Thursday, August 28, 2008

Downtown’s future begins now

Not too long from now, Dallas residents will look back on this period as a defining point in the City’s history … a moment when downtown Dallas again became an exciting place to live, shop, work and play … the time when Dallas regained its confidence and swagger, and became a global player on the world stage.

The key catalysts for that change are underway right now.

One is the Convention Centre Hotel. In recent years, our city has seen its standing as a major convention destination slip as more and more groups went elsewhere. Time and again, clients have said the reason is the lack of a convention center hotel. Meanwhile, almost every other major competitor has added a convention center hotel. Once far behind Dallas, Houston built a hotel a few years back and has been drawing business away from Dallas ever since. It’s been so successful that Houston is selling its first hotel, and using the proceeds to build a second. This year, the Dallas City Council decided enough was enough and moved forward to purchase the land for a hotel and launch the process to build our own Convention Centre Hotel, which should include a retail restaurant and entertainment development in the overall complex. Already convention bookings have jumped and developers are creating plans for the blocks surrounding the site.

Another major catalyst: the Trinity River Project. Last year, Dallas voters affirmed their commitment to a comprehensive project encompassing flood control, transportation, recreation and economic development opportunities. Already the foundations are being laid for Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge. And late this year, the pre-fabricated steel will arrive from Italy and start going up. That 40-story structure designed by Santiago Calatrava will redefine our skyline forever and connect downtown with West Dallas in a way that’s already inspiring economic development on both sides of the Trinity.

And more catalysts are coming into play. Our Arts District will soon be the finest in the nation and an important downtown anchor. When complete, the Winspear Opera House and Wyly Theatre will make the Arts District a who’s-who of the world’s finest architects. And the deck park over the Woodall Rodgers Bridge will reunite downtown and uptown with a magical patch of green.

In the core, even more green. Both Belo Gardens and Main Street Gardens will add trees, fountains and cool places to relax and play. And if all goes as planned, the University of North Texas will open a public law school in the historic Municipal Building.

Victory continues to add to the downtown appeal. Once a brown-field site valued at $20M, it now has a projected base of well over $4B. Dallas’ investment laid the foundation for an exciting retail, residential and commercial sector of the new downtown. With new additions, including the Margot and Ross Perot Science and Nature Center, Victory has become another important anchor to the new Dallas downtown.

With all that has happened and is underway, it’s no wonder that corporate giants like AT&T and Comerica Bank, as well as dozens of other firms have decided to make downtown Dallas their home.

It’s a sign that the city’s core has firmly turned around years of decline, reestablishing downtown Dallas as the economic centerpiece of the North Texas economy.