Friday, March 23, 2012

Joshua King at the WAAS Gallery

Aurora Dallas was one of those events that makes you proud to be from Dallas.  On the evening of Game 7 of the World Series last year, more than 100 light, video, and sound artists from all over the country to our Arts District.

The reason this important to bring up again is that Joshua King, one of the organizers of the event, will have his first solo art exhibition "Goods and Services" at the WAAS Gallery just south of Deep Ellum.

For more information about the event, visit the Facebook page here.  Josh plans to reprise one of his Aurora installations, and my favorite of the entire event.  Food Trucks Rockstar Bakeshop and Three Lions Truck will provide delicious delectables.  Plus there will be drinks and music, as any party would require.

For more information about the artist, watch this video.  

Thursday, March 15, 2012

From Vibrant Geometry to Beige BBQ Building

Bakers Ribs is moving from its perennial location next to the Angry Dog to the corner of Main and Hall.  In doing so, it displaces the work of Ricardo Paniagua, local Deep Ellum Artist.

Building and Artist, photo by Scot Dorn

For Baker's Ribs, this is opportunity to ostensibly make room for their fried pies.  Still Paniagua's designs weren't in line with typical locations of the Texas BBQ franchise, and the company felt the need to alter the building's facade.

Please excuse the crappy phone resolution
As you can see, the building currently bears no semblance of its former self.  Paniagua's "Psalm 112: An Alchemical Spacecraft" had received national acclaim, but the BBQ joint felt that the mural didn't exactly fit their branding strategy.

This situation is a microcosm of what is happening in urban areas around the country.  When it comes to these old, non-suburban places, what should be done about buildings that have been there sitting empty for a long time?

While it is a tragedy that the vibrancy of that intersection is now muted, the building was un-rentable, judging by its many years of disuse.  In fact, there are many buildings in the neighborhood that have been empty for a long time.  Is this a cause of the times, or is this a call for new buildings?

Friday, March 9, 2012

Pinterest and the Deep Ellum Tunnel

Deep Ellum has always been a hotbed of controversy, from its freed slaves roots and criminal background of the 1920s to the Uplift Education debacle earlier this year.

In its late 20th century heyday, Deep Ellum's most beloved icon The Tunnel was a symbol of the edginess of the neighborhood.  Crossing under Central Expressway and going down Good Latimer through the Deep Ellum Tunnel meant you were crossing into another world that wasn't exactly safe and certainly not welcome to the faint of heart.

South side of the Tunnel
The walls were decorated with murals, another sign that you were entering into a place unique to Dallas.  It's understandable, then, that when DART announced it's taking the Tunnel in the name of urban redevelopment and public transportation, people were up in arms.

Like the aforementioned Uplift situation, decisions were made higher up, and the people didn't have a say in what was happening in their neighborhood.  Next thing you know, construction begins and the Tunnel is gone.
North side of Tunnel and tons of rebar
I prepared a photo essay a few years ago to retell this story, but there was never a convenient platform to show the pictures.  Then Pinterest happened and the Uplift controversy happened, and the time felt right to tell the story once more.  For more pictures, visit the DEOM Pinterest board dedicated to the evolution of Good Latimer.

I also failed to keep the photographers' names handy, so if I used your work, let me know and I'll credit you.

In the end, the only living piece of the Deep Ellum Tunnel resides across the street from the DART station, not far from where it used to stand.  It's now a stump that the Traveling Man leans against.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Residence Analysis of Deep Ellum

There is a subtle underlying context to the way that Deep Ellum has developed over the years.  Long story short, the neighborhood is divided in half by Hall St.  Essentially, the west side is mainly businesses with a few residences, but the east side is mainly residences with a couple few businesses.

Blue = West, Green = East, Bubble = < 3 tenants, Pin = > 3 tenants
In an urban context*, it's important to look for density and concentrations of people.  While there are a good number of living spaces in the west side of Deep Ellum, there are much fewer multi-residence buildings than in the east side.  In other words, the west is dense with commercial space but sparse in residential.

The east, on the other hand, is replete with multi-tenant buildings and consequently have larger concentrations of people.  By the way, there are no parking meters on the east side.  In a comfortable, walkable community, people have all the amenities they need within a 5 minute walking distance.  A 5 minute walk to the west from the Futura lofts on Commerce barely gets you to Walton St.

One of the biggest difficulties of local businesses is getting the area residences to patronize their establishments.  If the businesses are outside the universal preferred walking distance of where people live, those people will most likely jump into the car.  If they get into the car, they might as well go to Mockingbird lane, Greenville Ave, McKinney Ave, or Lakewood to shop, eat, or drink.

The bane of the modern city is zoning laws, which assist in the development of suburbs.  Everywhere in Dallas, with the exception of Downtown and Uptown, takes pains to separate homes from businesses.  It turns out, this goes against millennia of city development patterns all over the world.

*The Marquis on Gaston (pin in the top left corner) is not considered part of the urban context because it is based on the suburban fortress model of residential development and impermeable to city life. 

Time for a Change

The great thing about talking to people from different places is getting their perspective on how things work in their cities.  Dallas is certainly unique in many aspects, but it can also learn from other places.

V. is a recently returning Dallas native adjusting to life back home having come from the more urban, more dynamic Washington D.C.  Apparently over the better part of the last decade, in D.C. there has been the ubiquitous emergence of "hyper local" blogs, from which people get their information about the city.

A Google search of "Dallas neighborhood blog" only yielded search results from the Observer, D Mag, Dallas News, and a real estate blog.  Since Google doesn't recognize any Dallas neighborhood blogs, let's assume that the hyper local blog doesn't exist here.  Since it doesn't exist here, let's take this opportunity to start one, or at least re-tool this one to be more useful to people.

The goal of this project is threefold: 1) excavate information and conversations that may help to make Deep Ellum a better place, 2) get more people supporting local businesses, 3) give me an outlet for my opinions.  After all, it's my blog and I can do whatever I want with it.

So expect more posts.  They'll be shorter with more mistakes and hopefully more pictures.  If you're close to the Deep Ellum Postal Center at Main and Hall, stop by and say hi.