How Dallas Should Fix Dealey Plaza

I wanted to mention something from last week. Now that we have finished work on our “print product”, I have a moment to tell you: you must read this special report published by the morning news and led by its architectural critic, Mark Lamster. “Reinventing Dealey Plaza” is a major piece of civic journalism that deserves plenty of attention and maybe even a community presentation and panel discussion at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, November 15 at the Sixth Floor Museum (register here).

Major aside that I almost certainly should have resisted including: I wasn’t sure how best to share the report with you. The New just released its dismal third quarter results, and they indicate that a decreasing number of you will encounter the Arts & Life print version of Lamster’s work. The newspaper lost $2.6 million in the three-month period that ended Sept. 30, on revenue of $37.7 million. Revenue from digital-only subscribers increased by $1 million, but revenue from print subscriptions fell by $900,000. The paper has 144,631 total subscribers, adding in Q3 1,484 digital subscribers but losing 2,918 print subscribers. Either way, “Reinventing Dealey Plaza” hides behind a paywall. This is one of the reasons why you should subscribe to the newspaper if you can afford it.

Still with me? Here is how Lamster begins his report:

“Now is the time for Dallas to rethink Dealey Plaza and the Triple Underpass, which together represent one of the city’s deepest urban flaws.

“These spaces define Dallas. This is where the city began and the site of many of its most tragic moments in history, from Civil War lynchings to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Today they are centers of tourism and public gathering, and a main access point to the city centre.

“And yet, in their current state, they fail to fulfill their many vital civic obligations. This represents a sad decline from the grand ambitions that characterized their invention.

From there, it guides us through the city’s history, to John Neely Bryan, to the present day, as it chronicles Dallas’ most infamous pitch. One of my favorite details about the demolition of two city blocks, beginning in 1934, to make way for cars:[N]one of the destroyed structures was more beloved than William Apperson’s New Idea Saloon, notable for its hand-carved woodwork and large mirrors behind the bar. However, the fame of the establishment’s design was less its decor than Apperson himself, who sported a neatly groomed beard that reached down to his belt.

I am currently looking for investors to start a new New Idea Saloon. Its logo will be the Woofus, another idea defended by Mark Lamster.

A shorter aside that is more relevant than the previous one: I had been led to believe that Lamster had moved to Boston. He no longer teaches at UTA, and his biography on the play “Reinventing Dealey Plaza” identifies him as a Loeb Fellow of the Harvard Graduate School of Design. He tells me that his wife took a job at the World, and, yes, it requires a “double existence,” but as Lamster puts it, “Dallas is still our home, and we still have our home. I go back and forth fairly regularly. I will still travel our dark streets regularly. bigd4eva!”

So that’s good news. Because only Lamster could have convinced the New to commission a team of designers (Chris Reed of Stoss Landscape Urbanism in Boston; Monica Ponce de Leon of MPdL Studio in Princeton, New Jersey; Lauren Cantrell of DELINEATOR in Dallas) to write this plan. Again, you should find a way to access the set. The historical context is essential. The details are plentiful and thoughtful.

Just one of these details: “Turn Elm Street into a pedestrian space and create memorial pools marking the spots where bullets hit President Kennedy (removing the vulgar white Xs painted by assassination theorists).”

And then, as he progresses to his closing paragraphs, Lamster writes, “’Where’s the traffic going?’ can no longer be the overriding and defining urban planning issue in Dallas. For far too long, Dallas has seen its imperatives reversed, and it suffers the consequences: empty and dangerous streets, divestments, infrastructure needs that can never be met.

“The question the city needs to ask is, ‘How do we create spaces where people want to be?’ This plan shows how this can be accomplished.

“This shift away from our auto-centric past and toward a multimodal present is essential as the city looks to the future. If the pandemic has shown us anything, it’s that we want and need more public spaces for pedestrians. Downtown is becoming a vibrant residential community, not just an in-and-out place. »

Like I said, you should read it all.


Tim is the editor of Magazine Dwhere he has worked since 2001. He won a National Magazine Award in…

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