Downtown Dallas boosters who gathered Thursday for the annual State of Downtown event heard an upbeat assessment of the city center.
It came despite windy conditions that blew what was to be the celebration of a new downtown park into a hotel ballroom for safety.
And it came with Dallas City Manager T.C. Broadnax standing in for Mayor Eric Johnson, who is quarantined with a mild, breakthrough case of COVID-19.
Broadnax recalled his first visit to Dallas City Hall as an intern in 1992. He said he was penniless that day after donating to a Dallas panhandler.
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“I realized I had to park and then pay for parking,” Broadnax said.
Dallas visitors still find panhandlers, but other things have changed, even though the pandemic.
“There’s been a lot of momentum that’s really bringing I think the last 20 years of investment together,” said Downtown Dallas Inc Director Kourtny Garrett.
Garrett said 13,000 people now live in downtown Dallas with 4,000 more residential units planned or under construction.
The new Discovery District is open in front of AT&T headquarters on Commerce Street.
The National is now open in the former First National Bank building at 1201 Elm Street. It was the last vacant Dallas office building. It’s now a mix of upscale hotel, restaurants, apartments and offices.
“The National is our largest redevelopment project in terms of square footage, financing, nearly every metric. The largest preservation project in the State of Texas, as well,” Garrett said.
The same developer that renovated The National is about the finish the new East Quarter high rise at 300 Pearl. The East Quarter District is eight city blocks between downtown and the Farmers Market.
That developer, Shawn Todd, was honored at the event for his contributions to Downtown Dallas.
Broadnax was asked about even more substantial downtown changes that could remove the elevated I-345 freeway that separates downtown from Deep Ellum and the bridge over I-30 between downtown and the Cedars neighborhood.
“I’m excited about the future. I do believe the marketplace, as well as people’s understanding about what types of divisions those barriers cause, will lead us to a different place. So, I’m excited about the opportunity,” Broadnax said.
Downtown Dallas has 86 acres of open space, including big surface parking lots, many of which have plans for major new development in the next few years.
This includes Newpark just south of Dallas City Hall, The Field Street District adjacent to Woodall Rodgers freeway, a 38 story skyscraper planned on the other side of Field street at Woodall Rodgers and The Spire development south of Ross Avenue.
“That’s the next phase and the next wave of transformation downtown,” Garrett said. “Now that all of our vacant buildings have been converted, the next real market driver for development is going to be infill in our parking lots.”
Developers have different schedules for the additional new projects.
The so-called “D-2” subway, the second downtown DART light rail path, could also have an impact on the central city's future. A Dallas City Council Committee review the latest D-2 route proposal this month.