Tour of 1600 Pacific with New Statler Owner

Yesterday, I toured 1600 Pacific with owner Leobardo Trevino (who just purchased the Statler).  The building had been vacant and in disrepair, and Leobardo bought it and cleaned it up — inside and out — in preparation of a multi-stage, total renovation.  Pictures: http://bit.ly/dEn50r.

If you’ve never been inside one of Downtown’s vacant buildings, I can tell you that the ones I’ve seen are littered with old furniture, junk, and trash, and are generally in disarray.  (The City has taken measures to require buildings be cleaned up.)  While some property owners leave their property in shambles (trying to avoid the expense of clean-up and hoping that potential tenants can see past the debris and visualize their new space), Leobardo’s philosophy is that those looking for real estate are more inclined to purchase space if the building looks move-in ready.  The difference in 1600 Pacific is striking:  Looking at the before and after pictures reveals how significant his clean up was. Continue reading

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City Council Votes to Prohibit Panhandling in Downtown

Panhandling is an ongoing problem throughout our city, particularly in Downtown Dallas.  This type of public nuisance detracts from our efforts to create a safe, vibrant, livable Downtown.  Residents tell me panhandlers make them feel unsafe, while business owners tell me they’ve lost customers as a result of aggressive soliciting. 

After working with the Downtown Dallas Association, I’m pleased to report that today the city council voted to prohibit panhandling in Downtown, Uptown, Victory, and Deep Ellum.  (We couldn’t make the ban citywide because courts have concluded that soliciting money is protected by the First Amendment, so the government must have a compelling reason to infringe on such a basic right.  Here, we’re trying to protect the region’s economic engine, Downtown Dallas.)

The city’s current panhandling ordinance prohibits pandhandling anywhere in the city after sunset, prohibits aggressive panhandling anywhere in the city at any time, and prohibits solicitation near locations where citizens could have cash, such as near ATMs, parking meters, banks, fuel pumps and car washes.

The amended ordinance will prohibit panhandling anytime of the day or night in the core Downtown area, including the Central Business District, Victory, Uptown and Deep Ellum.  Solicitations in these high tourist, high pedestrian areas hinder the city’s goal of promoting tourism, pedestrian traffic, residential development and economic development.

City Council: Booting Ordinance in Effect Citywide Immediately

Today, the City Council approved an amendment to the city’s booting ordinance to make it effective across the city immediately instead of July 1. 

The booting ordinance we passed last fall requires parking lots that choose to boot to provide a written receipt to parking customers when they pay their parking fee (whether by an attendant or parking machine).  The ordinance had gone into effect in Deep Ellum on January 1 of this year and that resolved their booting problems.  Unfortunately, the problem then migrated to Downtown Dallas.  After receiving numerous complaints from Downtown business owners and visitors, Councilmember Medrano and I proposed to move up the effective date of the ordinance so Downtown visitors and businesses didn’t have to spend another five months unprotected from unscrupulous booting.

Councilmember Medrano and I called the parking lot owners in Downtown last week and told them what we planned to bring to the council this week.  Nearly all of the parking lot owners were supportive, explaining that they had abandoned booting as a means of enforcement once it became clear that booting threatened Downtown’s long-term health by driving off visitors.

One councilmember suggested that if booting were less convenient to parking lot owners as a means of enforcement, they would start towing cars.  While that’s possible, that hasn’t been the experience in Deep Ellum.  Barry Annino, president of the Deep Ellum Foundation, explained to the council today that towing hasn’t increased in Deep Ellum since the booting ordinance took effect there at the beginning of the year.  Instead, the parking lots are doing what they did before they began booting — ticketing cars that didn’t pay the proper fee.  So there hasn’t been an uptick in towing.

Some councilmembers opposed the change because they believe parking lot owners need another five months to implement an electronic payment system on their lots.  But I question whether that’s a genuine concern or just a stalling tactic because (1) parking lots have the option not to boot or to use an attendant rather than a machine and (2) no one has implemented these machines in Deep Ellum, despite having had five months (August – December 31) to do so.

After about an hour of debate, the council overwhelmingly approved the ordinance, which will go into effect tomorrow:

FOR:  Hunt, Medrano, Jasso, Davis, Hill, Atkins, Salazar, Leppert, Caraway, Koop, Margolin

AGAINST:  Natinsky, Neumann, Kadane, Allen

Woodall Rodgers Park “Groundmaking”

Yesterday, I attended the “groundmaking” for the Woodall Rodgers Park, a 5.2 acre deck park that will be constructed above the Woodall Rodgers Freeway between Pearl and St. Paul streets.

I’ve had the opportunity to work closely with the Woodall Rodgers Park Foundation (the non-profit that has raised private funds for the park and which will operate and maintain the park).  Over the last several years, I’ve worked with the Foundation to ensure that the park was included in the 2006 bond program, to make Harwood Street pedestrian-only within the park, and to coordinate with surrounding stakeholders.  In 2006, I joined them in visiting Millennium Park in Chicago and Bryant Park in New York City.  In addition to touring the parks, we visited with community leaders who had been key to the parks’ creation.

The Real Estate Council sponsored a breakfast before the groundmaking ceremony.  TREC has been instrumental in the park’s creation — originating the concept and providing seed money.  The breakfast featured Tony Jones (pictured), Chancellor of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, who gave a very engaging presentation on “Millennium Park, Chicago: Art, Entertainment and Economics, a model for Woodall Rodgers Park and Downtown Dallas.”

You can check out some pictures from the breakfast and groundmaking as well as from our 2006 trip.

Downtown Gets New Newsracks

Newsrack “condos” have begun replacing the clutter of individual racks in Downtown Dallas. All the individual newsracks in the foreground of the photo will be relocated into the newsrack condo in the background. The new newsracks are a partnership with between the City and the Dallas Morning News.

The new newsracks lessen the visual clutter in Downtown and make the sidewalks more walkable. I’ve been working on this for several years and it’s very exciting to see the newsracks finally installed.

2000 McKinney Tour

A couple of weeks ago, I took a tour of 2000 McKinney Avenue. The new Uptown office building sits on the edge of the future Woodall Rodgers Park, between Harwood and Olive.

Like many new developments in District 14, the developer came to the city requesing a zoning change to allow them more flexibility in height and other aspects of construction.

Their original proposal had (typical) narrow sidewalks, a parking garage facing the park, and several driveways along the building (which broke up the sidewalk). Continue reading

Dallas Loses 2013 FOP Conference to Cincinnati

I got a call this afternoon from Dallas FOP president, Mike Walton. Dallas lost the 2013 FOP convention to Cincinnati, 800 to 1100 votes. We think one thing that may have tipped the vote in their favor was that FOP members in states near Ohio wanted to drive to their destination, and they have a larger voting bloc than down south.

I’m disappointed, but am so glad I had the opportunity to work with Mike, Fred, Dena, and everyone else who put so much time and energy into this effort. We’re very lucky to have these folks in our DPD.

Enjoy these pictures from our trip, and check out the videos of our presentation (below). Mike was on fire, and did a great job selling our city and hitting all the right notes.

Next time, I’m bringing the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders. I kid you not.