I'll grant that it is imposing. What I don't like is the vast, forlorn
"plaza" and pool that separates the city's most important civic
building from its citizenry and from the street. By all accounts, it's
six acres of dead space, except perhaps when various protests need a
place to gather. "A concrete desert," wrote Ryan Jones
on the FrontBurner blog, hosted by DMagazine. "Almost always, without
fail, empty." In fact, looking at satellite images, one can see that
the plaza and city hall are also surrounded by vast surface parking
lots. Isolation and vastness compounded by more isolation and vastness.
For at least one day last month, all that changed. The pop-up urbanists who bring us the very cool Better Block
projects, which also originated in Dallas, partnered with the
CityDesign Studio of Dallas, the Trinity Trust, and other partners and
supporters to create "Living Plaza,"
a project to show what the City Hall Plaza could be like with a little
more energy and imagination. For about $1,500 plus volunteer labor, the
project brought chairs, tables, games, music, and food to the space--you
know, like some cities have all the time.
Team Better Block, alongside the bcWorkshop, CityDesignStudio, Trinity
Trust, Downtown Dallas Inc., Modern Relics, and others helped transform
Dallas City Hall's barren and lifeless plaza into an active, livable
environment. The groups brought out a storage container converted into a
food commissary where Jaime's Tamales, Oak Cliff Crepe Company, and
Brady's BBQ setup shop to provide food for all who came onsite. An
assortment of tables and chairs were also spread out alongside plants,
trees, checkerboards, giant chess sets, and more. Our recycled pallet
wood benches and trellises also helped frame the stage as city
employees, council members, and area business people all came out to
enjoy the day.
It was a hit. "I feel like I'm in Austin right now," downtown worker Kalye Johnson told a local TV station. "I really like the air and everything about it. I think it's cool--very different."
now some 1500 people are working right next door to the plaza, yet few
use it Something, patently, is wrong and needs to be set right . . .
was remarkable concurrence on the main points: more events, more trees
and grass and greenery, more places to sit, something to sit under,
food and tables and chairs . . .
There should be much more
seating on the plaza; it should be more comfortable; and it should be
sited in relation to sun and shade and to the configurations people find
Put out movable chairs . . .
More events should be scheduled . . .
more with the pool. It is a fine feature and artfully designed to be
safe wading. So why not have wading? And splashing about . . .
On an April Wednesday, during workers' lunch hour, the appeal of Whyte's vision was demonstrated.
Well, maybe not the splashing about. Part of the plan was to have kids' toy boats floating in the pool, something like the little sailboats in Paris's wonderful Jardin du Luxembourg. There was a problem with the boat supplier. But there was another problem anyway, according to Roy Appleton, writing for The Dallas Morning News:
then there was the plan for floating small boats yesterday in the plaza
pool. OK, the group that was supposed to supply the craft backed out.
But if they had been there, the city permit office told organizers they
couldn't put no stinking boats in the pool because by golly such
behavior hadn't been stipulated in the event application. Ah, some
things never change.
That noted, there may be some good news
from Dallas's officialdom. After the Living Plaza event, some City
Council members said City Hall Plaza could be a future expansion
location for mobile food vendors, according to a post by Ken Kalthoff
on the NBC DFW website. Apparently the council has already approved a
measure to allow food trucks in the city's Arts District.
Here's some local TV coverage of the event:
There's also a nice video of the Living Plaza event produced by the Dallas publication The Advocate, which you can access here.
This post also appears on NRDC's Switchboard. Image: Wikimedia Commons