Dallas Studies Vancouver's Urban Design Success

City leaders look for ways to encourage high-density developments

Dallas city leaders are looking at how other cities have successfully lured more residents to their downtowns.

Dallas leaders have said they want more of the city to be like Uptown, with businesses and transit within walking distance of large residential and office buildings.

About 5,000 people currently live in downtown Dallas, but more reside in surrounding Uptown neighborhoods. Dallas also competes for residents with North Texas suburbs, and the region's intense growth is expected to continue.

City Hall compared the Dallas' urban design rules to those in cities such as Vancouver, British Columbia, which grew its downtown with dense urban development.

Vancouver doubled the population of its downtown area to nearly 120,000 in just 15 years.

"This is about actually designing the city again, rather than see it happen by accident," said former Vancouver planning director Larry Beasley.

Beasley, who is now a private planning consultant, told the Dallas Council on Wednesday that Vancouver encouraged developers to build extremely high-density projects that would return high profits.

In return, the city made strict demands for high-quality materials and amenities such as broad sidewalks and parks, which the city could not afford on its own.

"We look for some of those costs -- some of those amenity costs -- to be shared with developers," Beasley said. "And the key to all this is not to force people into this living circumstance, but to make it a preferred choice for them."

Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert said he wants Dallas to consider other cities' success as it charts its future.

"If we don't bring those ideas here and push ourselves to think a little beyond where we are today, then we're going to limit ourselves, and we shouldn't do that," he said.

Councilwoman Angela Hunt said Wednesday's daylong session, which focused on urban design, is an example of Dallas' dedication toward accomplishing what cities such as Vancouver have done.

"They have created remarkable growth, remarkable wealth and remarkable development," she said. "We can do that too, if we have the commitment."

However, some of the Canadian measures could be a hard sell in Texas, Dallas Planning Director Theresa O'Donnell said.

"Texas is a strong property rights state, so that’s a big shift," O'Donnell said.

The Dallas City Council took no formal action at Wednesday's briefing.

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