*ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED BY D MAGAZINE*
FROM THE URBAN CORE TO SUBURBS IN THE OUTER RING, NORTH TEXAS IS SEEING EXPLOSIVE GROWTH IN LIVE-WORK-PLAY ENVIRONMENTS
Like many big American cities, Dallas began seeing its residents take flight to the suburbs in the 1960s. With the development of large corporate parks like Legacy and Las Colinas, companies began growing in outer areas, too. But just as people pulled employers, developers, and real estate investors way from the urban core for a number of years, people are now pulling them back in again. Demand has moved away from closed-off, single-use enclaves to pedestrian-friendly live-work-play neighborhoods where the focus is on connectivity—in every sense of the word.
Rather than a new trend, it’s actually a return to the past, says Jeff Blackard, developer of Adriatica in McKinney and Entrada in Westlake. Blackard is on the leading edge of the movement with a development approach he calls “Neoretroism.” It hearkens back to a village you’d find in Europe or in pre-1900 America, where people of different strata are connected by a shared sense of community and where the uses of buildings evolve over time.
Neoretroism, Blackard says, goes beyond “new urbanism,” where neighborhoods are diverse in use and population, to build in flexibility and evolution—an ability for space to respond to changes that occur over time. “It’s a philosophy that advocates the recreation of Old World culture in a modern-day development environment through serving the needs of the village’s inhabitants,” he says.
A focus on people is at the heart of good urban design, on display at a number of vibrant mixed-use developments across Dallas-Fort Worth. Some, like Addison Circle, are the result of a city looking to attract permanent residents—and having the good sense to build what people want. Others, like Legacy Town Center in Plano, which began construction in 1999 and is now arguably the most successful mixeduse development in North Texas (see more on page 55), are the result of a developer who sought to create a sense of place. Both of these projects treat the pedestrian as paramount. Walkability doesn’t just make good philosophical sense; it has a significant impact on a project’s bottom line. A recent study by Moody’s and Real Capital Analytics found that, since the recent recession, commercial real estate values in both urban and suburban markets have rebounded much more strongly in walkable districts, versus those that are car-dependent.
Dallas-Fort Worth is known for its deep base of talented developers. Founding fathers like Trammell Crow Co. and Lincoln Property Co. are based here, as are walkability and urbanism pioneers like Robert Shaw and Fehmi Karahan. Karahan led development of Legacy Town Center. Shaw introduced a new style of multifamily living. The former Dallas Cowboys player had seen his football career end due to a knee injury. He began working in construction, building garden apartment complexes, just to have something to do. Then he read two books on urbanism that changed his life: The Death and Life of Great American Cities by Jane Jacobs and A Pattern Language by Christopher Alexander.
“It was the genesis of this big idea, of my purpose in life,” Shaw says. “I wasn’t arrogant to think everybody needs to live like this. My thinking was just that some people want to live in a more mixed, walkable environment.”
With business partner Roger Staubach he pioneered this development approach in Uptown about 25 years ago. He went on to build thousands of apartments in Uptown—playing a critical role in the creation of the fledgling submarket’s identity. Finding success in urban infill, he then segued into suburban-urban with projects like Addison Circle. “Some people want an urban, walkable experience, but don’t necessarily want to live downtown,” Shaw says. “So that was the beginning of doing this in a suburban context in a way that doesn’t look Disneyesque or contrived. It had to be something authentic and real.”