by Russ Sikes, CNU-NTX Board President
Two years ago, the Dallas power elite gathered to peer into our region’s future at Metromorphosis, an annual conference on the evolution of Dallas/Fort Worth sponsored by the Greater Dallas Planning Council.
Its theme was the emergence of Dallas as a Global City, and the mood was understandably self-congratulatory, but not smug:
Congratulatory because competition within the global economy is increasingly conducted among urban regions rather than nation states, and Dallas, we were told, had received a strong report card. In fact, we are on the Dean’s list. While New York, London, Tokyo and others battle for valedictorian, “Dallas”, shorthand for the DFW region, now claims a place on the short list of 25 or so “global cities”, due in large part to our central geography and the key strategic connections of DFW Airport.
Not smug though. Attendees sincerely fretted over our terrible grades in a few prerequisites to global standing, which in the sharp-elbows competition among cities could prove our undoing. These problems include poor collaboration among civic organs in tackling deep-seated problems, the lack of any tier-one research universities, and a thoroughgoing sense of Placelessness.
The Dallas postcard is too blank, speech-makers said, arguing that a memorable brand is required to catch the attention of hyper-busy global executives.
Two years on, that blank is rapidly disappearing, as downtown sprouts parks and museums, transit and trails, and Calatrava bridges beckoning to shimmering Oz. And if that keeps a red pin stuck on Dallas in corporate boardrooms, all the better. But if Placelessness afflicts anyone, it is not global CEOs, it’s us; the 6.5 million people who call DFW home.
How is it that such a vast urban region has been developed with no sense of Place? The answer lies in the generative pattern of development, the DNA of urban form.