Friday, November 27, 2009

If Dallas can re-vision, why can't Cheyenne?

I have nothing against Dallas. It's a good city, a sprawling megalopolis that creeps as far as Fort Worth to the west and sends tentacles into surrounding counties in all directions.

But who would have thought that Dallas would be the model for "Green" city planning?

The city recently held a competition to submit eco-friendly designs for a block near the city center. The winning design recreates a hillside in the city -- with some amazing results.

Here's some samples from last week's article in Re:Vision Dallas that I thought were interesting:

Forwarding Dallas is modeled after one of the most diverse systems in nature, the hillside. The site is a series of valleys and hilltops, the valleys containing trees and more luxurious plants which transition into more resistant plants as the altitude increases. Atop the hills, solar thermal, photovoltaic and wind energy is harvested.

Other design components include open ‘green’ spaces, housing options from studio apartments to three bedroom flats, a rooftop water catchment system designed to recycle water collected from rooftops and store underground for later use, a 100% prefabricated construction system and public green houses, including a sensorial greenhouse, swimming pool green house and meeting point green house.

A spiritual space, gymnasium, café and exhibition space are also planned to accommodate various lifestyles. There is a temporary accommodation center as well as a daycare center designed for both children and the elderly.

“What I would love to see is an entire section of downtown notable for innovative, sustainable design–an attraction in the southern part of downtown balancing the Arts District in the northern part of downtown," said John Greenan, Executive Director for Central Dallas CDC. "There are already some interesting, green projects in The Cedars immediately to the south of downtown.

A sustainable district that extends from downtown all the way into The Cedars neighborhood is a very reasonable possibility.”

For more information on Urban Re:Vision, visit

I like the fact that Dallas is thinking big. What's more Texas than that? Wish that my much-smaller city of Cheyenne, Wyoming, would take a few leaps forward. Lots of empty buildings downtown. There is a big hole that's been sitting vacant on our main drag ever since a building burned down. Perhaps we could hold a similar competition to come up with an ecological design for Cheyenne's Big Hole.

And the Dallas CDC guy's quote includes talk about the city's Arts District. I prefer the term "Artists' District," as in Phoenix's Roosevelt Row, a place where artists live and also exhibit their work, sometimes in the same building. Arts districts that just feature galleries and museums can be as dead as any downtown block when the businesses close. Make a place for artists, and you have a lively neighborhood.

It can be one that replicates a Texas Hill Country hillside. Or it can be one in which artists rehab abandoned buildings to make live-work spaces. Just takes some imagination and creativity.

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