I led an Urban Land Institute (ULI) virtual Advisory Services Panel on enhancing the resilience and revitalization of the area around the Walnut Hill/Denton DART Station in Dallas, Texas from August 10-12, 2020. The area was heavily impacted by the EF3 tornado that touched down in October of 2019, which is being compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on the community and economy. The City of Dallas, the panel sponsor in partnership with the JP Morgan Chase & Co. Resilient Land Use Cohort (RLUC), asked us to make recommendations related to:
- The policy and regulatory adjustments that should be considered to impact localized investments and broaden the types of small and minority-and-women owned business enterprises in the study area;
- Policy, planning and design opportunities to reduce resident vulnerability to extreme heat and other extreme weather;
- The types of infrastructure investments that would make multi-modal transport easier and more frequented by the area’s residents and workers;
- Design types and infrastructure needed to attract and sustain a growing population of mixed-income residents while ensuring climate resilience and environmental justice; and
- Which stakeholders and organizations need to be brought together to impact the physical environment, economic growth and quality of life for residents and workers.
After reviewing the briefing materials, doing research on the site and its challenges and opportunities, remotely touring the site via a drone, and speaking with a variety of community members, businesses, and decision-makers, the panel deliberated potential paths forward for the area. A central approach we discussed was to ensure that our recommendations not only reduce vulnerability, but also strengthen the area’s environmental performance, economic opportunities, and social equity. Based on our discussions, several key themes emerged including the importance of keeping an authentic sense of place, addressing safety issues and perceptions, strengthening a sense of community, enhancing connectivity, becoming more green and resilient, providing living and transportation options, and taking advantage of current opportunities now.
Our panel’s recommended next steps were to:
- Coordinate and support the existing group of champions,
- Engage social services and providers to help the most at-risk individuals,
- Activate the Walnut Hill/Denton DART Station parking lot,
- Install bilingual wayfinding,
- Identify and publicize a safe an accessible resilience hub, and
- Explore development financing tools to leverage current opportunities.
The slides and full video presentation of our panel’s recommendations are available on the ULI website.