Dallas’s Ever-Changing Landscape – How the City Evolved in the Last Decade

In 2008, Dallas was in the throes of the Great Recession, but Dallas was fortunate enough to feel less effects the major housing crisis that hit other states (thanks in part to market-oriented land use policies). Dallas recovered more quickly from the Great Recession than other American cities—in 2012, a Brookings Institution study named Dallas one of three U.S. cities to have fully recovered from the recession.

Dallas has had a head start ever since. The city and its neighbors like Frisco regularly make “fastest growing cities” lists. Money named Dallas suburb Allen a “best place to live” in 2017. Companies are flocking to Dallas for its live–work-shop-play neighborhoods and its commercial real estate values. Yes, values: Even Uptown’s McKinney Avenue, the city’s priciest neighborhood (with top office rents of more than $62 per square foot) is a great value as compared to top-market prices in other major U.S. cities. Such a great value, in fact, less than 9 percent of McKinney offices are unoccupied.

Uptown’s boom looks to continue as demand pushes occupancy and rents. Companies eager to attract the best talent are moving there from other U.S. cities, and from different Dallas neighborhoods. Three of the five largest law firm office leases were in Uptown this year, and more are bound to follow as national law firms eye Uptown’s chic office spaces and central location.

Downtown isn’t a loser in this game, though. To compete against Uptown’s new construction, the district has refurbished some of Dallas’s legendary buildings—Trammell Crow Center, Fountain Place, Chase Tower, Ross Tower, and Thanksgiving Tower—so that they offer the most up-to-date technology and amenities while retaining the flavor of Dallas’ history. And soon downtown may boast an entirely new skyline: A 78-floor building—200 feet higher than the next tallest building—would anchor a 20-acre skyscraper campus between Dallas City Hall and Interstate 30. “The Smart District” as the proposed development is called, would include 600,000 to 1 million square feet of office space plus retail and hotel space. The envisioned district “is sure to draw the attention of corporations, new residents, and tourists,” says Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings, “further elevating Dallas on the international stage.”

It’s not just the business districts that are changing; some of the city’s arts and entertainment neighborhoods have repaired their reputations and reinvigorated their economies. Lower Greenville, home to some of Dallas’s best bars and restaurants, was also home to big problems, but its close-knit community and its neighborhood associations pulled together to create change, partly through rezoning. “People here understand that change takes time, and they are willing to invest years making it happen,” said Lower Greenville resident Dareen Datallo. It’s a good investment: violent crime along Lowest Greenville has dropped 90 percent (from its high in 2007), and is now home to great restaurants, music venues, and even Trader Joe’s.

Deep Ellum is on the mend, too. Like Lower Greenville, the area was known for its nightlife—and its crime, which became bad enough to affect its many entertainment venues when people wouldn’t visit the area after dark. In 2007, just as it appeared the neighborhood was going under, the city of Dallas stepped in, supporting large-scale residential, multi-family dwelling construction. The positive change was contagious, and new restaurants and bars began to open. In 2014, Gensler, a world-class design and architectural firm, developed a master plan for Deep Ellum to include a parking plan, urban parks, and pedestrian walkways. In 2016, Design Future Dallas hosted an international competition for a design that would preserve Deep Ellum’s history and cultural heritage (it was once known for its jazz and blues scene) while creating usable livable space. Deep Ellum has already come far from its lowest days and is primed to keep moving upward.

And though it’s hard to say what changes Dallas will see in the next decade, the city and its commercial real estate market also seem prepared to continue its skyscraper trajectory: up, up, up.

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