business district is obsolete, that means that downtown must compete with numerous other business districts in our region. They way to do that is to identify a particular market and niche and serve it better than any of the other areas do. The type of person who wants to live and work in the central city tends to be different in terms of interests and tastes than the person who is more comfortable living in suburbia.  Just as soccer moms are probably not a sweet spot demographic to market downtown loft apartments to, maybe large corporations such as Toyota are not the most effective type of business to try to attract to downtown.  Again, we live in a world of proliferating niches.  The key to long term success is to find one's niche - and to be flexible enough to respond when one's current niche might end up splitting apart into even more niches.  Maybe the key is not just to identify what niche downtown ought to cater to but how many niches it can find to serve.

 

As for tourism - I think of that as something nice but extra, sort of like the icing on the cake.  Tourism enhances a local economy.  But it does not create much of a local economy.  Think of any town you have visited where the entire economy was exclusively based on tourism.  There may have been luxury shops, restaurants and hotels. But the only money in such places comes from either the out of town visitors or those who have made their money elsewhere and have moved in.  Those who actually have to earn a living off the local economy in such areas tend to be low income.  I am in no way knocking such jobs or industries - a lot of wonderful people depend on them for their livelihood and some regions of the country would be ghost towns without tourism.  But look at it this way:  if you are a hotel desk clerk in Hot Springs Arkansas your opportunities to advance economically are much more limited than if you were a hotel desk clerk in the Metroplex where the diversified economy would enable you to transfer the skills you have obtained at the hotel into a job in a higher paying industry with greater opportunities for advancement   I certainly do not see any benefit of coining a moniker that would potentially cause people to pigeon hole and thereby limit downtown as being little more than a tourist area.




#103917 Central Tourism District

Posted by Dismuke on 24 June 2017 - 12:37 PM in Urban Design and Planning

I think the evolution of urban development in this country proceeded a bit differently west of the Mississippi River than east of it.  We need go farther back in time to the 1940s after WWII to see that residential and commercial growth spurted just outside the traditional downtowns of the major cities (from Kansas City to L.A.) and extended outward to the towns that surrounded those cities.  I think, if there is an urban growth theory, it is grounded in the evidence of urban sprawl that threatens the identify of the small satellite communities and affects the characteristic of their downtowns in contrast to the downtowns of the major cities.

 

 

I think you are correct - through I would say that the threat you mention has long since happened and passed.  I can't think of any single suburb in our region where its pre-suburban downtown still maintains its role as a hub for trade and commerce. Many of them don't even promote themselves as "downtown" anymore. They are often described as the "Historic District" or as "Old Town" - descriptions that are, in fact, accurate.  Some of them, such as Grapevine's, do well - but that is because they have leveraged the history that makes them unique and special to transform them into successful tourist traps and/or restaurant and specialty shopping districts for nearby suburban residents.

 

Also, what you describe is not just limited to former small towns that have been swallowed up by urban expansion.  It is increasingly rare to find towns even far away from urban areas where the downtown still functions with its historical mix of services and businesses. 

The historic buildings in such towns are mostly obsolete in terms of any sort of retail beyond specialty stores and restaurants.  And the problem with specialty stores is that, by definition, they serve a niche market; i.e., a relatively small slice of the overall population.  Towns beyond the urban areas simply do not have the population for such niche buyers to exist in numbers large enough to make a living off of (which is why many of us who live in the city find ourselves frustrated with the extremely limited grocery, restaurant and entertainment options available in small towns and cities - our tastes have become spoiled by the options that are made possible by a large and diverse population concentration).  

To the degree such downtowns that have not been able to transform themselves into thriving tourist traps still have businesses, they are mostly antique shops and office type businesses such as real estate or lawyer's offices that don't have large parking requirements and are attracted by the low rents.  The problem with the low rents is they are often not sufficient to adequately maintain an older building.   A couple of years ago I stopped in Paris, Texas and went into an antique shop in that city's beautiful downtown, most of which was rebuilt in the aftermath of the huge 1916 fire that destroyed the downtown and even gutted a couple of high rises. The antique shop was on the ground floor of a two story building and there were buckets in strategic places to catch the roof leaks.  If this was the ground floor, I can only imagine what the second floor was like.  The owner of the shop rented the space so the shop was not in a position to repair the roof - and my guess is the rent that the shop pays is not enough for whoever owns the building to undertake massive repairs.  So either the owner is going to have to find a tenant in a position to pay higher rent (not easy in such a town) or eventually it will get to the point that the building is too far gone to be safely occupied.  The root cause is that the district struggles to bring in the money needed to keep it going - and the options to bring in money are limited in a place that is not a quick drive from a population center.

 


I don't believe, therefore, that satellite communities such as Southlake will ever have a high-rise downtown in the same evolutionary way as did Fort Worth's--that is to say, with the concentrated centralized density consisting of high-rise towers as do the downtowns of Fort Worth, Dallas, and other major cities.  The satellite communities are enjoying modern mixed-use developments, and some may be of multi-story dimensions.  You are seeing that evolution going on in Irving, Plano, Frisco, and McKinney with respect to Dallas.  But some is going on in NRH and HEB with respect to Fort Worth.  I don't see a concentrated and centralized downtown of high-rise buildings ever for these communities.  Not even in Arlington's future, though that city, too, is experiencing more high-rise construction.

 

I think you are correct.

 

The closest thing I can think of as an example of an attempt to make that happen in our area was the 1980s Los Colinas Urban Center in Irving.  It did result in a de-facto skyline that Irving would otherwise never have had.  The original idea was cool: it was to be a mix of office space, shopping residential and retail and everything would be connected by water taxis navigating the canals that run through the complex and an overhead rail line that was to connect the major buildings.  The 1980s oil bust stopped construction on the overhead rail line.   Back in the day the shopping district was neat - sort of a fake Venice.  But apart from a McDonald's, most of the shops were specialty stores.  Because the shops were located in the center of the complex and did not face any streets, the only people likely to know of their very existence was mostly limited to those who worked or lived in the complex.   Last time I was there the shops were all gone and have been converted to office space.  It is still a cool place to visit during the evening in nice weather and stroll along the canal that connects the shopping district to the Mandalay Hotel - a sort of relic of a grand premise that was probably doomed from the get-go.  The overall complex, of course, is still highly successful. But the notion of it becoming any sort of "urban center" never materialized.