Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Deep Ellum as an Urban Ideal

***Originally posted November 12, 2010***

Any healthy city should have multiple destinations that reflect each neighborhood's personality and offers people from other communities an alternative to what they are used to.  Dallas boasts quite a few destinations: Lower Greenville, Uptown, Cedar Springs, Knox-Henderson, Victory Park, Downtown, and Deep Ellum of course.  But taking a look at the various locations throughout the city, it is interesting to note the limitations of geography and infrastructure that determine the size and growth potential of each neighborhood.

In Google mapping each of the areas listed above, each neighborhood has something in common except for Deep Ellum, whose geography and infrastructure are certainly unique.  Seen from above, Lower Greenville is pretty much only Greenville Ave.  Uptown's commercial activity centers around McKinney Ave.  The Cedar Springs area centers around Cedar Springs.  Knox-Henderson is just that.  Victory Park is centered around itself and doesn't connect with its surroundings.  And Downtown action centers around Main Street, for the most part.  All these areas are dependent on one street for commerce.

What sets Deep Ellum apart is that the neighborhood consists of 4 main streets: Elm Street, Main Street, Commerce, and Canton.  Then Pryor, Crowdus, Malcolm X, Walton, Hall, Murray, and Exposition split up the long thoroughfares to create many useable blocks.

The types of buildings also set Deep Ellum apart from the other neighborhoods.  The mixed use buildings around the neighborhood provide space for many storefronts intermingled among various types of housing, from loft space and converted warehouse space, to tall, multi-tenant apartment buildings. 

Taking cues from Jane Jacobs and her 4 factors of a successful urban area (as discussed in the previous post), we see that Deep Ellum already provides the most difficult components in infrastructure and architecture.  Fulfilling the missing ingredient has proven to be a tricky problem that we are actively trying to tackle. 

Recent discussion for the reformatting of Greenville Ave ( shows that walkable, urban spaces are wanted.  The thing is they have to wait until next summer to start construction on what they want.  Deep Ellum doesn't have to wait at all.

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