Design of City Performance Hall Unveiled

I have to say, I’ve been worried about the design of the “Third Venue,” the city’s new performance hall in the Arts District. With all the incredible architecture going up in the Arts District, I feared that a municipal project would stick out like a sore thumb. I had nightmares about tacky architecture and cinderblocks.

I got a chance to preview the new design for the city performance hall and must say my fears are completely allayed. The new design is awesome, and will be enhanced by the right exterior materials.

I wanted to share my pics with you all. Here is the first phase of the hall. Here is the completed hall. And here. See other pics of draft designs.

The architect is SOM out of Chicago. I wasn’t familiar with them, so I checked out their website to see previous work. I was impressed by the depth of their work on arts venues, and with their work on international projects.

I met with them yesterday and they walked me through their design for the new City Performance Hall. They discussed the process they used to begin designing the space, then showed me all the iterations they went through before deciding on the final design (I’ve got the pics on my site).

They had really done their homework: they met with and analyzed the needs of the 70 or so small performing arts groups that will use the space. Among other things, SOM looked at the size of the space(s) needed as well as the frequency of the performances. There will be theater, dance, music, and other groups. Some groups need a small venue with only 100 seats, while larger groups need 750 seats or more.

SOM anticipated that 2-3 blackbox theaters and 1 large performance hall would meet the needs of most of the organizations. Given the budget of $38M (which sounds like a lot, but in terms of building an arts venue is just adequate), the city had anticipated that this project would be done in phases, with the first phase paid for the in 2006 bond. SOM therefore had to design a building that could be built in phases, while ensuring that phase 1 stood on its own architecturally. The end result is terrific, with the large performance hall and one black box theater being built in the first phase. (The Latino Cultural Center will have a new black box theater from 2006 bond funds, and this will provide another option while we gear up for phase 2.)

SOM was very cognizant of the fact that they are designing on a street occupied by the products of architectural giants. They knew they had to complement the Nasher, Meyerson, as well as the new Opera House and Theater. They also couldn’t overwhelm the space, and had to provide a beautiful and appropriate entry way into the Arts District. All of this was balanced with the goal of providing a venue that met the needs of smaller arts groups. I believe they have succeeded.

I for one would like to see the hall clothed in a metal exterior, whether silver, gold, or copper. I think that would look amazing with the silver theater next door and the red opera house across the street. Even warm wood would be beautiful, but I don’t know how realistic that is.

It’ll be several months before SOM has plans and a budget finalized. If all goes as planned, we’ll break ground mid-2008 and be finished by 2010.

Dogs on Restaurant Outdoor Patios – New Ordinance Approved

Great news! After working on this issue for months, I am pleased to report that today the city council approved a new ordinance for restaurants to allow dogs on outdoor patios. Currently, dogs are prohibited from outdoor restaurant patios under any circumstances. Despite this rule, dog owners regularly take their pets with them when they dine outside. The new rule will let restaurants and cafes seek a variance so they may allow dogs outside. Business owners may apply for the variance immediately.

I am proud to have led the effort on this. Over seven months ago, I got a call about concerns that restaurants in West Village were getting notices of violation for allowing their patrons to bring dogs to their outdoor patios. This prohibition against dogs on outdoor patios made no sense to me. I see so many residents accompanied by their dogs at cafes along Greenville, in Uptown, and Oak Lawn. We’re trying to improve the quality of life for Dallas residents, and if the city enforced its current law, many, many restaurants and cafes would be fined for allowing dogs outside. This prohibition seems particularly antiquated when we consider our increasingly dense urban core and the addition of many residents who love to walk to a nearby cafe and enjoy their meal or coffee in the company of their pooch.

So I worked with the city attorney and city staff to find a way that we could balance allowing dogs on patios with ensuring health and safety of diners. City staff worked closely with the Texas State Health Department to devise an ordinance that addresses those concerns. Keep in mind that not all restaurants will be affected; it’s an “opt-in” program, so only those restaurants and cafes that apply with the city and are approved may allow dogs on their patios.

8 YES: Hunt, Natinsky, Salazar, Garcia, Koop, Medrano, Griffith, Oakley
5 NO: Miller, Rasansky, Chaney, Thornton-Reese, Blaydes

Below are the requirements that a restaurant/cafe must comply with in order to be approved for a variance:

  • Outside, separate entrance required for direct access of dogs to outdoor patio
  • Conspicuous entry signage required stating “Dog Friendly Restaurant -Dog Access Only Through Outdoor Patio”
  • Air curtains required to separate outdoor patio from interior offood establishment
  • Dogs prohibited inside, on playground areas, and on patio chairs, tables, and counters
  • Food preparation (including mixing drinks and serving ice) prohibited in patio area
  • Patio must be cleaned at least every 30 minutes with separate cleaning equipment from that used inside
  • On-duty food establishment employees may not have contact with dogs
  • Dogs must be kept on leash, remain in control of customer and wear current rabies vaccination tags
  • Dogs may not have contact with dishes or utensils for food preparation or service
  • Apply Now: Vacant Board and Commission Positions

    The City of Dallas has dozens of boards and commissions comprised of community volunteers. These boards oversee important city issues, and often make recommendations to the city council. Each council member makes appointments to these boards, and the qualifications and time commitment vary depending on the board.

    There are 3 vacant board/commission positions for District 14. (A recent Dallas Morning News article stated that there were 6 vacancies, but they failed to mention that half of those were in the process of being filled (applications had been filed but not yet approved).)

    I am seeking committed, qualified candidates who live in District 14. Below are the vacant board positions. Please note that each requires special qualifications of the applicant. View more information about the time commitment and responsibilities of each board here.

    + Civil Service Board (Adjunct Board)
    Applicant must meet the following qualifications:
    (1) have a total of at least five years experience as a volunteer or employee with a business, governmental, or nonprofit organization, that has a work staff of at least 15 persons;
    (2) have a total of at least five years experience as a volunteer or employee in the administration or personnel functions of a business, governmental, or nonprofit organization; or
    (3) have an accumulation of at least five years experience under paragraphs (1) and (2) of this subsection.
    Applicant may not be an employee of any other state or local jurisdiction but may be a former employee of the City of Dallas.

    + Judicial Nominating Commission
    Applicant must be a member of and nominated by the Dallas Bar Association, OR
    Applicant must be a member of and nominated by the Mexican American Bar Association, OR
    Applicant must be a member of and nominated by the Asian American Bar Association, OR
    Applicant must be a judge other than a city of Dallas municipal judge.

    + South Dallas Fair Park Trust Fund
    (view SDFPTF boundaries)
    Applicant must be a resident within the boundaries of the SDFPTF, OR
    Applicant must own a business within the boundaries of the SDFPTF, OR
    Applicant must have expertise in housing development

    In addition, there are several vacant board positions that are appointed by the full council. Please note, to be eligible you must own property within the boundaries of the TIF district:

    + Oak Cliff Gateway TIF – 1 position vacant
    (view Oak Cliff Gateway TIF boundaries)

    + Cedars TIF (RZ4) – 2 positions vacant
    (view Cedars TIF boundaries)

    + City Center TIF (RZ5) – 1 position vacant
    (view City Center TIF boundaries)

    + Sports Arena (RZ7) – 2 positions vacant
    (view Sports Arena TIF boundaries)

    If you qualify and are interested, please email me your resume, the board you are interested in, your special qualifications, a brief explanation of why you are interested in that board, and any other info you’d like me to consider.

    Vickery Place Conservation District Addition Approved

    Today the City Council unanimously approved adding 13 blocks to the Vickery Place Conservation District. The additional blocks will true up the district’s boundaries and will now include all the homes from Goodwin to Richard, Greenville to Homer, the 5100 block of Goodwin, and the 5400 and 5500 blocks of Bonita (with the exception of commercial properties on Greenville).

    Neighbors in both the original CD and the appended blocks worked very hard to ensure that these additional blocks were included after the original Vickery Place CD was approved last June.

    Congratulations to everyone who were actively involved in this project!

    Dallas Receives National Award for Graffiti Program

    Last May, nearly 700 volunteers from across the city participated in Dallas’ first city-wide graffiti wipe out, cleaning up over 37,000 square feet of graffiti. It was a great event, and as I’ve mentioned in other blogs, it was an amazing combination of residents, city staff, community organizations, and businesses.

    Well, all that hard work paid off. Not only is our city cleaner, not only did we begin a great program that we will organize again this year, but to top it all off, we were awarded FIRST PLACE in the national Keep America Beautiful “Graffiti Hurts” competition! The team will receive a cash prize of $1,000 and a FlashCAM-770 graffiti deterrent system to help stop graffiti in chronically hit areas. The camera senses motion up to 100 feet away, automatically takes pictures of the perpetrators, and plays a loud message, warning the intruder to leave.

    Other bits of good news: One of the challenges we faced when I took office was that Dallas had no comprehensive plan to address graffiti. My plan was to tackle the problem in three ways: to bring together all aspects of the Dallas community to hold an annual graffiti clean up and show that folks from all across Dallas want a clean city, and secondly, to make sure that city departments are addressing graffiti in a concerted way and working together instead of haphazardly, and third, to create a new city clean up program modelled on Phoenix’s program.

    In Phoenix, the city will clean up graffiti on private property FOR FREE. (If color-matching is involved, there is a charge.) What a great program! Although they spend $1.4M a year on graffiti clean up, they started small, and that’s what we’re doing. I was able to put about $200,000 in this year’s budget, and we’ll soon be hiring the graffiti cleaners and rolling out the new program. I’m hopeful that this will help us clean up our city, deter crime, and improve property values in areas that have been plagued by graffiti.

    Congrats again to everyone who worked so hard on the Graffiti Wipe Out. Special thanks go to Keep Dallas Beautiful members, Leadership Dallas Class of 2006 alumni, the Meadows Foundation, Sherwin Williams Paint, Carraba’s Restaurants, Coca Cola, and city employees Ray Irvine, Dionne Driscoll, Josh Hathaway, Lori Frauli, Cheryl Cornish, Jennifer Richie, and Kathleen Davis.

    Permanent Supportive Housing for the Homeless

    One of the newest and most successful trends in addressing the homeless problem is getting the homeless into permanent, supportive housing. Permanent supportive housing has proven to be a better alternative to constantly cycling the chronically homeless through the criminal justice system and hospitals, which studies have shown are more costly. PSH provides assistance (not necessarily on-site) for drug and alcohol abuse, mental health treatment, physical disabilities, and other chronic needs.

    November 28 and 29, I was invited to attend and join a panel at the annual meeting for the Corporation for Supportive Housing in Arlington, Virginia. CSH is a national non-profit that assists governments and non-profits in developing strategies to develop permanent supportive housing.

    The conference was extremely helpful. There were around 200 people in attendance from all across the country, including representatives from state and local governments. I learned so much listening to best practices that were beneficial in other communities, as well as programs that didn’t work as well.

    Karen Rayzor, head of our Environmental Health Department, attended as well, and we both got a lot out of the conference. In December, we met again with representatives from CSH to discuss ways they can assist Dallas as we develop a comprehensive approach to homelessness and build the Homeless Assistance Center. This month, Ms. Rayzor and I will be meeting with Mike Rawlings, the Mayor’s appointed “Homeless Czar,” to discuss what we learned at the conference and how we can apply it to Dallas.

    Recycling Update

    Happy New Year! It’s been a busy six weeks, and I wanted to give you an update on several city and community issues, starting with recycling.

    The second phase of Dallas’ new recycling program has begun. New, blue recycling bins were distributed to residents, and if you haven’t gotten yours, you can call 311 to request a bin. Remember, recycling is now “single-stream,” meaning you can pile all your paper, glass, metal, and plastic (all but #6) into one container.

    Residents (including my home) who have alley pick up are NOT eligible at this time to use the blue bins. Because our alleys are narrow, we have to have small recycling trucks pick up our recycling and do manual pick up instead of automatic. Some folks who have alley pick up were delivered a blue bin in error. The city will come by and pick up your blue bin (you can even fill it up with recycling).

    I’ve gotten tons of emails from people expressing their new found love of their blue bins, and their frustration with having to give it up because they have alley pick up. We have hopefully come up with a couple of possible solutions: First, the Sanitation Department is going to design a process so that streets that want to convert to street pick up for trash and recycling can do so. They don’t know what the process will be at this point, and because they’re in the middle of getting the new recycling program up and running, it’ll take a few months for them to get focussed on creating an alley-to-curb pick up process. But it’s in the works.

    Second, I talked with the head of Sanitation yesterday, and proposed that we try a pilot alley recycling program using the blue bins. I went out to meet with the recycling guys when they picked up recycling from my home last week, and it looks to me like it might be possible to use the bins in the alleys. It may depend on the alleys and how much room there is for bins and the trucks to navigate, but it’s worth a try. The pilot program will take a few months, but hopefully this could be a solution.