***Originally posted November 5, 2010 (different account)***
This question is not simple, nor is the answer. Here is the most succinct way to put it:
In 1961, American-born Jane Jacobs wrote the urbanists' handbook The Death and Life of Great American Cities. The book looked at specific examples of successful and unsuccessful cities and drew conclusions detailing what factors determined the liveliness and deadliness of an urban area.
To summarize, here are the four factors that contribute to successful urban life: 1) Mixed-use commercial and residential buildings, 2) Active sidewalk life, 3) Short city blocks, 4) Mix of old and new buildings.
1) Live, work, and play. In traditional neighborhood design, people are within walking distance of retail stores and things to do. Consumerism is so important to our economy that it should be easy for people to spend money at any time of day. A place should attract different people at different hours so that the area remains lively day and night.
2) The excitement of city life is often embodied in the busyness of people on the sidewalk. People buzzing around provides commerce to businesses lining the streets, but also an important and subtle amount of socialization takes place: getting to know your neighbors. Visible city life lends to trust on the streets, which leads to even more activity and comfort on the sidewalks.
3) Pedestrian activity is vital to the life on the street, which is virtually eliminated when the sidewalks don't take you anywhere. Very long city blocks do no offer many options for getting from one place to another. A vibrant walking community features multiple paths for walking from one destination to the next. And short city blocks create an abundance of street corners, which provides plenty of potential for storefronts.
4) A mix of old and new buildings gives residents and business owners different options for space rental. Older places tend to be less expensive than newer ones, but the spaces provided can match what the renter is looking for based on the price point of the person's budget. The idea is for the neighborhood to embrace diversity of people and the businesses they attract.
Recent efforts within the Central Business District of Dallas notwithstanding, there remains a lack of such types of places around Dallas with one glaring exception: Deep Ellum. Deep Ellum has the mixed use buildings, the interconnected sidewalks and streets, and the mix of old and new buildings. What the neighborhood is obviously lacking at this point in time is vibrant sidewalk life throughout the day.
The Deep Ellum Outdoor Market was created to serve this purpose. For residents, tourists, and nostalgists to repopulate the streets of the neighborhood one weekend afternoon at a time until the spark the Market provides gives opportunity to more people and businesses to create a better city.